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For decades Nevadans who wanted to go to law school had to go out of state. Many never came back. Until 1998, when the law school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, opened, Nevada was one of just two states that did not have a state-run law school. (Alaska was — and still is — the other.) For years state legislators had tossed around the idea of starting a law school. There was resistance — from, of all places, members of the legal community, who did not see a need for more lawyers in the state. But in 1997 the state legislature funded the school with an initial $4 million allocation, and the school also received an initial $5 million pledge from William Boyd, president of Boyd Gaming Co. (Earlier this year, Boyd pledged an additional $25 million.) The newly christened William S. Boyd School of Law scrambled to open less than 18 months after it was funded. The board of regents selected Richard Morgan, then dean of Arizona State University, to head the school. “I was interested in founding a law school and taking a shot at improving legal education,” says Morgan. Before his tenure at ASU, Morgan was the dean of the University of Wyoming College of Law, and was a business law professor at ASU before that. When the law school opened its doors in September 1998, they were rickety ones. The school spent its first four years in an old elementary school on UNLV’s campus. “The bathrooms had ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ on the doors,” says Morgan. “We got a lot of mileage out of that one.” As 450 students filled the classrooms, space became an issue. “It was definitely a character-building experience,” Morgan says. In 2002 the law school moved into its current site, in what had been the UNLV library. This spring 133 students graduated from the law school, compared with 79 in 2001, the first graduating class. In addition to the normal gamut of required law school courses, the Boyd school has courses on the lawyering process, gaming law, water rights law and a community service requirement for first-year law students. Morgan says he has placed a particular emphasis on dispute resolution. “We impress upon our students that there are alternatives to litigation,” he says. The civil procedure class, for example, includes an ADR segment, and the school has a dispute resolution center on campus. The Boyd school also has a new clinical program, which received funding from the state of Nevada and private donors. A moot court auditorium is scheduled to open in the fall of 2006. In 2003 the UNLV law school received full American Bar Association accreditation, and it joined the Association of American Law Schools in 2004, the earliest dates possible for each. For two years in a row, the school made it to the U.S. News & World Report‘s ranking of top 100 law schools. Last year it ranked 82, and this year tied with four other law schools for No. 90.

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