When Nancy Rapoport isn't teaching law, she's cutting a rug.
The Garman Turner Gordon professor of law at the William S. Boyd School of Law, and affiliate professor of business law and ethics in the Lee Business School is a competitive ballroom dancer. Her legal and ethical acumen landed her a spot in the 2005 documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. On her heels or on the screen, Rapoport is ready for the spotlight.
What inspired you to get into your field?
My field is legal ethics, writ large, and bankruptcy ethics as a subspeciality. I fell in love with legal ethics issues when I was a beginning associate at a large law firm and was asked to help out with a “conflicts check.” Conflicts checks are designed to make sure that the law firm isn’t serving two clients with interests that aren’t aligned, and the interesting part about bankruptcy law is that the interests can shift often during a case. In that first conflicts check, I marked many creditors as “potentially adverse,” got a foot-high report back, and thought, “there’s probably something in there worth thinking about from a theoretical perspective." Years later, my first article was about just that: conflicts of interest in bankruptcy cases.
What is the biggest misconception about your field/job?
Well, the classic joke — about legal ethics or bankruptcy ethics — is that there isn’t any. But there is. Most lawyers do their darndest to be on the correct side of the ethics rules. Some don’t, of course, but most of the ethics mistakes that lawyers make can come from errors in how they think about a particular issue, rather than a deliberate effort to cheat the system.
What’s the last big project you completed and how did you celebrate/decompress afterward?
Along with several co-authors, we finally finished our textbook coming out in 2022, Ethical Lawyering: A Guide for the Well-Intentioned, which feels like a miracle (long story), but I’m also pleased about how my frequent co-author, Joe Tiano, and I are using big data to rethink the behavior of lawyers in BigLaw (those really large law firms). For all of my celebrations, cheesecake or chocolate cake is involved.
What work/research in your field do you think deserves more attention?
We need to use big data to think more about lawyer behavior, and probably about client behavior as well.
Is there a breakthrough or discovery in your field you wish you had made?
The work that Bill Henderson and Jayanth Krishnan are doing at Indiana on the legal profession has been a game-changer. I describe them as two people who can see around the corners of the future. They’re both fabulous.
Best tip or advice for someone new to UNLV?
Get involved. There’s likely an affinity group that will welcome you with open arms.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I’m a competitive ballroom dancer who travels the country to dance with my teacher, Igor Dogoter. I’d say that wearing two sets of false eyelashes, lots of rhinestones, and more makeup than you’d see on shelves at Sephora is a guilty pleasure. The dance shoes? Not so much.
What was the last book you couldn’t put down, show you binge-watched, or band you kept on replay? Why?
The anonymously penned Becoming Duchess Goldblatt was a book that I read all in one sitting. The author, whoever she is, created this social media sensation (Duchess Goldblatt) as a way of coping with her own life challenges. Also, that author has become friends with Lyle Lovett. Pretty awesome, if you ask me.