UNLV History

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William S. Boyd School of Law

In just nine years of operation, the William S. Boyd School of Law — Nevada's first law school — has established itself as a national institution. The school was approved by the Legislature in 1997, and Richard J. Morgan, then dean of the Arizona State University College of Law, was chosen as founding dean. In just over a year, staff managed to hire faculty, recruit students, develop an academic program, renovate a temporary facility (the former Paradise Elementary School), and create a law library, opening the doors to the charter class of 140 students in August 1998.

Achieving Accreditation

The law school achieved provisional American Bar Association accreditation in 2000, the earliest possible time, and graduated its first class in May 2001. A year later, the school moved to its permanent home on the UNLV campus, William S. Boyd Hall and the James E. Rogers Center for Administration and Justice. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy spoke at the dedication of the new building.

Shortly thereafter, the law school achieved full accreditation and in early 2004 gained membership in the Association of American Law Schools. In fall 2007, the law school opened the Thomas & Mack Moot Court, a 6,000-square-foot facility that supports the school's trial advocacy, Kids' Court, and appellate advocacy programs and provides a venue for judicial proceedings by state and federal courts, including the Nevada Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Establishing a Reputation

Experienced faculty and staff have attracted excellent students right from the start. Special programs have also helped establish the quality and reputation of the law school. Opened in 2000, the innovative Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic gives student attorneys the chance to work under faculty supervision with UNLV graduate social work, education, and psychology students to provide high-quality representation to children, youth, and adults in trouble.

The Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution, established in 2003, hosts scholarly presentations and other special events on such topics as theories of conflict, substantive analysis of specific conflicts that affect the public interests, and methods of conflict avoidance and resolution. In addition, a practice component provides hands-on experience to law students.

The nationally recognized Lawyering Process Program emphasizes professionalism while giving students the opportunity to explore the relationship between legal analysis and a variety of lawyering skills, including legal writing in advocacy and transactional contexts, research strategies, oral advocacy, client interviewing, counseling, and negotiation.

Community Outreach

The law school's mission of training ethical and effective lawyers and leaders emphasizes the importance of contributing to the community. Required to participate in a community service program, first-year students work with Clark County Legal Services and Nevada Legal Services to prepare and conduct weekly workshops for unrepresented people. Open to the public, these free classes cover basic procedures in family or small claims court and matters related to paternity, custody, guardianship, and bankruptcy.

Students in the community service program also provide information and assistance to unrepresented people in conjunction with the Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic's Nevada Immigrant Resources Project and the Saltman Center. The Kids' Court School gives faculty and students in a variety of disciplines a chance to help educate child witnesses about the investigative and judicial processes while allaying their fears.

Dual Degree Programs

In addition to the juris doctorate, the Boyd School of Law offers a dual J.D./master of business administration program with the College of Business, a dual J.D./master of social work program with the School of Social Work, and a dual J.D./Ph.D. in education with the College of Education, allowing students admitted to both programs to pursue the two degrees concurrently. The law school also offers a joint J.D. and graduate certificate in women's studies from the women's studies department in the College of Liberal Arts.

Hosting Conferences

The Boyd School of Law has hosted many national conferences and symposia, including:

  • A symposium on Pursuing Equal Justice in the West.
  • The 11th annual LatCrit Conference.
  • The national invitational working conference on Representing Children in Families.
  • The Saltman Center's Peace in the Desert lecture series.
  • The seventh annual Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference.
  • The CALI Conference for Law School Computing.
  • An upcoming conference on Collaboration and the Colorado River.