Campus Life

Texas A&M Dean Named One Of The ‘Most Influential People In Legal Education’

Bobby Ahdieh, who has led the Fort Worth-based law school since 2018, was recently ranked the fifth-most influential individual in legal education by The National Jurist.
By Caitlin Clark, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications April 11, 2024

Portrait of Bobby Ahdieh standing outside with his hands clasped.
Dean Bobby Ahdieh outside the law school’s building in downtown Fort Worth.

Justin Ikpo/Texas A&M School of Law


It didn’t take long after moving to Fort Worth for Bobby Ahdieh to realize that blending in wasn’t going to be an option. Within a few minutes of opening his mouth to speak, the New Yorker is inevitably asked where he’s from. So instead, Ahdieh adopted what he calls his “I got here as quick as I could” approach.

That’s how he found himself on the back of a horse in the center of a packed arena within his first year as dean of Texas A&M University’s School of Law. When he got a text message one day asking if he would ride in the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, Ahdieh’s initial response was to joke that it must be a typo — surely, he thought, he was being asked if he needed a ride to the rodeo. “If you were looking for a case study of someone doing something no one could have predicted just a few years ago, ‘Bobby riding a horse in Texas’ would have been it,” he said.

But then, there are a lot of things Ahdieh has accomplished since joining the law school in 2018 that might seem beyond belief. In the last five years alone, the school has risen 57 places in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of top law schools, breaking into the top 30 for the first time last year at No. 29. It jumped another three spots to No. 26 in this year’s recently-released rankings. The school also ranked No. 1 on the Texas Bar Exam last year, and the Class of 2022 had the highest placement in “gold standard” jobs of any law school in the nation.

Ahdieh’s accomplishments were recently acknowledged by The National Jurist, which placed him at No. 5 on its list of the 20 most influential people in legal education.

To Ahdieh, his inclusion on the list is an indication that the law school, which Texas A&M acquired in 2013 from Texas Wesleyan University, is a “player of substance” on the legal education landscape. Over the last few years, the total number of faculty has grown to 146, 67 of whom are full-time. And in addition to 447 juris doctorate students, another 1,218 students are now enrolled in the law school’s graduate programs.

“What it reflects is that Texas A&M is increasingly at the table — in terms of what legal education looks like and should look like,” Ahdieh said. “Our place there is indisputable, when you consider the caliber of our faculty and the work that they’re doing, and when you look at the quality of the students we’re attracting.”

Ahdieh on horseback on the arena floor at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.
Ahdieh on the arena floor during Texas A&M’s second annual Aggie Night at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo on Jan. 19 at Dickies Arena.

Abbey Santoro/Texas A&M Division of Marketing & Communications


Educating Future Leaders

Ahdieh earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs before being trained in the legal profession at Yale Law School. He went on to clerk for Judge James R. Browning of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, before working in the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

It’s not uncommon for some attorneys to cross over into academia because they don’t enjoy practicing law. But in Ahdieh’s case, he loved his time in the courtroom. He enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how to articulate an argument in an effective fashion, and then respond to the counter-arguments. At the same time, he recognized that the impact he could have through scholarship and policy advocacy, as well as in educating the next generation of lawyers, would be greater as an academic.

In addition to stints teaching at Princeton, Georgetown and Columbia, Ahdieh worked at Atlanta’s Emory University for 18 years, both as a professor and vice dean.

“I still miss legal practice to this day, but educating is what keeps me ticking and gets me up in the morning,” Ahdieh said.

As Texas continues to grow in population and economic activity, the state will need more of the kind of “world-class” lawyers produced by Texas A&M School of Law, Ahdieh said. But he also believes it’s becoming “vitally important” that the law school serve the state beyond just educating future lawyers.

More broadly, Ahdieh said, growing numbers of professionals in heavily regulated industries like healthcare, energy and finance need robust training in law, regulation and compliance, given an increasingly complex business landscape. The School of Law is helping meet this need through its Master of Legal Studies and related certificate programs, which are designed for professionals who don’t intend to practice law, but need a legal education. The program currently enrolls close to 1,100 students.

