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Dean's Column: Students Know Best Why the UNLV Experience Pays

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STUDENTS KNOW BEST WHY THE
UNLV EXPERIENCE PAYS
Dean’s Column
“We work to attract students and deliver
exceptional value through training, hands-on
opportunities and networking.”
STATE BAR OF NEVADA Nevada Lawyer Magazine
H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H
BY DEAN DANIEL W. HAMILTON AND PROF. ANNE R. TRAUM
Madison Zornes was working as a fle clerk at a Las
Vegas law frm when she was deciding where to attend law
school, so she solicited advice from lawyers at the frm. A
Las Vegas native, Madison had gone out of state for college.
Wing Yan Wong was in the same boat, having left Nevada for
college. She was now weighing UNLV among her law school
acceptances. Scott Ramsey, from Arizona, had an attractive
in-state option, but was drawn to Las Vegas as a city and as a
place to practice law. Deciding to attend law school, and then
deciding which law school to attend, are big career decisions,
involving a signifcant fnancial commitment.
In today’s climate, law schools are competing for students
like Madison, Wing and Scott. Law school applications are
down double-digits nationally for the fourth straight year. “Big
law” hiring isn’t what it used to be. Some have questioned
the value of a law degree, especially given hikes in tuition, a
weak job market and a profession undergoing changes.
1
These
challenges are real, and neither UNLV nor Nevada is immune.
But recent studies confrm that a law degree remains an
excellent investment.
2
Long term economic gains far outweigh
the cost of the degree.
Still, with applications down, nearly every law school
applicant is in demand. To attract students, law schools compete
on price, value, job placement, reputation and the kinds of
learning opportunities available to students. Clinics, externships
and service learning programs enrich students’ training and job
prospects. Opportunities to study in rapidly changing practice
areas that have special signifcance to the Nevada market –
such as intellectual property and gaming – challenge our
students and help them understand the kinds of issues they will
encounter in a sophisticated practice. In this buyer’s market,
applicants are savvy about their choices. On the back end, their
future employers are hiring students who are more prepared for
law practice than ever before.
Students often choose UNLV based on value. They seek
advice from those in the know: lawyers and other students. At
the frm where Madison worked, the associates’ advice was
clear: attend law school where you plan to practice because
of the superior networking opportunities. A partner told her
that local frms tend to be more receptive to successful Boyd
students. Scott got the same advice and, like Madison, was also
drawn to UNLV’s small size and strong programs. Wing was
impressed by the well-spoken and very professional UNLV
students she spoke to, and the school’s impressive rank given its
very brief history. For her, the faculty’s teaching experience was
also a big draw.
Geordan Logan’s pathway to law school was more
circuitous, but not unusual among UNLV’s part-time students.
Being a lawyer had been his dream since childhood, but he
found himself, at age 43, in an entirely different career. “I had a
six-fgure salary and a lot of responsibility, but I hated my job,”
he said. UNLV was his one and only choice. He was impressed
by its writing program, location and price, to his mind a bargain
compared to most law schools. Still, at $23,000 annual in-state
tuition, law school is a big investment, even if UNLV is about
half the price of its California counterparts.
Now at UNLV, these students rave about the hands-on
learning opportunities and interaction with the legal community.
From day one, students are involved in pro bono work through
the community service program, which has served more than
50,000 clients. UNLV’s small size (about 100 new students in
incoming classes) means that students get individualized attention
28 Nevada Lawyer May 2014
May 2014 Nevada Lawyer 29
in class, assistance on bar prep and counseling on
fnding jobs. On the job, Madison has valued the strong
foundation she received in UNLV’s rigorous writing
program (ranked third by US News in 2013).
The law practice experience students gain in
the externship and clinical programs gives them a
competitive edge in hiring and in fguring out what
practice area they want to pursue.
Geordan is on his second externship, this time
with the Clark County Public Defender.
Scott learned the value of this real-world
experience by externing for a judge and now plans to
enroll in a clinic before graduation.
After Madison externed for one state district
judge, another judge hired her to clerk after graduation.
As a third-year, she clerked at Eglet Wall Christiansen.
She’s spending her last semester in the Family Justice
Clinic, honing her litigation skills and developing data-
driven proposals for law reform.
Wing has capitalized on a professional
development fellowship, co-sponsored by the law
school and the state bar, enabling her to work at Lewis
Roca Rothgerber.
The pressure is on for law schools to deliver.
With applications down, a tight job market and rising
tuition, law schools, including UNLV, no longer take
anything for granted. We work to attract students and
deliver exceptional value through training, hands-on
opportunities and networking. Is it worth it? Empirically,
the answer is yes. On a less scientifc scale, perhaps
Geordan said it best. “All-in-all, my concerns about the
high cost of my education and employment are tempered
by the realization that I have discovered what I want to
be when I grow up.” Putting students on their own paths
to success is what we do best.
1 Most notably, Brian Z. Tamahaha, Failing Law Schools
(2012); see also David Segal, “Is Law School a Losing
Game?” NY Times, January 8, 2011.
2 Michael Simkovic, Frank McIntyre, “Populist Outrage,
Reckless Empirics: A Review of Failing Law Schools,”
Northwestern University Law Review Online, Feb. 3,
2014; Michael Simkovic, Frank McIntyre, “The Economic
Value of a Law Degree” (Harvard Law Sch. Program on
the Legal Profession, Research Paper No. 2013-6, Jan.
14, 2014)
ANNE R. TRAUM is Associate Dean
for Experiential Legal Education
and Associate Professor Law at
the William S. Boyd School of
Law, where she teaches criminal
procedure, federal courts and the
appellate clinic.

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