Alumni Interviews — Raymond Panneton (’10)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each year we publish brief Alumni Updates where our alumni can tell us some about their post-BIC lives. In addition to these annual updates, we post interviews with our alumni. Today we are excited to post an interview with Raymond Panneton (’10). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

What year did you graduate from Baylor? What did you study?

I graduated from Baylor in 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Church-State Studies. When I started Baylor in 2006, my original focus was pre-med; however, first semester chemistry did not agree with me, and I had to pivot my focus. It was during this time that I started to focus on law school. At this time, there was no “pre-law” designation, so it required a lot of self-study on developing a path forward.

Tell us some about your career and journey since graduating from Baylor.

Since graduating from Baylor, my career has taken some pretty interesting twists-and-turns. I cannot speak to other career paths, but early in my career, I was told my a more senior attorney that the legal career path is not linear. Indeed, it is more like a lattice. A lattice has many bends and forks in the road that must be navigated to propel yourself forward. This has proven true for me.

During my first year in law school, I started as a law clerk for a plaintiff’s firm, practicing in the area of medical malpractice, pharmaceutical, and medical device litigation. Upon passing the bar in 2013, I was hired on at this firm as an attorney and practiced there until 2016. There is a certain fear in practicing medical malpractice that the Texas legislature could enact a change in the law which could effectively shutter your practice. This was the driving force behind my move in 2016—the need to diversify.

In 2016, I joined the litigation section of a commercial/business litigation firm in Houston. This was a complete change from my previous experience; however, the base skills translated. In this new role, I represented business owners in all aspects of their business, including entity formation, contract disputes, litigation, arbitration, and partnership disputes. Unlike medical malpractice, where there are certain aspects of a case which remain the same, such as the applicable area of medicine, each business dispute is unique.

In late 2019, an opportunity presented itself which I could not turn down. I was offered a position with a firm to be its managing partner, overseeing all day-to-day operations of the firm. As a relatively young attorney, this was an exciting and new challenge which I was happy to take-on. I accepted this position in November 2019, and am currently the Managing Partner of the Ted Smith Law Group, PLLC in Harker Heights, Texas. Our firm is a boutique litigation firm, focusing on business litigation, personal injury litigation, family law, estate planning and probate, and Social Security Disability benefits.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor? Do you have any favorite memories from your time in BIC?

As much as I hate to admit my BIC professors were right, BIC has profoundly affected my career. While I may not be citing the Ramayana on a daily basis, the core concept of World Cultures remains—go to the original text when possible. There is a tendency in our daily life, and especially in the practice of law, to rely on commentators to interpret certain information and data for us, and we never actually review the original text ourselves. BIC ingrains in your thinking to consider the commentators, but always rely on the original text.

There is no one-particular memory that stands out for me regarding my time in BIC. The friends I made and the experiences I had were so unique from other Baylor friends, that I feel that the whole BIC experience was a favorite memory.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

Explore everything while you can. Once you get into your profession, your learning becomes hyper-focused on your career. In turn, your desire to learn about things outside of your practice area/career diminishes. The broad-base you get exposed to in BIC is so valuable in relating to the world and people around you—enjoy it!

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Don’t worry if you’re not the best student. As many of my BIC professors may (or may not) remember, I was never at the top of the class. Frankly, I’d be surprised if I was in the top 50% of my class. That being said, I was never afraid to work hard. I knew that I was not the best/smartest student, but I also knew that nobody could outwork me. Don’t let poor grades or an inability to understand difficult concepts discourage you to the point of not trying. Giving up is easy, but success after perseverance is a high you will love chasing.

Since graduating from BIC (despite my less-than-stellar performance), I went onto law school. In law school, I made Dean’s list 3 out of the 6 semesters. After graduating, I passed the bar on the first attempt. Since becoming licensed, I have been published in national journals, been interviewed for NPR on multiple occasions, obtained one of Texas’ top jury verdicts in 2016, been named one of Houston’s Top Attorneys multiple years straight, serve as the Marketing and Communications Director for the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, and served as the Chair of the American Bar Association Medicine and Law Committee. I do not tell you these things to brag, but to remind you that past failures, and to some degree past success, does not define your future. You owe it to yourself to keep fighting.

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