Alum and Professor Receive ABA Award for Commitment to Diversity in the Law
Law alum, Román D. Hernández ’00, and adjunct professor Barbara Creel received the ABA’s Spirit of Excellence award in February 2021, during an online ceremony. Other honorees included Lori Lightfoot, John Yang and Sherrilyn Ifill.
The Spirit of Excellence award is presented each year by the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession to lawyers who excel professionally, personify excellence at the national and international level, and demonstrate a commitment to diversity in the law.
“I am deeply honored and humbled to have received this award,” Hernández stated. “It is arguably the nation’s highest diversity and inclusion award presented to a lawyer or judge. My receipt of this award speaks to my career-long record of being a champion of diversity in the legal profession, which is why it means so much to me.”
Hernández has worked to advance diversity and inclusion in the Oregon State Bar (OSB) through a variety of volunteer efforts and board positions. Hernández was one of three founders for the Oregon Hispanic Bar Association (OHBA) in 2002, just two years after graduating law school. “Today, the OHBA is one of the more vibrant and active affinity bar associations in the state and has served as a catalyst for the betterment of Oregon’s legal profession through its programming and events,” Hernández states. He was the first, and remains the only, attorney from Oregon to serve as the National President of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA).
Upon graduating from Lewis & Clark Law School, Hernández worked for fourteen years at Schwabe, Williamson, & Wyatt, where he became the firm’s first Hispanic partner in 2006. He joined his current law firm, Troutman, Pepper, Hamilton, & Sanders, LLP in 2018, where he focuses on employment law and commercial litigation. He also serves as the firm’s Portland Office Managing Partner. Hernández is one of only a handful of Hispanic-American Office Managing Partners in the Pacific Northwest of an Am Law 100 law firm, which makes him unique among Oregon lawyers.
“I really value the legal education that I obtained at Lewis & Clark, which has opened a myriad of doors and opportunities for me since my graduation in 2000,” Hernández says. “I still have great relationships with my former professors, and still make time to meet with the school’s diverse student body members, particularly the members of the Latino Legal Society (LLS), an organization that I helped form in my third year of law school. I have hosted events for the LLS at my law firm which have included lunches and receptions so that the students meet other practitioners who look and sound like them.”
Hernández remains committed to helping diversity efforts in the legal profession both nationally and in Oregon. “The legal profession remains the least racially and ethnically diverse profession in the U.S.,” Hernández explains. “Here in Oregon, less than 2% of all lawyers are Hispanic even though our statewide population is close to 14% Hispanic. It shows that we still have work to do so that our bar association and judiciary more closely resembles that of our population statewide.”
Professor Barbara Creel (Pueblo of Jemez ), who teaches in the law school’s summer Indian Law program, has devoted her career to public defense, specializing in Native American rights and individual civil rights. She is a tenured professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law, where she teaches courses on Indian civil rights and wrongful convictions and introduces students to federal habeas corpus in the Southwest Indian Law Clinic.
Professor Creel has worked at a variety of levels of litigation – trial, appellate, and post-conviction – on behalf of Native American indigent defendants. She worked for the National Advisory Council on Indian Education in Washington, D.C., and the Native American Program of Legal Aid Services of Oregon in Portland. She was also an assistant federal public defender in the District of Oregon. No other practitioner has more federal habeas cases under 28 U.S.C. 1303, of the Indian Civil Rights Act.