Generational Talents

Posted by Texas A&M School of Law on Apr 30, 2024 12:00:00 AM
David and Shannon Lawson

The term like father, like son will soon take on a particularly significant meaning for David Lawson and his son Shannon. The two naturally share many things in common like their witty humor, their curious natures, and their ability to not take themselves too seriously. However, what started with a simple text message, will soon end with another commonality added to their list: Aggie Law graduates. 

With over 70 years of combined experience in the cyber and security fields, there were few situations the Lawsons had not been exposed to. While waiting for a flight one day, Shannon discovered a digital ad on his phone about the law school’s Cybersecurity Law and Policy Program. Shannon, who serves as chief information security officer for the City of Phoenix, was intrigued at the idea of weaving the law into a dedicated Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree. Despite his past array of cybersecurity work for the U.S. Navy, the State of Alaska, and regional areas in Southern California, he, like his father, had always dreamed of someday attending law school. So, he texted his father about it. 

“In the cyber field, you always hear that there are not enough people in the field and that there are often shortfalls in training,” said Shannon. “I am always looking at the different things being offered by a school. I always wanted to go to law school, but nothing ever aligned for me to do it. This program allowed me to tie [my degree] to cyber in a field that is high demand, low density.” 

David, a retiree residing outside of Sarasota, FL, spent 45 years in information technology. He began his career in the burgeoning hospital IT sector, eventually serving as chief information officer for West Jersey Health System and VP, of professional service at AllScripts. He oversaw some of the nation’s most cutting-edge information and security systems.  

Despite retiring nine years ago, David was dissatisfied with the slower pace of retirement and was still passionate about developing his skillset. He also found the challenge of stepping back into his former field an exciting venture. By January 2023, the unlikely pair enrolled in their MLS program and were officially classmates.  

Despite living states away from each other, their tight-knit relationship was always present. Any expectations the two had about the program shifted once classes started; the first day of class proved to be the only time they would be on the same page. A friendly competition between father and son quickly ensued. The two would often compare grades, examine notes, and nudge the other to see who could finish 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 joked. “I was working full-time, and I have a 10-year-old. So my plate was full.” 

David appreciated the ongoing accountability he received from his son. It helped with his own adjustments to the demands of the MLS program. 

“This program helped open a side of me that I always knew was there. You’ve got to think and write, think some more, and then write some more,” said David. “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 two gained innovative approaches to their craft, which built upon their decades-long experience. However, they quickly developed a fondness for their legal courses, particularly contract law, legal writing, and alternative dispute resolution. 

The law classes were my favorite,” said David. "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 described how he was able to inject his newfound skills directly into the workplace. 

“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.” 

The sun is setting on the Lawsons’ time as students, as the two prepare to both receive their degrees. For Shannon, it will be his third master’s degree; the trifecta, as he described it.  

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

As the two reflect upon their experiences and scope out their next adventure together, Shannon alluded that his next marching orders would be much tamer, courtesy of his mother. 

“My mom told me to stop giving my dad ideas, which I thought was funny,” he said. 

Topics: Graduates, student spotlight

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Texas A&M School of Law is an American Bar Association-accredited institution located in downtown Fort Worth. Since integrating with Texas A&M University in 2013, the law school has sustained a remarkable upward trajectory — dramatically increasing entering class credentials; improving U.S. News and World Report rankings; hiring more than 30 new faculty members; and adding more than 10 clinics and six global field study destinations. In the past several years the law school has greatly expanded its academic programs to serve the needs of non-lawyer professionals in a variety of complex and highly regulated industries such as cybersecurity, energy and natural resources, finance, and healthcare.

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Texas A&M, established in 1876 as the first public university in Texas, is one of the nation’s largest universities with more than 66,000 students and more than 440,000 living alumni residing in over 150 countries around the world. A tier-one university, Texas A&M holds the rare triple land-, sea- and space-grant designation. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $905.4 million in fiscal year 2017. Texas A&M’s research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world.

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As one of the world's leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to scholarship and discovery, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $905.4 million in fiscal year 2017. Texas A&M ranked in the top 20 of the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development survey (2016), based on expenditures of more than $892.7 million in fiscal year 2016. Texas A&M’s research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world.

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