"History Just Happened" by Will Pryor

Founding Dean, Judge Royal Furgeson toasts to UNT Dallas College of Law's provisional accreditation.

Three years ago at the Convocation of the new UNT Dallas College of Law, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht began his remarks by reminding the audience of the famous remark made to the first year class at Harvard Law School a century ago, "Look to your left, look to your right-one of you won't be here next year". Using the remark to underscore the challenging reality of law school, and then confirming the importance of this new school and it's promise to reform American legal education, the Chief Justice concluded by asking the entering law students to "look to your left, look to your right-all three of you are doing something historic".

History just happened. Earlier today the American Bar Association announced that the UNT Dallas College of Law has earned provisional accreditation. This is the necessary first step required of all new law schools. It is a stunning achievement. In just a few days the first graduating class of the UNT Dallas College of Law will receive their degrees from an ABA-approved law school.

High Risk, High Reward

Four years ago the Founding Dean, Judge Royal Furgeson, relinquished the prestige of the federal bench and his national reputation as one of the finest trial court judges in the country, to help get this new law school off the ground. Judge Furgeson was joined by my beautiful wife, Ellen Smith Pryor, who left behind tenure, an endowed Chair, and a twenty-five year distinguished teaching and academic career at SMU's law school to become the Associate Dean for Academics at the new school. The risks that both of them took were enormous. The challenges were great. It has been hard. But along the way they hired inspired administrators, they recruited and hired an extraordinary faculty, and the most amazing students applied and were accepted. All took a leap of faith to be part of this enterprise. Reputations and careers were put on the line.

The reform of American legal education is happening. The curriculum is practice-focused to a degree unmatched by any law school in the country. Unlike the traditional law school model of reading appellate cases for a semester and then taking one three-hour exam to determine the grade for the course, students at UNT Dallas College of Law are assessed in each course in multiple formats throughout the semester. Diversity at the law school is not just a goal, it is the reality, the third most diverse law school in the United States. The average age of the first year students is thirty-three. Unlike the tuition of forty, fifty and sixty thousand at most other law schools, this year's tuition at UNT Dallas College of Law was around fifteen thousand dollars. In other words, this new school is changing the game. The faculty is excellent. The quality is high and the cost is low. Law schools everywhere are going to have to start scrambling.

The UNT Dallas College of Law is, indeed, different and it has achieved excellence. And now this new law school is accredited by the American Bar Association!!!!!

Congratulations to State Senator Royce West, Chancellor Lee Jackson, President Bob Mong, the Judge, and Ellen. To the faculty, administration and the students, I am in awe. This is a day of great joy.


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Will Pryor

Mediation & Arbitration