National Council Member Romero Receives ABA Spirit of Excellence Award for Work Promoting Racial and Ethnic Diversity

Washington University Law National Council member and alumnus Leo Romero, JD ’68, has been awarded the ABA’s 2014 Spirit of Excellence Award. A professor emeritus and former dean at the University of New Mexico School of Law, Romero has worked tirelessly to advance opportunities for minority students.

The Spirit of Excellence Award, presented by the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, bears the motto “To the Stars through Difficulty.” Romero’s own personal story reflects this motto of perseverance. After graduating from high school in New Mexico, he was encouraged to attend Oberlin College, from which he graduated in 1965. He then earned his JD from Washington University School of Law before going on to receive his LLM as a Prettyman Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center.

Romero began his academic career teaching at the Dickinson School of Law before joining the University of New Mexico (UNM) faculty in 1972. At the UNM Law School, he has worked to revise admissions policies to consider a fuller range of experiences beyond LSAT scores. He also encouraged the UNM Law School to participate in the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, which works to admit students who have demonstrated a potential for legal success. His efforts have resulted in an increase in diversity among the UNM Law School’s student body, which is now more than 33 percent Hispanic, 8 percent Native American, and 3 percent other minority students.

In the legal community, Romero has worked to address equity with the state bar exam in New Mexico. He advocated for changes in the bar exam and also successfully represented Hispanic graduates before the Supreme Court of New Mexico and the Board of Bar Examiners, which led to changes that made the bar exam fairer and increased the number of test-takers passing the exam, including minorities.

Among his professional affiliations, Romero has served on the New Mexico State Bar Task Force on Minorities in the Profession, as chair of the Judicial Selection Commissions in New Mexico, as a leader in Council on Legal Education Opportunity, as chair of the Law School Admission Council, and as chair of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.