Campus Life

Father-Son Classmates Graduate From Texas A&M School Of Law

David and Shannon Lawson, experienced cybersecurity and information technology professionals, built on their backgrounds through the school’s Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program.
By Justin Ikpo, Texas A&M University School of Law May 9, 2024

Headshots of David and Shannon Lawson against a maroon background


David Lawson and his son Shannon naturally share many of the same qualities, like a witty sense of humor, natural curiosity and an ability to not take themselves too seriously. They recently added to the list of things they share in common – graduates of Texas A&M University’s School of Law.

The Lawsons, who earned their degrees this May, say it all began with a text message.

Shannon, 49,  was scrolling on his phone while waiting for a flight one day in 2022 when he came across an ad for the law school’s Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program with an emphasis in Cybersecurity Law and Policy. Shannon, who serves as chief information security officer for the City of Phoenix, was intrigued by the idea. Designed for non-lawyer professionals who don’t intend to practice law, the degree would give him legal expertise that would build on his background in cybersecurity.

Shannon had done cybersecurity work for the U.S. Navy, the state of Alaska and regional areas in Southern California. He and David had a combined 70 years of experience in the cybersecurity and information technology fields, and both father and son shared dreams of one day attending law school. So, Shannon texted his father.

“I always wanted to go to law school, but nothing ever aligned for me to do it,” Shannon said. “This program allowed me to tie (my degree) to cyber in a field that is high demand, low density.”

David, 75, was also attracted to the idea. He had been retired for nine years after a 45-year career in information technology. As chief information officer for West Jersey Health System and vice president of professional service at AllScript, he oversaw some of the nation’s most cutting-edge information and security systems. In retirement, David found himself dissatisfied with the slow pace of living, and still had an interest in expanding his skillset.

The father-son pair both decided to enroll in the MLS program, becoming online classmates in January 2023. Shannon did his studies from his home in Phoenix, and David from the Sarasota, Florida area.

Despite the distance, the Lawsons often shared notes and compared grades. And in the spirit of friendly competition, they pushed each other to see who could complete assignments first.

“We thought we had a clear idea of what would happen while going through this program. What ended up happening was that my dad would always be ahead of me in every class, which was understandable,” Shannon said. “I was working full-time, and I have a 10-year-old. So, my plate was full.”

For his part, David appreciated the accountability he received from Shannon. It also helped him adjust to the demands of going back to school.

“This program helped open a side of me that I always knew was there,” David said. “You’ve got to think and write, think some more, and then write some more. When you get older, people talk about the importance of exercising your mind. If you want to activate your brain, try going to law school.”

Throughout the program, the Lawsons learned new, innovative approaches to their craft. They also developed a fondness for their legal courses, particularly contract law, legal writing and alternative dispute resolution.

“The law classes were my favorite,” David said. “In my 40-plus years in the IT area, I was familiar with contracts, arbitration, negotiations and things like that. However, having taken these law classes, I am now able to better communicate with others in the room. When the attorneys talk, I now know how to talk and use the language that they understand. Just being able to speak their language is incredibly important.”

Shannon said he was also able to directly apply his new skills to his career.

“The law classes really made me more curious,” he said. “There was immediate applicability to the job that I’m in now because I work with procurement, the legal team and human resources for personnel investigations. It gave me the ability to use specific legal language to better participate in those conversations at work — which was awesome.”

For Shannon, this is his third master’s degree.

“I think it’s extra special that my dad and I were able to do it together,” he said. “I think it’s great because this opportunity doesn’t really present itself very often, and everything lined up perfectly at the right time.”

As the Lawson reflect up on their accomplishment and plan their next joint adventure, Shannon said their next venture will likely be “much tamer,” per his mother’s request.

“My mom told me to stop giving my dad ideas,” he joked.

This article by Justin Ikpo originally appeared on the School of Law website.

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