John G. Browning 2017-12-20 05:23:38
For Texas law schools, 2017 was a year of transformation, as institutions battled adversity, weathered leadership reorganizations, and coped with the omnipresent concerns of changes in the national legal education landscape and of bar passage rates. On the adversity front, reports of sexual harassment and gender discrimination at Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law prompted the American Bar Association to hand down sanctions against the program in July. The school was publicly censured and ordered to pay $15,000, turn in a plan for reducing sexual harassment and gender discrimination on campus, and submit possible remediation programs. Texas’ newest law school, the UNT Dallas College of Law, received happier news as it bounced back from the ABA’s initial August 2016 denial of provisional accreditation. Following an appeal by the school as it elevated its LSAT scores and bolstered its financial reserves, UNT received its provisional accreditation in June 2017. Dean Royal Furgeson said, “The ABA process has strengthened our law school and made us a better law school. The first rejection was challenging to work through, but it highlighted our weaknesses, and we made adjustments to make us better.” The law school also witnessed the graduation in May of its inaugural class, as 74 graduates participated in the Juris Doctor hooding ceremony. But this encouraging news was bittersweet, as Furgeson announced in October that he would be leaving the dean’s suite in June 2018. The school is conducting a national search for his replacement. Other Texas law schools also experienced a change in leadership, as Jack Wade Nowlin was named Texas Tech University School of Law’s new dean in June. A native Texan and University of Texas School of Law graduate, Nowlin had been a professor and senior associate dean at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Meanwhile, at Texas A&M University School of Law, Dean Andrew Morriss left in August to begin serving as the founding dean of the university’s School of Innovation and as vice president for entrepreneurship and economic development. Morriss, who became dean of the law school in 2014 and oversaw its surge in the national rankings, was succeeded by Thomas Mitchell, who is serving as interim dean pending a national search for a permanent replacement. Indeed, on Dean Morriss’ watch, Texas A&M University School of Law made big news. The school wasn’t even ranked in 2014 but climbed to No. 111 in the U.S. News and World Report rankings in 2016. In 2017, Texas A&M climbed to No. 92, making it the fifth Texas school in the top 100—the University of Texas School of Law holds the top spot at No. 14, followed by SMU Dedman School of Law at No. 46, Baylor Law School at No. 51, and the University of Houston Law Center at No. 54. Texas A&M also made national news in November when it became the latest law school nationally—and first in the Lone Star State—to announce that it would accept the GRE in admissions. A growing number of law schools across the country, including Harvard Law School, now accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT. And finally, what about bragging rights about 2017 bar passage rates? Baylor took the top spot with a 92.9 percent pass rate, followed by the University of Texas at 91.6 percent, Texas Tech at 87.1 percent, the University of Houston at 86.1 percent, SMU Dedman at 85.44 percent, Texas A&M at 83.45 percent, St. Mary’s at 73.72 percent, South Texas at 66.32 percent, Texas Southern at 63.62 percent, and UNT at 59.32 percent. The overall Texas bar passage rate for first-time takers was 77.89 percent. JOHN G. BROWNING is a partner in Passman & Jones in Dallas, where he handles commercial litigation, employment, health care, and personal injury defense matters in state and federal courts. He is an award-winning legal journalist for his syndicated column, “Legally Speaking,” and the author of the Social Media and Litigation Practice Guide and a forthcoming casebook on social media and the law. He is an adjunct professor at SMU Dedman School of Law.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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