Bill Piatt: Dean, St. Mary's University School of Law, San Antonio, TX

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                              Bill Piatt: Dean, St. Mary’s University School of Law,
                              San Antonio, TX
                              [By Charisse Dengler]
                              Not only is Bill Piatt the Dean of St. Mary’s University School of Law, but he’s also one of only two Hispanic deans in
                              the country. Born and raised in Santa Fe, NM, Piatt speaks fluent Spanish and has taught at summer law programs in
                              both Mexico and Spain. He thinks being multilingual is a major asset in today’s legal field.




“I think it’s really important, especially in the     practicing law and teaching law, and he          As an educator in the legal field, Piatt thinks
American Southwest and especially as our              enjoys the different relationships with judges   one of the main issues facing the legal
trading relationships continue to develop in          and students that teaching affords.              education community today has to do with
Mexico and throughout Latin America and                                                                the way that the public views lawyers.
other Spanish-speaking countries,” he said.           “Primarily, the role here [at St. Mary’s] is
“It offers an opportunity not only to enjoy           educational,” he said. “I spend a lot of time    “I think that we’re going to have to improve
the social benefits, but also to create solid         working with students who are hoping to          the image of lawyers,” he said. “It’s not
business relationships. It gives a person             become attorneys, helping them in their          always the fault of the legal profession that
who speaks the language of the person with            choices as to the courses they’re going to       people think less of us. We, after all, have to
whom they’re doing business an opening that           take and trying to help them identify what       stand up and assist people in very stressful
they otherwise might not have.”                       they want to do when they get out. I spend       situations. But I think we have to make sure
                                                      a lot of time working with the bench and         that the people we let in are, number one,
In addition to teaching in summer law                 the bar; and I really enjoy that relationship    intellectually the best and the brightest; and
programs, Piatt has spoken at seminars                because when I can sit and talk with judges,     then, to the extent that we can, we have to
and lectured at universities in Mexico and            I don’t have to worry—and they don’t have        make sure that morally they’re the best and
Spain in both Spanish and English. Most of            to worry—that I have a client on whose           the brightest.”
his books and research focus on the topic of          behalf I’m advocating. They know that my
language.                                             one client—if I have one—is the law school       “I really, strongly believe in the role of law
                                                      and its students. So, I enjoy the opportunity    schools and the bar in making sure that
“I think we have to recognize a couple of             to talk with judges in a way that I could not    attorneys are not only legally competent, but
things,” he said. “First of all, to be successful     when I was practicing law.”                      [also] morally competent to practice law.”
in this country, you have to speak English;
and you have to speak it very well. But               For the past 8 years, Piatt has been            Piatt also thinks students interested in
that’s not to say that we don’t also have the         teaching in Texas, first at Texas Tech           law should think long and hard about their
capacity to learn and benefit from being able         University in Lubbock and currently at St.       motivation to become lawyers. He advises
to communicate in more languages other                Mary’s University in San Antonio. As Dean of     them to fully consider the fact that much of
than just English.”                                   St. Mary’s, he is responsible for overseeing     the work that lawyers do is in service to their
                                                      the operation of the law school; and when        clients.
“In fact, I think it’s a failing of our               he’s not completely swamped, he also
educational system that students graduate             teaches constitutional law.                      “If money is the main or the only goal, they
from college and really don’t have                                                                     probably should consider a career other
multilingual capabilities. If it was totally up       “I basically have the responsibility of making   than law because for the amount of time
to me, I would really encourage mandating             sure we continue to recruit good students,       and effort and work they’re going to put into
foreign languages and even foreign language           work with the faculty in helping to educate      it— especially the first five or six years after
proficiency before we award someone a                 our students to prepare them for a legal         law school—they probably could make more
bachelor’s degree.”                                   career, [and] maintain the alumni contacts       money doing something else,” he said.
                                                      and the relations with the bench and the bar
Piatt has been an attorney since 975 and             that will enable our students to develop the     “I try to help them understand what area they
has spent time practicing and teaching. He            contacts that will translate into jobs when      think they can be of service [in] and try to find
said there are major differences between              they graduate,” he said.                         out whether they would be happy being of


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service in that role. Because if they are happy   “I’ve been running since my second year in      ON THE NET
in a service role, they’re going to be able to    law school, when I realized it would help
make a decent living; but if they’re not happy,   reduce stress for the bar exam; and I’ve        St. Mary’s University School of Law
they’re going to end up being unsuccessful        been able to keep up with it,” he said. “Now,   www.stmarytx.edu/law/
in their practice. They’re going to end up        I really like it that I’ve moved into a good
spending a lot of time and money that they        age group. I’m in the 55-to-59 age group;       Texas Tech University School of Law
could do better things with at this point.”       and I’ve found that a lot of my competition     www.law.ttu.edu/
                                                  isn’t running anymore, so I’m a lot more
Piatt, whose wife also teaches at St. Mary’s,     successful. In fact, I’m looking forward to     Health Benefits of Running
said most of his time is wrapped up in the        getting into the next age group, the 60-to-65   running.about.com/od/gettingstarted/
school. However, whenever he takes a break,       age group.”                                     a/0whyrun_.htm
he enjoys spending time with his children,
playing with his new grandson, and running,
a hobby he started in law school.




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Description: Bill Piatt is a Dean of St. Mary University School of Law. He speaks fluent Spanish and has taught at summer law programs in Mexico and Spain.
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