Texas A&M University School of Law Dean Andrew Morriss. ()
Texas A&M University School of Law has broken into the ranks of the top 100 law schools in the U.S. News & World Report, reaching a goal that university officials set in 2012 when they bought the law school.
When A&M announced it would take over Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, A&M President R. Bowen Loftin told Texas Lawyer he would move aggressively to bring it into at least tier-2 status in the publication’s rankings of the top 100 law schools nationwide. Touchdown! Texas A&M Law landed at No. 92, which is up from No. 111 last year. Law schools ranked between 1 and 50 are considered tier 1, while ranks between 51 and 100 are tier 2.
Five other Texas law schools also made the U.S. News rankings this year: the University of Texas School of Law received the highest rank among Texas law schools, coming in No. 14, up from No. 15 last year; Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law is No. 46, down from No. 45 last year; Baylor University School of Law is No. 51, a climb from No. 55 last year; the University of Houston Law Center is No. 54, a drop from No. 50 last year; and Texas Tech University School of Law is No. 118, better than its rank of No. 123 last year.
U.S. News only ranks the top three-fourths of law schools, and doesn’t publish the ranks of the bottom quarter. This year, ranks weren’t published for St. Mary’s University School of Law, South Texas College of Law Houston or Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Because University of North Texas Dallas College of Law isn’t yet accredited by the American Bar Association, U.S. News did not consider the school for ranking.
Texas Lawyer spoke with Texas A&M University School of Law Dean Andrew Morriss about the school’s rise in the rankings. Here are his answers, edited for brevity and clarity.
What are the improvements at Texas A&M Law that lead to this result?
The quality of our students has increased, measured by the things U.S. News looks at, like their Law School Admission Test scores and undergraduate grade point averages, but also things we like to look at: their accomplishments before coming to law school and engagement with their education. We feel the quality of students is continuously increasing.
We have hired 24 new faculty—accomplished teachers and scholars with accomplished reputations. When you add them to the faculty we had, we increased our reputation in the world of law schools. Finally, we have been putting more effort into our placements of our graduates, and it’s been steadily improving. It can improve more, and we hope it will, but it also plays a role in the rankings. It’s the right thing to do for our students.
What feedback have you gotten from faculty and students?
Everybody is happy. It’s always good to go up. But I think what people are really happy about is things we did at the school. We cut the tuition by 15 percent, and then we reduced the size of the student body and increased the size of the faculty, so we now have an 8.4-to-1 student-faculty ratio. Students get a lot of personal attention from the faculty.
What is next on your plate?
We’re working on improving our curriculum continuously. We’re working on recruiting next year’s class. We’re working on placing our graduates and getting our graduates ready for the bar. In higher education, it’s a cycle, and you never stop—you have to continuously try to improve.