In most law schools, students study the laws, court cases arising from them, and various precedents that have modified the statutes over time.
But at UNLV’s Boyd Law School, students will soon have an opportunity to hear firsthand the stories about how those laws came to be, from one of the people who made it happen.
On Thursday, former Democratic Nevada U.S. Sen. Harry Reid will be welcomed as the law school’s first Distinguished Fellow in Law and Policy at a reception expected to include legal luminaries such as former governor, senator and attorney Richard Bryan, Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Cherry and Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Johnnie Rawlinson.
That guest list shows Reid’s deep connections to Nevada: He served in the Assembly and U.S. Senate with Bryan; he employed Cherry’s son David Cherry as a spokesman for many years and he got Rawlinson appointed to the appellate bench.
Reid said the fellowship hasn’t been fully fleshed out yet, but that his contacts will play a key role in bringing guests to the school to teach students about how laws and regulations are designed and applied. On that contacts list is former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff; former BLM Director (and ex-Reid employee) Neil Kornze and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“I have lots of people who will add to the reputation of the law school,” Reid said.
Not least of whom is Reid himself. He says he looks forward to answering student questions based on his more than 30 years in public life, including time spent in the state Assembly, as lieutenant governor, as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, a member of the House of Representatives and as a U.S. senator, including eight years as majority leader.
“We are delighted that Sen. Reid will be joining the law school as the first Distinguished Fellow in Law and Policy,” said Boyd Dean Daniel Hamilton. “This is an unprecedented opportunity for Boyd School of Law students to interact with and learn from one of the most prominent lawyers and policymakers in the history of Nevada.”
(Reid, a graduate of the George Washington University law school, practiced law in Nevada for nearly two decades before his federal political career.)
Always wily, Reid allowed that students could get a wealth of information, “if they ask the right question,” he said. (As someone who has covered the senator for many years, I can attest that asking the right question at just the right moment can sometimes yield rhetorical gold.)
Reid also said he was happy to be helping the school in his home state. Before Boyd was founded nearly 20 years ago, law students had to travel out of state (many to California, others to schools in Washington, D.C., like Reid) in order to get a legal education.
But Reid won’t be spending all of his time at Boyd; in addition to his new law school position, he’s also a central player in the new MGM Resorts Public Policy Institute at UNLV, which he will co-chair with former political rival and ex-House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. That institute will focus on economic, political and workplace issues.