Without question, the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law has produced numerous distinguished graduates in its relatively short 20 years of existence. But you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone with a wider array of experience than Sandra Douglass Morgan, who earned her J.D. in 2003 as part of the school’s third graduating class.
In a nutshell: Morgan clerked for two years at Parker Nelson and Associates; moved on to MGM Resorts to advise on corporate-risk matters as a litigation attorney; joined the City of North Las Vegas in 2008, initially dealing in the legal side of land use, planning, and zoning, before ultimately rising to deputy city attorney, then city attorney; then she returned to the private sector to work as director of external services for AT&T.
If you ask Morgan the secret to her success, she’ll point all the way back to her time in law school.
“I think the options of courses Boyd had available, and the law school experience as a whole, with each class you were learning how to think critically in a way that traditional schooling doesn’t teach you,” Morgan says. “By the end, the law school prepares you to put it all in perspective. It challenged me, and it gave me the desire to continue challenging myself.”
And she’s not just talking about her full-time positions over the past 15 years. The avid boxing/mixed martial arts fan spent much of the past year on the Nevada Athletic Commission, leaving that post in April only because Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed her to the Nevada Gaming Commission. Morgan says serving in those roles is just a natural extension of her longtime commitment to community service — fueled in large part by Boyd’s long-standing community service component.
“You can easily take for granted the legal and analytical skills that you obtain in law school, because at the time you’re in school, you are so focused on final exams, graduating, and finding employment,” Morgan says. “You later realize the value in what the school taught you when you can apply your skills and help somebody—‘Wow, I’m able to help people with everyday issues because of what the law school has taught me.’”
It’s those light-bulb moments that Morgan finds particularly gratifying.
“It’s a feeling that, regardless of how much experience you have, or how many sophisticated corporate clients you have, everyone has a responsibility to serve those who didn’t have the opportunity to access a legal education,” she says.
Today, Morgan’s community service contributions include working with Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates, a program designed to get those with high-school diplomas on the appropriate track—be it directly into the workforce or on to college or other post-secondary training.
In all, it’s been a fulfilling career, but she’s particularly fond of her time at the City of North Las Vegas.
“I was really proud of the work I did with the city,” Morgan says. “It tied back to the law school’s mandatory community service component. I always wanted to serve the community in some way. To drive by an area and know I had an impact, with a park or community center, it’s something I can always be proud of.
“And with AT&T, I’m very proud knowing we’re dedicated to the way technology is used in society. We’re conscious of social issues, and it’s important that we put our corporate dollars toward those issues, such as education and innovation. Technology should be used for good.”