Earlier this summer, Gavin Burl – a rising second-year student at The University of Tulsa College of Law – received the good news that he had been awarded a Diversity Scholars Program scholarship from the law firm Crowe & Dunlevy. Each year, Crowe & Dunlevy presents this major honor to a TU Law candidate based on “academic achievement, financial need and commitment to the law.”
Still carrying a glow from his recent study-abroad month at University College Dublin, Burl spoke passionately about the difference this scholarship will make to him: “I am thankful to Crowe & Dunlevy for giving me this opportunity to move forward in law school with less of a financial burden. It’s lifted that burden to where I can think more clearly. It makes things easier for myself and for my family, and now I can focus on being the best law student I can be.”
“Promoting diversity is important to our firm and the legal community as a whole,” said Susan E. Huntsman, a director at Crowe & Dunlevy and a member of the firm’s Diversity Committee. “Helping aspiring attorneys from a variety of backgrounds reach their educational goals strengthens our firm, our profession and our state. Gavin joins other outstanding students who have received this scholarship since our Diversity Scholars Program began at The University of Tulsa College of Law in 2011. Many of these students have gone on to be leaders in our state and beyond. Gavin’s demonstrated leadership and academic achievement are to be commended.”
A stormy start
Today, Burl is a thoughtful young man with a clear vision of the direction he wants to take with his education and in his career. That clarity, however, masks the struggle and hard work required to get him to his present state.
At age 8, Burl’s world literally was swept out from under him. Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Burl was one of the many thousands of people in that city who endured the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall on the Gulf Coast Aug. 29, 2005. Like so many other residents of the Big Easy, Burl and his family were forced to flee Louisiana with all of their belongings stuffed into a single SUV.
After three months living in a hotel, the Burls ultimately settled in a suburb of Dallas. After high school, Burl then moved to Ada, Oklahoma, to attend East Central University. There, he played on the Tigers football team and completed a bachelor of science degree in political science. During his junior year, he went on a class trip to visit TU Law and, almost immediately, knew he had found his next academic home.
Law school: “It allows you to grow.”
One of the things that has impressed Burl the most about student life at TU law is how surviving the “hardships” and “challenges” of first year “allows you to grow in a way that most other experiences can’t provide.” Burl was, indeed, struck by his previously unknown capacity during his first year to rise to the challenge of competing – and taking second place – in the Board of Advocates Negotiation Competition. Now, about to enter his second year at TU Law, one of the activities Burl is most looking forward to is contributing to the Energy Law Journal.
“Gavin’s background and experience make him a valuable addition to our law community,” said TU Law’s Associate Dean for Student Affairs Karen Grundy. “A rising second-year student, Gavin has already demonstrated promise for a highly impactful legal career. We are so pleased that he has been recognized as a Crowe & Dunlevy Diversity Scholar, and we are profoundly grateful to Crowe & Dunlevy for their continuing support of our students.”
Service and diversity
When asked why he chose to study the law, Burl replied, “I’ve always wanted to serve the people – in any capacity. Yet, where I’m from, you’re often taught that the only way you can make it is through athletics. People who look like me, we’re not really exposed to professions like law.”
As an undergraduate, however, Burl was exposed to legal studies. He quickly discovered a passion for the subject, and “before I knew it, I found myself interested in learning just how under-represented minorities are in all forms of employment in the legal system. From there it felt like it was my duty to go into that field and serve.
“The system ought to reflect the diversity of this country. I believe that diversity is imperative in every area of every profession. The root of all conflict in society is lack of diversity, and when there’s lack of diversity there’s lack of communication between different ethnicities, and when there’s lack of communication between different ethnicities there’s unfamiliarity. So many types of issues can arise from just not knowing your brothers or your sisters of different colors.”
Looking to the future
Burl’s ethic of service permeates the vision for his future career: “In what way can I serve my community? How can I influence my community in a positive way?” At present, Burl sees municipal law and sustainable energy and natural resources law as two of the fields that would provide him with the most ample opportunities to accomplish his goals. “Those areas demand so much cooperation and so much communication with others,” Burl observed. “And that’s what I think legal work should be about.”
Exploring paths to make a positive impact in your community? Consider a career as a lawyer by earning a JD through TU Law.