Thursday, April 8, 2004 | 10:52 a.m.
Just a year after it earned full accreditation, UNLV's Boyd School of Law has found itself on U.S. News and World Report's exclusive list of the top 100 law schools in the nation.
"I've gotten calls from around the country asking how we did this," Dean Richard Morgan said Tuesday.
The rankings in the April 12 issue, now on newsstands, placed the law school 82nd in the nation, tied with seven other schools including Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and St. Louis University. The American Bar Association has accredited 188 schools nationwide.
"I think it definitely deserves it," said attorney Jason Bach, a 2002 graduate. Among the first class of part-time students to graduate, Bach said word of the U.S. News ranking was spreading to alumni via e-mail.
Morgan said he thought it was the first time that a newly accredited school had made the top U.S. News ranking. U.S. News spokesman Richard Folkers could not confirm that this morning. U.S. News does not rank schools until they receive accreditation.
"For a new law school like us to end up in the top 100 is a significant recognition of what we have been trying to accomplish," Morgan said.
This was the second year U.S. News ranked 100 top law schools. In the past the magazine has ranked the top 50.
"It was a little surprising, but that is how the numbers came out," Bob Morse, director of data research for U.S. News, said. "It's a young school, and they usually don't do that well. But the school obviously has a lot of resources and compensated for that, the way we measure it.
The school was accredited in February 2003. Morgan credited the law school's high selectivity as one of the factors that boosted its ranking. Only 13 other schools among the top 100 had lower admission rates than UNLV's 16.1 percent.
Morgan said that admission rate could fall further in the next year. He estimated only 200 students would be accepted among the 2,200 applicants seeking to enter in the fall.
He also pointed to a high percentage of graduates having jobs at graduation. The magazine said 80.2 percent of Boyd School graduates were employed at graduation, putting the school 40th among the top 100 schools in that category.
"The Las Vegas job market is good for our students," Morgan said. "Nevada law firms, legal employers and judges are good about hiring our people. I think they think our students are good."
Morgan and Bach also pointed to an experienced faculty.
"These aren't first-year law professors," Bach said, crediting Morgan for faculty recruitment. "These are people who have been professors a long time and have reputations.
"If you have a first-class dean and top-notch professors, it's just a matter of time before you get the best students who want to attend there," he said.
That increases the school's reputation, which is one of the measurements taken in the U.S. News annual survey.
UNLV President Carol Harter said this morning the ranking was a tribute to Morgan's leadership and the faculty and students.
"This is a wonderful validation of the success of the Boyd School of Law," Harter said. "We look forward to building on this success and to further enhancing our services to the community."
Economic analyst Guy Hobbs of Hobbs, Ong and Associates said the ranking could help the larger effort to diversity Las Vegas' economy. A key to drawing industries other than gaming to the area, he said, is developing professional services such as law, finances and engineering, and the ranking helps.
But, he added, "It doesn't happen because of one ranking."
Morgan said he's always cautious about giving too much weight to rankings.
"The rankings are something that have to be used in a measured way," he said. "The cautionary thing about rankings is they are based on a relatively few factors. ... If you pick different factors, you may get different rankings."
Still, he said, for UNLV, "It's better to be highly ranked than not highly ranked, and being at 82 puts us in good company."
Bach said he thought the school's inaugural ranking would draw even better students and keep pushing up future rankings.
"Most people understand that for a school that has only been around six years (to make the ranking), it defines itself among the best," he said. "That ranking will only get better over the next several years."