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Law school moves up in U.S. News rankings

Coming in at number 71, the Boyd School of Law jumped seven spots this year in national rankings by U.S. News & World Report, a leap that left John Valery White, the school’s dean, cautiously optimistic that Boyd will continue to improve even in the face of proposed massive budget cuts.

White said the magazine’s closely watched annual list of the nation’s top law schools has its flaws, but overall he is pleased with the results.

“Applicants pay a lot of attention to U.S. News, so it’s important for us to do well,” said White, who thinks Nevada’s only law school will continue to get better results.

“We’re a young school,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve found a permanent place (in the rankings) yet. At some point we’ll settle in.”

And while the chant “we’re number 71” doesn’t sound overly impressive, “we’re number 4” does. That’s the ranking Boyd earned in legal writing.

The school also placed in the top 10 in conflict resolution, at No. 9.

“That’s our Lawyering Process program,” White said of the strong finish in legal writing. “We’re very proud of that (ranking), and we think it’s important to the school.”

White said the professors who teach legal writing and how the program is structured come together “to show students what lawyers go through” in all aspects of legal writing, from simple motions to briefs to transactional writing.

A 1991 Yale law graduate, White said both the legal writing and dispute resolution programs are “respected by our colleagues at other schools.”

Boyd, located on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is tied with law schools at Northeastern University in Boston; the universities of Oklahoma and Kentucky; and Loyola in Chicago.

White said the challenge is maintaining quality in the face of massive proposed budget cuts of $2.3 million over the next two years.

“These cuts are not sustainable, so if they stand we’re going to have to raise tuition by thousands of dollars.”

Boyd students now pay roughly $20,000 per academic year, about the same as Arizona State University and other public institutions.

The cuts could force Boyd to price itself out of the market, White said.

The proposed budget calls for a 15 percent cut this year, or $1.1 million, and a 29 percent cut equating to $2.2 million in 2012.

White said he has heard “about every figure imaginable” in preliminary budget discussions, and cautioned that it’s too early to tell what lawmakers might do as they wrestle with a historic shortfall.

“The bottom line is, we think we can live with the cuts in the short term,” he said. “But you can’t have cuts like this and avoid consequences. We’re going to become a more expensive school if we’re going to keep getting strong.”

In the meantime, White said he and the 40-person faculty will continue to meet the needs of Boyd’s 470 law students, who average a 3.6 GPA.

White knows what a good law school looks like. Yale, his alma mater, once again ranked No. 1.

White agreed Yale’s law school is outstanding, but he questions the value of the rankings in terms of accuracy.

“In a way, the U.S. News rankings is based on, ‘How much are you like Yale?’ That’s not always an appropriate measurement,” he said. “Our goal is to be the best law school for Nevadans, and in some respects we try to do better than Yale.”

Contact Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512.

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