Texas A&M's plans to acquire law school met with concern

Texas A&M University’s recently announced plan to acquire Texas Wesleyan University's School of Law has been met with mixed reactions in the state. 

In the proposal, Texas A&M, a public university, would acquire the private law school for $25 million. It would gain ownership and operational control of the law school and would rent land from Texas Wesleyan. Officials said the proposal for the new Texas A&M University School of Law at Texas Wesleyan University should be finalized by June 1, 2013.

Yet the proposal comes during a weak job market for lawyers and just three years after the University of North Texas gained approval for its own public law school, slated to open in 2014. After years of lobbying to provide the Dallas-Forth Worth area with its first public law school, North Texas and Texas A&M could draw on the same crop of students.

"We're not going to compete with anybody on a regional basis," Texas A&M’s Chancellor John Sharp told the Houston Chronicle. "We will draw students from 254 counties (in Texas) and all 50 states ... and produce a world-class law school."

While Texas A&M officials have been pursuing a law school for at least 40 years, the purchase comes at a time when Texas is cutting spending and the legal industry continues to shed jobs.

In an article in the Bryan-College Station Eagle, Texas Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said that A&M’s $25 million purchase price may raise eyebrows in light of A&M’s funding of millions to lure a federal biosecurity research center to Bryan-College Station.

“A&M is sending out a conflicting message that they are going to have to work on in the Legislature because all we ever hear is how broke they are and how they are going to have to raise tuition to keep going,” he told the Eagle.

Ironically, it was the dearth of a public legal education in the area that allowed North Texas to convince the Texas Legislature to part with $5 million of the state’s 2010–11 budget. In fact, North Texas marketed its approval with the statement “opening a public law school at the right time in the right place.”

Since then the legal job market has struggled, with only 55 percent of 2011 graduates finding full long-term employment that required bar passage nine months after graduation.