Donors: Working It Out

Local law firm Sam & Ash establishes scholarship to assist students who have workplace experience

Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Sam Mirejovsky and Ashley Watkins

By Paul Szydelko

When local personal injury attorneys Sam Mirejovsky and Ashley Watkins decided to create a series of renewable scholarships at the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law, they knew they wanted to help students who had their educational timeline disrupted.

That’s why any student who applies for the Sam & Ash Scholarship must meet one key requirement: They had to have worked professionally for at least one year before beginning their law school journey. That prerequisite is important to Mirejovsky and Watkins because they know the challenges that often accompany interrupting the momentum of schooling. Both took time off between their undergraduate years and their legal education at the Fowler School of Law at Chapman University in Orange, California, where they met.  

Together, Mirejovsky and Watkins have donated $25,000 this year to the Boyd School of Law to support five $5,000 scholarships that recipients can renew for two additional years. By the 2022-23 academic year, their commitment will grow to as much as $75,000 annually, with as many as 15 students—five 1Ls, five 2Ls, and five 3Ls—each receiving $5,000.

“The objective is to reduce barriers for people who maybe are already in the workforce, but they really see their passion in the legal field,” Watkins says. “We want to help provide the financial assistance so those students can pursue their dreams and not be completely burdened.”

She notes that students who have already started their careers—and particularly those with families to support—have a steeper mountain of lectures, casebooks, and exams to navigate. Helping such students make that climb not only is rewarding, but also good for the law school and the profession.

“People who have had some real-world experience make for very good law students and [even] better lawyers because they’re looking at everything with a little bit of real-world knowledge than students who have gone from K-12 to four years of undergrad and then straight right to law school,” Mirejovsky says.

He’s found that graduates who have already earned a paycheck also are more likely to ascend the legal ranks quicker. Mirejovsky recalls an insurance adjuster who gained his law degree and was picked quickly for a partner-track job at a respected firm because he already had insurance experience.

Although they both attended law school in Southern California, Mirejovsky and Watkins quickly connected with the Las Vegas legal community before establishing Sam & Ash in downtown Las Vegas in 2019. That includes taking their Nevada Bar exams at UNLV, as well as meeting and quickly bonding with Boyd Law School Dean Dan Hamilton.

“Dan has been incredibly supportive of Ashley and me and our firm,” Mirejovsky says. “We immediately felt like we had a connection with the school because we have this friend, and whenever we met, Dan would talk about all the different things he was planning and what direction the school was going in.”

Watkins points to another commonality that helped her and Mirejovsky forge an undeniable bond with the law school: the youthfulness of the two law partners and the school (which was founded in 1998).

“It’s a young institution. [Its] story resonates with what Sam and I are trying to accomplish,” she says. “We’re younger, and we’ve got a lot to prove. That requires our firm and our staff to be much more innovative, collaborative, and cutting edge. When I look at what we’re trying to do and I look at [Boyd’s] students and faculty, it just aligns.”

Mirejovsky, who jokes that he’s a “recovering Californian,” grew up in and still loves the Golden State. But now that he and Watkins have made Las Vegas their home, they’re committed to going all in to help the school and its students, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the profession and the community.

“This is home base for us now,” Mirejovsky says. “As we grow our business, it’s very important to me to give back. You’re only as wealthy in life proportional to what you’re giving back to your community, and we intend to grow our commitment to UNLV as we become more successful as a firm.”