10 Year Anniversary Kickoff Address

Dean John Valery White's commemorative address at the William S. Boyd School of Law's 10 Year Anniversary kickoff celebration on April 11, 2008

Verve and Vision


This year the William S. Boyd School of Law commemorates ten years of achievement. In events from April of this year to April 2009, we will celebrate our creation, growth, and success. I hope through these celebratory events to convey just how remarkable our accomplishments have been and honor the students, faculty, administrators, and civic leaders who made it possible.

A recent news story highlighted that Boyd graduates have quickly come to comprise over ten percent of the Clark County Bar and are well represented throughout the state. Our graduates will play a crucial role in the shaping of the future of the Nevada and Clark County bars. This significant accomplishment requires no embellishment. In just a decade and with only seven graduated classes, Boyd has helped focus the Nevada bar on Nevada, connecting our graduates and others to the ever-increasing demands of our growing community.

The accomplishments of Boyd over the last ten years are also reflected in the professionalism of our graduates and their prominent commitment to the community. Boyd graduates are heavily represented among the pro bono attorneys honored by Clark County Legal Services each year and are often the drivers of pro bono efforts at many of their firms. This is but a reflection of our success at inculcating professional values in our students and graduates.

These are not the accidental products of building a cookie-cutter law school. Our achievements are the clear result of our strong and committed faculty’s shared vision. It is a vision of an engaged, professional community around which responsibility to clients, skill, and intellectual pursuit come together in a shared commitment to service. Dean Morgan, along with the first faculty members he assembled in Paradise Elementary School and with Library Director Rick Brown, Deans Christine Smith and Frank Durand, embraced this vision and built a faculty around it. Today, our Faculty is renowned for their scholarly production but holds to its commitment to this particular kind of legal education. It is an approach to legal education which is expensive and intensive, the kind usually associated with very well endowed private schools. It is made available here only because of the commitment of the faculty and administrators to this vision and the support of the bar and civic community in fulfilling it.

The importance of Boyd’s approach to legal education is all the more important as legal education splits between full service law schools – offering specialty programs and comprehensive legal education taught by scholars of law – and schools focused more narrowly on bar passage. Our choice to become the former places us in rare company. Of the more than 20 law schools accredited by the ABA in the last two decades, we are the only one that is not a successor of an existing law school that has successfully pursued this course. Importantly, this choice has had a direct relationship with the quality and commitments of our graduates and instilled them with definite views about the Bar’s significant obligation to serve the public.

Let me emphasize, our graduates are simply excellent, a fact that is becoming more apparent everyday, as they become more senior members of the bar. It is telling to me that we have been able to achieve recognition – by magazines, by the bar, and by civic leaders – without abandoning our principled view of legal education. Our success owes to that view. Indeed all we have achieved owes to the verve and vision of our founders, the daring and faith of our students, and the courageousness and commitment of our supporters. In celebrating all of that, we hope to persevere and build on this success for the next decade, for the future Nevada.

That verve – that lively vigorous spirit – animates our plans for the future. We plan to be ambitious and aggressive in building the law school for the future. That school will build on our existing programs, enhance our role as resource for community, and improve on our pedagogy for producing great lawyers. This is a vision for what I’ve called an integrated, comprehensive legal education pedagogy. We are uniquely positioned to meet these ambitious goals. Moreover, with the rapid changes in the business climate for lawyers, the pressure on law schools to do more is ever-greater, necessitating the course we have charted. Our graduates will need to be both creative and skilled, undercutting any single focus on academic or on skills training. Our multifaceted program, integrating scholarly insight with expanded experiential and skills training will be the model for the future. It is on this path that we plan to lead.

Future developments will be guided by our existing structure. We shall continue to build our nationally recognized programs in Lawyering Process, in Dispute Resolution (through the Saltman Center for Dispute Resolution), in clinical studies (through the Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic). We will continue to build our faculty, bringing to Nevada leading authorities in their fields. We also hope to expand our offerings, internationally and in the gaming and resort area that dominates our local economy. In all events, these efforts are extensions of the vision of our predecessors who dared to envision a GREAT law school in the desert. With your unfailing support we will continue this project and deliver an educational institution equal to the daring, creativity, and effort that built and maintains a world-class resort city in the desert.

We shall dare to believe. Please join us.