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Dean's Column: Boyd Law School Guest Writer Jean Whitney, Ralph Denton Professor of Legal Writing

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Nevada Lawyer Magazine
“The William S. Boyd School of Law is committed to enhancing students’ learning by giving those students the opportunity to learn through service.”
Dean’s Column
BY JEAN WHITNEY, Ralph Denton Professor of Legal Writing
Recently, experts have suggested law schools are generally good at teaching students to “think like lawyers,” but that they need to better prepare them for practice by providing more opportunities to acquire skills and to develop their professional identities through “apprenticeships.”1 The founding dean and faculty of the William S. Boyd School of Law developed the law school’s unique community service program2 for 1Ls, along with the externship program3 and highly regarded clinics4 for 2Ls and 3Ls, to build the foundation for experiential learning at Boyd and to serve the community. Despite recent budget cuts, the law school has continued its commitment to experiential learning and service, and added more “apprenticeship” opportunities in the form of service-learning courses. Service-learning is a “form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs, together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development.”5 Since 2007, these servicelearning courses have been offered: the materials in prison law libraries. This year students took LEAP to four prisons in northern Nevada. Partnering with public defenders, students produced a manual that Nevada attorneys and judges can use to learn which crimes have immigration consequences, how they can deal with or avoid those consequences, and what reforms are necessary.
The Criminalization of Immigrants
In partnership with local government agencies, organizations and developers, students researched community economic development issues, including affordable housing, the land use approval process, and related consumer credit issues. Law students and graduate students researched greenhouse gas emissions at UNLV , identified policies and practices that generate those emissions, and developed a Climate Action Plan for UNLV Students learned factual . investigation, policy analysis, and problem-solving skills valuable to law practice.
Land Use and Community Economic Development
Climate Impact Planning
Legal Education & Assistance to Prisoners (LEAP)
In partnership with the Nevada Department of Corrections, students develop self-help materials and train inmates on how to use 40 Nevada Lawyer July 2010
Nevada Lawyer Magazine
Students developed public information materials about the appellate court ballot question and made presentations to various audiences. They researched structures of state court systems, constitutional amendment procedures, state election laws, court administration data, and learned the principles of project management and group dynamics. Consistent with a recent study that suggests students learn better when doctrine and skills are combined,6 all the service-learning courses at Boyd integrate study of the law with skills and values learning. Students’ reactions to the new servicelearning courses indicate they appreciate being able to learn in these “apprenticeship experiences:”
“Service-learning opportunities take us out of the theoretical world and into the real world. It’s when you learn in a real context that you gain understanding about how the law works.” – Keith Pickard, Class of 2011 “The service-learning course I took taught me how to work effectively in groups. In practice, lawyers often have to work effectively in teams to produce quality work.” – Ryan Hastings, Class of 2011 “In LEAP I was able to learn how to effectively communicate the law to people who may not have the educational background to understand what is going on.” – Kim Loges, Class of 2011 “In the Appellate Court class, we learned skills used daily by attorneys—public speaking, crafting an argument, addressing counter-arguments, tailoring the argument to a unique audience, and working on a team.” – Ryan McInerney, Class of 2011 “My service-learning experience allowed me to engage with the local community, and it provided me with a valuable opportunity to promote awareness of an important issue affecting Nevada’s legal system.” – Garrett Weir, Class of 2010 “LEAP allows students to put a face with the term ‘inmate.’ Going to a prison and meeting the inmates, you gain a different perspective. You realize they are people who need legal help and just want to be treated fairly by the legal system.” – Amy Kominsky, Class of 2011
Nevada Appellate Court
1 William M. Sullivan et al., Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching 2007) [hereinafter Carnegie Report]. 2 Since the beginning, students have been required to participate in the community service program, a joint effort between the law school, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and Nevada Legal Services. For more information, see communityServiceProgram.html. 3 The law school’s externship program provides students with opportunities to work with attorneys and judges in Public Interest, Government, Judicial, and Legislative offices in Nevada and elsewhere in the country, and ,during the summers, in other countries. For more information, see externship.html. 4 The law school has both in-house clinics, in which students represent clients, and a mediation clinic, in which the students act as third-party mediators. For more information, see 5 Barbara Jacoby and Associates & Thomas Ehrlich, ServiceLearning in Higher Education: Concepts and Practices 5 (JosseyBass 1996). 6 Leah M. Christensen, The Power of Skills: an Empirical Study of Lawyering Skills Grades as the Strongest Predictor of Law School Success (Or in Other Words, It’s time for Legal Education to Get Serious about Integrating Skills Training Throughout the Law School Curriculum If We Care about How Our Students Learn), 83 St. John’s L. Rev. 795, 796 (2010).
The William S. Boyd School of Law is committed to enhancing students’ learning by giving those students the opportunity to learn through service, and we believe that they will also develop an enduring commitment to social responsibility, pro bono service and civic engagement. July 2010 Nevada Lawyer 41

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