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Texas A&M’s law school joins UT among the top-ranked programs in the country

March 28,2022

See full Dallas Morning News article by Valeria Olivares here.

Texas now has two law schools nestled within the top 50 of a new ranking from U.S. News & World Report.

Ranked at No. 46, Texas A&M University’s law school in Fort Worth joins the University of Texas at Austin’s among the top campuses in the country for students seeking a career in the legal industry. UT’s law school stands No. 17.

“Since we decided to invest in the school and really try to turn it around, we went from unranked just a couple of years ago to shooting up the rankings,” Texas A&M University System spokesman Timothy Eaton said. “It usually doesn’t happen like that.”

The state has 10 law schools, including Southern Methodist University, the University of North Texas at Dallas and Baylor University, among other institutions. For a long time, the state boasted only UT’s law school among the best-rated.

Texas A&M’s school has gone up more than 100 places out of the nearly 200 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association since it was acquired by the system in 2013.

“We have not seen a law school advance this far this quickly,” Texas A&M’s School of Law Dean Robert Ahdieh said. “In some sense, that is very much a reflection of the mindset of Texas A&M.”

The rapid rise comes eight years after the Texas A&M system purchased the Fort Worth school for a total of $73.5 million from Texas Wesleyan University in 2013 — making it the first public law school in North Texas. The system had been interested in adding a law school for more than 40 years.

A year later, the University of North Texas at Dallas opened its school, which was recently fully approved by the American Bar Association.

Texas A&M’s school has about 1,200 students and 60 full-time faculty members. It was first in the state in bar exam passage in 2020 with 92% of students clearing the last obstacle before becoming licensed attorneys. It was second in 2021 at 93%.

System officials announced last year that they’re planning a new campus in downtown Fort Worth, which will include space for the law school. They expect to break ground this summer.

In addition to the core programming around training future lawyers, the system offers a master’s degree program for non-lawyers.

The school now enrolls nearly 700 students working in health care, banking and finance, the energy sector, human relations, cybersecurity and more in which a law background is valuable, but in which they’re not looking to practice, Ahdieh said.

“We have students who are debating where to go to law school,” he said. “This presents them with another very strong Texas option for them to consider.”

Janson Westmoreland, a third-year law student who focuses on intellectual property, said the school’s upward projection was obvious.

“A&M is on the way up and it’s going to be, eventually, one of the best law schools in the country,” he said.

However, Westmoreland said the faculty is not focused on the school’s position on the board, but rather the students’ experience, careers and success.

The ranking “comes as a byproduct of how good our professors are and how they are preparing us for the real world as attorneys,” he said.

Through the various clinics offered on campus — which give students the opportunity to apply their knowledge by working with real clients who may find it difficult to find counsel elsewhere — Westmoreland has been able to get real-world experience that will prepare him for future work.

Alexis Symcheck, a second-year student who also has been focusing on intellectual property, said the law school’s students have the advantage of being in a market full of potential for their careers.

Although it used to be considered as some students’ backup plan, Symcheck added that many are now picking the Texas A&M law school over Ivy League campuses because of its rising reputation in the legal industry and overall cost of attendance.

Tuition and fees are about $32,600 per year for Texas residents. The national average for in-state students at a public university was about $29,600 during the 2021-22 academic year, according to U.S. News’ annual survey of full-time law school programs.

“That’s unheard of, it’s unprecedented,” said Karen Gren Scholer, U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Texas, about Texas A&M “catapulting” its way up.

The school’s efforts to establish itself as a national leader is “paying off dividends” and the legal community will recognize its work, Gren Scholer said.

“Watch out, Longhorns,” she said, noting the A&M-UT rivalry. “Don’t look over your shoulder because — true to their mascot Reveille — the Aggies are nipping at your heels.”

Location Mentioned: Texas A&M University School of Law