Melding Journalism and Law

Boyd Law degree helps legal correspondent share important stories with viewers

Maria Thompson
Maria Thompson

By: Paul Szydelko

Maria Thompson decided to pursue a law degree to better understand the judicial system and become a better journalist. With a degree from the William S. Boyd School of Law at UNLV in hand, the former senior news producer for KSNV News 3 now hopes to pack as much legal experience as possible to combine her passion for journalism and the law as a legal correspondent.

When the News 3 team encountered challenges obtaining public records and critical pieces of information for an investigation on juvenile justice and child welfare in Nevada, she knew that getting a better grasp into how the legal process works would ease those burdens and help her team tell important stories.

One of her favorite classes was alternative dispute resolution in employment with adjunct professor Patrick N. Chapin. “The way he taught the course made everyone excited about mediation and arbitration, even if it wasn’t where they wanted to specialize,” says Thompson, who kept her full-time job while being a part-time student.

A handful of Boyd Law professors even provided helpful guidance, context and even some on-air interviews for legal stories while she continued work in the newsroom.

She also completed a virtual externship with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, helping the scientists secure patents, respond to ethics questions, and research employment issues. “It was very cool getting a glimpse behind the firewall and learning about an evolving area of law,” she says. “Whenever I got off the phone with a NASA employee, they always ended the call with, ‘Thank you for contributing to the mission,’ and hearing that was pretty surreal.”

After passing the bar, Thompson will pursue a clerkship, a public interest position or a spot with a civil litigation firm.

“Southern Nevada is a really special and unique community, and there are so many ways you can
make an impact here through the legal profession,” Thompson says. “It’s amazing how Boyd School of Law has cultivated a strong network of professionals who understand the local legal landscape and want to use their skills to give back and empower the community.”