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#RebelsTakeChances to Redo a Whole Year of Law School

Herb J. Santos Jr., the Liberal Arts Alumnus of the Year, finds opportunity in adversity.

People  |  Apr 25, 2017  |  By Brian Sodoma
Editor's Note: 

The UNLV Alumni Association will celebrate the accomplishments of graduates at its annual reception and awards ceremony April 26. For a full list of honorees and event details, visit the alumni awards website


After graduation, Herb Santos, ’85 BA Sociology, worked as a social worker serving homeless families then later earned his law degree. As an attorney, he has earned the AV peer review rating by Martindale Hubbell, the highest rating possible. He has served as president of the Nevada Justice Association and in 2014 was appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to sit on the Nevada State Tourism Commission.


It has been said that adversity is opportunity in disguise. In 1986, I enrolled in Nevada’s first law school, Old College in Reno. The law school was the perfect fit as I was newly married and both my wife and I had good jobs. In order to take the Nevada Bar, however, one has to graduate from an ABA accredited law school. Old College was not yet accredited but was in the accreditation review process.

In June of 1987, the ABA submitted a list of several requirements for the school but the school regents decided to close the school down. My dream of becoming a lawyer was gone. None of my credits would transfer to another law school. I decided that I would not let this stop my dream of a career as a lawyer. I drove to McGeorge Law School in Sacramento to apply for the Fall 1987 semester. I was accepted into the 4-year night program but with a caveat; I would have to complete the entire first year all over again with no earned credits, full tuition and no scholarship.

My wife and I both gave up our jobs and relocated. I found a full-time day job as a law clerk for the county. This is where the “opportunity in disguise” comes in. When I graduated in 1991, I found the perfect job which provided the path for where I am today. If Old College had not closed, I would have graduated in 1990 and that “perfect job” was not available at that time.

That job set in motion my career path in the area of law that I currently practice. Looking back, I realize that the school’s closure was clearly an opportunity in disguise. That chapter in my life gave me the confidence in realizing that I could overcome any obstacle, regardless of how hopeless or overwhelming the obstacle. As a side note, my wife and I just celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary.