Broadening Horizons

July 1, 2024

During a time of transition, Jeremy Counseller combines a dedication to Baylor Law School’s historic strengths with optimism for future growth as he begins his tenure as dean. 

Headshot of Dean Jeremy Counseller superimposed on image of Baylor Law School

Baylor Law School’s mission is very clear to Jeremy Counseller. He sees it each time he arrives at the Umphrey Law Center, spelled out in big letters etched into granite by the main entrance: “And what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

Counseller, who began serving as dean on July 1 following a nationwide search, believes this verse from the Old Testament (Micah 6:8) perfectly summarizes every aspect of what the faculty and staff of Baylor Law School—and, by extension, the lawyers they produce—should be doing in their personal and professional lives every day. 

“Doing justice means training these lawyers as best we can in both the knowledge and skills they need to be successful and the ethics they need to practice to contribute to justice in our society,” he said. “Another way we can contribute to justice is by engaging meaningfully in the profession and in the academy, which allows us to influence the quality of legal education and legal knowledge throughout the nation and around the world.” 

Counseller noted that generations of Baylor lawyers have embodied the principle of service, something closely aligned with Christianity’s emphasis on showing mercy and extending compassion to others. Today, despite their busy schedules, Baylor Law students continue serving underprivileged members of the surrounding community through pro bono legal clinics and the annual Adoption Day program, through which more than 400 children in foster care have been adopted by families. 

Noting with a smile that some lawyers might find walking humbly with God a challenge, Counseller said what that means for Baylor Law School is to be intentional about living out Baylor’s Christian mission and identity. “If we don’t model for our students that our faiths are an important part of our lives and an important way in which we deal with the rigors and the stresses of the profession, then I don’t think we’re preparing them for the practice of law as well as we could,” he said. “Additionally, our Christian faith compels us to make sure that everyone who comes to this law school, whatever their faith, feels like they are welcome and that they belong.”


Counseller may be new to the Office of the Dean, but he isn’t a new face on the Baylor campus. His first stint in Waco was as a law student, coming to Waco from Stephen F. Austin State University, where he earned a B.A. summa cum laude in 1996. He graduated from Baylor Law with honors, earning a J.D. in 2000 while also earning an M.B.A. from Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business the same year. 

After serving as a law clerk to the Honorable Reynaldo G. Garza of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Counseller entered private practice in Houston with Bracewell & Patterson LLP (now Bracewell LLP), where he was an associate in the trial section. 

In 2003, the opportunity to teach at Baylor Law School drew Counseller back to Waco, and during the past twenty-one years he has earned a reputation for scholarly expertise, co-authoring such books as Civil Procedure in Focus and Handbook of Texas Evidence, and for academic rigor, teaching a variety of classes that includes Practice Court. During his time teaching at Baylor Law, Counseller also served as an assistant criminal district attorney in McLennan County, prosecuting both misdemeanors and felonies. 

A man with a wide-ranging curiosity and an intellectual bent— as evidence for the latter, he named his daughter, Brett, after a character in a Hemingway novel—Counseller also is a practiced hand at solving practical matters, in both matters of law and professional leadership. In 2006, the president of the State Bar of Texas appointed him to serve on the Administration of the Rules of Evidence Committee, where he helped restyle the Texas Rules of Evidence. From 2014 to 2019, he served as Baylor’s faculty athletics representative to the Big 12 Conference and NCAA. As an educator, he has received Baylor University Outstanding Faculty awards in 2007 and 2022, and he will continue to hold The Abner V. McCall Chair of Evidence Law at Baylor Law School while serving as dean.

He said transitioning from being Professor Counseller to Dean Counseller brings opportunities for personal growth while requiring him to leave behind some things he loves, such as teaching. “As teachers, we live for those light bulb moments when you can tell a student suddenly gets it,” he said. “For me, those happen most often in Practice Court. Such moments tell me I’m contributing something significant to a student’s legal education.” 


