Women Who Move the City 2016
Meet some of the business, civic and educational leaders who work to bring about positive change and enhance the quality of life in our community.
Leticia Diaz is a pioneer, a builder and a visionary. When Diaz was appointed Dean of Barry University School of Law in 2007, the young institution was only beginning to make its mark. Diaz was part of the administration that guided the private Catholic school to becoming Orlando’s first law school to receive full accreditation from the American Bar Association. During Diaz’s nine years as dean, Barry Law has not only made its mark—it has thrived.
Barry Law now boasts an alumni base of more than 2,000 attorneys, many of whom continue to call Central Florida home. The student body has grown from about 600 to nearly 800, with the minority enrollment now approaching 50 percent. That achievement has not gone unnoticed. Barry Law received recognition for its diversity in four national publications. U.S. News and World Report ranked Barry Law 8th nationally among Law Schools for diversity; PreLaw Magazine gave the Law School an A+ ranking for its diversity; and Diaz has been named to the Lawyers of Color Power List twice and to National Jurists’ Top 20 Leaders in Diversity.
But to hear Diaz describe it, the success of Barry Law isn’t about numbers; it’s about the law school’s mission. “It is the charge of the Barry lawyer to use the skills learned here to help deliver social justice and to embrace the ideals that initially attracted them to the study of law. Nothing makes me more proud than to see a student find inspiration in our mission.”
Clearly, Diaz’s approach has resonated with her students. The Florida Bar awarded Barry Law the Group Professionalism Award for its innovative program to enhance professionalism among law students. The school’s Trial Team, which faces off in courtroom competitions against other law schools, has brought home nine national championships since 2007, leaving the likes of Harvard, Georgetown and other elite law schools in its wake. The Trial Team recently won the Florida Bar’s prestigious Chester Bedell Mock Trial Competition. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which has helped thousands of low to moderate-income Central Floridians prepare their tax returns, has been recognized by the ABA for its work in 10 consecutive years.
All are praiseworthy accomplishments, but Diaz has greater aspirations for her school and her students: “I know that a law school, at its core, is an institution of higher learning. But the way I see it, we are in the business of delivering dreams. Our students arrive on campus intent on changing the world. My job is to show them how.”