IDI’s Glen Hahn Comments on Texas A&M Purchase of Texas Wesleyan School of Law

Texas A&M to purchase, rename Texas Wesleyan School of Law

6/26/2012,, A. Lee Graham reporter

Texas A&M University’s planned purchase of Texas Wesleyan University’s School of Law bodes well for the local economy, according to several sources.

“It’s safe to say this will have a positive economic impact,” said Bill Thornton, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

Though the chamber has conducted no economic or demographic studies on plans for the school to become an Aggie institution, Thornton emphasized the importance of the Texas A&M brand.

“Anytime you add a brand like Texas A&M to your portfolio of educational institutions in the region, that is a significant plus.”

Glen Hahn agrees. As a Texas Wesleyan board member, Hahn called the acquisition good news for a law school whose private status precludes state funding assistance.

“Texas Wesleyan’s endowment program needs a boost, and I think this would help that. There are lots of Aggies in the community, and the law school, I think, will benefit from having the opportunity of having a significant budget that the Aggies bring with them,” Hahn said.

Texas A&M on June 26 announced plans to buy Texas Wesleyan’s School of Law and make Fort Worth the birthplace of the Aggie law curriculum.

“The key to us was the academic partnership and collaboration,” said Frederick G. Slabach, president of Texas Wesleyan.

Slabach outlined plans for the College Station university to purchase the law school for $25 million. It would pay $20 million at the time the acquisition closes and $5 million in five years.

Partnering with an existing law school instead of creating a new one makes financial sense, said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp.

Creating such an institution from scratch could cost up to $200 million, said Sharp. He said alumni and other university support would help fund the purchase.

Under the agreement, Texas A&M would acquire ownership and operational control of the law school as a going concern, with all law school faculty and staff becoming Texas A&M employees.

The school would be renamed the Texas A&M School of Law at Texas Wesleyan University and graduates would earn diplomas under that name.

“Exactly how current alumni will be considered has yet to be determined,” said John Veilleux, a Texas Wesleyan spokesman.

Meanwhile, Texas Wesleyan would retain ownership and control of the law school building and four city blocks at the downtown campus and would lease the facilities to Texas A&M for 40 years at $2.5 million per year adjusted for inflation, Slabach said.

The Texas A&M Board of Regents was expected to consider approving the partnership at its June 29 board meeting.

The Texas Wesleyan Board of Trustees already has approved a letter of intent for the schools to enter into a strategic partnership. If the partnership is approved, both schools would work toward a final binding contract.

“The anticipation is that would be done before the end of the next academic year,” said Slabach. He expects approval by June 2013.

At that point, the deal would require approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the American Bar Association. No specific date has been announced for when the transition would take effect.

The partnership would offer a joint juris doctor-Texas Wesleyan MBA program and a Texas Wesleyan undergraduate-law school program allowing students to earn an undergraduate degree and law degree within six years.

The idea for the partnership arose when Sharp pitched the concept to Slabach last October. Slabach liked what he heard.

“What we’ve done is taken an unaccredited law school and made it a really good law school,” Slabach said of an institution previously known as the DFW School of Law. Texas Wesleyan acquired the law school in 1992 and moved it from Irving to its current location on Commerce Street in downtown Fort Worth.

“With this partnership with A&M, we anticipate that we will be able to move to the top tier of all national law schools,” Slabach said.

By “top tier,” Slabach referred to a ranking system by U.S. News and World Report. The annual list ranks law schools in four tiers, with Tier 1 status given to the top 50 law schools. Student grade point averages and LSAT scores, as well as school reputation, are among the criteria considered in compiling the yearly list.

“Together, we think we can make the law school Tier 1,” Slabach said.

Whether rebranding the school with Aggie flavor would mean relocating Texas A&M teachers and administrators to the Fort Worth campus is not known. But it could add new employment opportunities.

“The president of A&M College Station has indicated his desire to expand the size of the faculty,” said Slabach. He noted that adding a parking garage also might be necessary to serve an expanded office facility.

“Right now, it’s in the early stages,” Slabach said of the overall proposal.

Though Texas A&M operates the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas, as well as Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, it lacks a Fort Worth presence.

“They really see the benefit of having a footprint in Fort Worth,” Slabach said. “They just think Fort Worth is extremely important in Texas.”

Texas A&M has no law school. A desire to explore intellectual property law helped prompt the partnership concept.

“The new generation of law students in this state will be dealing with intellectual property and patent law more than ever,” said Richard Box, chairman of the A&M Board of Regents. “It will require specific skills that will be taught at this school.”

Sharp agreed, adding that A&M President R. Bowen Loftin considered Texas Wesleyan a good fit because of its existing intellectual property curriculum. Loftin would oversee the law school.

“For many Aggies, this has been a day long in coming and a long time in coming,” said Sharp, crediting the partnership for fulfilling a dream of Texas A&M alumnus and former state Sen. William T. “Bill” Moore, D-Bryan.

“Among his life’s goals was to produce a [law school] under the A&M banner,” Sharp said.

Slabach said that he understands such enthusiasm.

“They see that as having some synergy with what they’re doing,” said Slabach, pointing to Texas A&M’s engineering and agricultural curriculum as touching on intellectual property issues.

“We already have a track within the law school for students to get certified in intellectual property law,” Slabach said.

About 675 students currently attend the law school. Whether enrollment could increase as a result of the proposed partnership has not been determined.

“This would put Fort Worth in a great light,” Slabach said of the partnership. “This strategic partnership is, I believe, a win-win-win for Texas Wesleyan University, the city of Fort Worth and for Texas A&M.”