When Counseller envisions the future of Baylor Law School, he sees a continuation of the qualities that have drawn generations of students to Waco for their legal education—high-caliber teaching, scholarship, and service. 

There’s no need, he said, to fix something that isn’t broken. Baylor Law’s success is clearly reflected in a variety of outcomes, from the percentage of its students who pass the bar exam on their first attempt, which usually leads all other Texas law schools, to its reputation in the legal community. 

However, Counseller believes Baylor Law is positioned to build upon this foundation of excellence in the years ahead through a strategic focus on enhancing the business and transactional programming available to students and supporting faculty members as they engage in the legal profession and pursue meaningful scholarship. 

“That’s especially important regarding our junior faculty, because they’re producing scholarship that’s having an incredibly positive impact. It’s important to find ways to support their scholarship, celebrate their scholarship, and reward their scholarship,” Counseller said. “At the same time, we’re not going to sacrifice teaching and training on the altar of scholarship. There’s a tendency to think of scholarship and teaching as being at odds, but in my experience there’s a synergy between them. I believe I teach better the things I’ve written about, and I write better about the things I’ve taught.” 

Such a forward-looking and yet grounded orientation was among the qualities that made Counseller stand out among the other candidates to succeed Brad Toben as dean of Baylor Law. “Professor Counseller knows Baylor Law well—both its strengths and its opportunities for growth and improvement,” Baylor Provost Nancy Brickhouse said at the time of his appointment. “He has articulated a vision for Baylor Law that is ambitious and aligned with that of Baylor University. Professor Counseller has the courage and mandate to lead Baylor Law into the future, preparing lawyers and producing scholarship informed by Christian perspectives on service and leadership.”


While Counseller is excited about building consensus around Baylor Law School’s future growth, his immediate attention is focused on the success of its current students. That care for the men and women who have entrusted their legal education to Baylor has long been a hallmark of the institution. 

“One of the things that’s really special about Baylor Law School is that our students come first,” Counseller said. “I can go to anyone in the building, whether faculty or staff, and ask them, ‘What’s the most important thing here at Baylor Law School?’ What I would hear from everyone is some version of this answer: ‘It’s the students.’ So as we grow, every single thing we do has got to be viewed through the lens of helping our students succeed.” 

Counseller’s heart for students is rooted in personal experience. As a first-generation college student who grew up in a middle-class family in Humble, Texas—his father was a switchman for the phone company, his mother an assistant to a local ophthalmologist—he credits higher education with transforming him from an average student who was more interested in athletics than academics into an accomplished leader in the legal profession. 

“There’s no doubt that Baylor Law School raised the trajectory of my life. It formed me as a person. It provided me opportunities I didn’t even know existed,” Counseller said. “But none of that would’ve happened had I not received a scholarship to Baylor Law School, and that’s the case for many of our current students. That’s why making what is a life-altering education at Baylor Law School more affordable—more accessible to more people—will be a focus of mine.” 

Both of Counseller’s parents have passed away, but one person from his hometown has remained in his life. “In high school, I went to prom with this cute girl named Jennifer Owens,” he said. “Now I’m married to her.” The Counsellers have three children: Jack, a secondyear medical student; Brett, a junior at Baylor; and Kate, a junior in high school. They are members of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Waco. 

As a boy, Counseller and his family attended a small Baptist church that his grandmother and her sisters had helped found in Humble. “Over the years, I migrated to the Anglican tradition, but I’m still grateful for the church I grew up in and the loving parents I had,” he said. “Sometimes in church at St. Alban’s I’ll hear amens that I know were learned in a Baptist church. I even confronted someone about it once. I said, ‘That was a Baptist amen.’ And he said, ‘Yes, yes it was.’” 

As Counseller begins his tenure as dean of Baylor Law School, he is filled with gratitude for all those who, in one way or another, have helped him along the way. “What a tremendous privilege it is to serve as the dean in a place where I’ve been a faculty member and where I went to law school,” he said. “I am blessed by the opportunity to serve our students, and I am filled with optimism about the future of Baylor Law.”