“In terms of Texas A&M’s land-, sea- and space-grant mission and meeting the needs of Texas as a whole, it’s critical to create a population of professionals able to navigate the complex landscapes their industries are facing,” Ahdieh said.

Despite the 170-mile physical separation from the flagship campus, Ahdieh has also made a concerted effort for the law school to be engaged with and visible in College Station. This is perhaps most tangibly reflected in the joint degree pathways and programs that have been established with several of the university’s colleges and schools — and in the prominent display of the Aggie Core Values, 12th Man imagery and maroon on every wall of the law school.

As part of his 2022 appointment as vice president for professional schools and programs, Ahdieh is also working to identify and establish new practice and coursework-oriented degrees, certificates and programs with growth potential across the length and breadth of the university.

Rendering of the new eight-story building that will house the law school
A rendering of the future Law & Education Building, which will house the law school.

Texas A&M University System

Expanding Presence In Fort Worth

A relocation to Texas wasn’t on Ahdieh’s radar until he interviewed with Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and other leaders about their vision for the school that had been acquired just five years prior.

“What I saw when I was offered the job was an opportunity to really move the school forward across multiple axes, and that was enough for me to say, ‘OK, I’ll learn how to ride a horse.’”

When Ahdieh reflects on the law school’s trajectory over the last few years, he believes a critical piece of its ascendance was the willingness of university leadership to take on a seemingly impossible challenge — moving an unranked law school into the top tier.

At a gathering of lawyers in Austin about a year and a half ago, Ahdieh was asked to speak on the topic of facilitating change, including with reference to the law school’s dramatically improved rank and reputation. Of the crowd of 400 or so in attendance, most had attended the University of Texas for either their undergraduate or law degree. Ahdieh gave credit to what he described as a “peculiar characteristic of the Aggie mind” — earning some audible sighs and conspicuous eye rolls from the Longhorns in the room.

“I told them to bear with me, and explained that all of us are born and raised with a keen sense of our limitations and what we’re capable of — except for the Aggies,” he said. “I don’t know whether it’s something in the water or something in the air, but this is a group of people who never start with the assumption that something is impossible.”

“Aggies have somehow figured out a way to bottle that mindset and instill it in every one of their current and former students — and that has made for an incredible community to be a part of,” he said. “To join the Aggie family and be charged to move our law school forward and establish a broader presence in Fort Worth, it’s hard to imagine a better place to be.”

Ahdieh added another title to his resume in 2023, when he was appointed chief operating officer of Texas A&M-Fort Worth, the several-hundred-million-dollar research campus envisioned by Texas A&M University System officials and Forth Worth government and business leaders to spur innovation and business development. The Texas A&M System broke ground last summer on the $150 million Law & Education Building, which will be the new eight-story home to both the School of Law and other programs from Texas A&M and Tarleton State University.

“The political will to pull off this massive undertaking can in some significant part be traced to the fact that everyone now looks at the law school and says, ‘If this pretty unbelievable transformation could be accomplished in just 10 years, who knows what amazing things can be accomplished with Texas A&M’s commitment to a broader presence in Fort Worth,’” Ahdieh said.

He hopes the campus, which will sit on four city blocks and change the face of the southeastern part of downtown, will create a larger presence and scope of influence in North Texas for Texas A&M.

For his part in encouraging the creation of the first-of-its-kind campus, Ahdieh was given the “Innovation Trailblazer Award” last year by Downtown Fort Worth, Inc. The city’s convention and visitors bureau has even featured Ahdieh in its series of videos spotlighting local community leaders.

He’s never had a particular taste for attention or visibility, Ahdieh said, but it’s been something he has become more accustomed to as the face of the law school, especially as he’s “embraced the local ways.”

“Nobody expects me to become a professional bull rider, but I go to the rodeo five, six, sometimes seven times over the course of the season and participate in all sorts of activities,” he said. “I think that means a lot in Fort Worth and in Texas. It’s a different world from any I had known previously. But it’s been the honor of my career to be here.”

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