The Texas Tribune">

A&M's Law School Acquisition Differs From Original Plan

By: Reeve Hamilton, The Texas Tribune Email
By: Reeve Hamilton, The Texas Tribune Email

 "For a lot of reasons, it's a lot better deal for us...It's not just the name. Our regents and the president will have total and complete control of the law school"

-Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp

TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY - The final deal on Texas A&M University's purchase of the private Texas Wesleyan School of Law - a deal that was officially closed on Monday - is significantly different from the plan that was originally announced in June 2012.

Whereas the previous plan was more of a merger, complete with joint degrees, the new deal is a complete acquisition. Going forward, the Fort Worth school will be called the Texas A&M University School of Law. Texas A&M has also arranged for the purchase of the building and the property.

"It's what we wanted from the beginning." Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said. "It's our law school. We own it."

When A&M's intention to acquire a law school was first announced, the plan was for the new institution to be called the Texas A&M School of Law at Texas Wesleyan University.

A&M planned to give $25 million to Texas Wesleyan, allowing A&M to assume ownership and control of the law school. But the private university intended to retain the buildings and the surrounding property, which A&M would lease for $2.5 million each year for at least the next 40 years.

The total price tag in the new deal is roughly $73 million over five years, according to system spokesman Steve Moore, who noted that figure is less than the total of the originally proposed deal over its entire lifespan.

Under the deal, A&M paid Texas Wesleyan $31.7 million at closing, which covered the first year's lease as well as the purchase of the law school and the option to purchase the real estate. They will continue to pay $7.7 million annually over the next four years, which will cover the lease and the purchase of non-real estate assets. On the fifth anniversary, A&M will finally have the opportunity to buy the real estate for $11 million. Sharp said donors and tuition revenue from the new law school are expected to help with the extra up-front costs of the new arrangement.

"For a lot of reasons, it's a lot better deal for us," Sharp said. "It's not just the name. Our regents and the president will have total and complete control of the law school, so they can produce the lawyers as we think they ought to be."

The proposal cleared its final hurdle last week when the American Bar Association Council for the Section on Legal Education signed off on the arrangement. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board had already given its approval.

"We believe this agreement will enhance the educational experience at both the School of Law and at our historic campus," Texas Wesleyan President Frederick G. Slabach said in a statement.

As it transitions, the school will retain all of its existing accreditations. A website has launched to help current students adjust.

Leaders of both institutions plan to make a formal announcement about the law school's future at a news conference Thursday in Fort Worth.

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