An open letter to Nevada's governor and legislature and to the Board of Regents.

I was hoping to be able to speak at today's special meeting of the Board of Regents, during the public comment session, but I had to leave to teach my class later this morning. Here's what I would have said: You have a very difficult task in front of you, with Nevada's budget situation getting worse every day, and I don't envy you. I did want to give you a feel for how some of the research done at the Boyd School of Law contributes directly to Nevadans and to the country as a whole. First, some bragging about our students. I'm one of the faculty advisors to the Gaming Law Journal and the Nevada Law Journal. Those two magazines publish both faculty research (not just our faculty's research, but the research done by scholars elsewhere as well) and student research. The GLJ is still rather young, but the NLJ's research has been cited by courts here in Nevada, including the Nevada Supreme Court, and by other courts. One of the country's most famous and well-regarded judges, the Hon. Richard Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, has cited the NLJ more than once. By publishing useful and high quality research, our students are providing courts with the means to make good decisions. Second, the research that I'm doing in terms of bankruptcy ethics (the behavior of bankruptcy lawyers) is part of my overall research agenda, which is geared to supporting the behavior of good lawyers and to getting bad lawyers out of the legal system. It's not every day that I see, on the front page of the Review-Journal, an article on the reasonableness of attorney fees in bankruptcy cases (here). Part of my own research involves developing ways to help bankruptcy courts determine whether attorneys fees are reasonable. Reasonableness is a balancing act. The fees must compensate good lawyers and other professionals for their work in helping a debtor reorganize, but they can't carry a lot of redundancies and inefficiency. Dollars saved by reviewing fees for reasonableness can inure to the benefit of unsecured creditors, who get paid after the professionals are compensated for their work. (Distribution of payments in bankruptcy is more complicated than this description, but this one will suffice here.) Based on my work in this area, I've been asked twice to assist a bankruptcy court in Fort Worth in reviewing fees of two large chapter 11 cases, and I'm currently assisting the bankruptcy court here in Nevada in a similar capacity. The Boyd students and graduates who help me in this work are learning about how large chapter 11 cases work, and about how lawyers and other professionals fit into that process. It's good hands-on learning that will serve them well in their careers. My research in bankruptcy ethics has also enabled me to help out the Office of the U.S. Trustee (which is part of the Department of Justice) in ferreting out lawyers who may be violating the ethics rules about the unauthorized practice of law. My ability to be useful in such matters is directly tied to my research. In my view, teaching, research, and service are inextricably linked. My research about legal education has also informed my teaching. I've been hearing for some time that law students are trained to write memoranda–not to advise clients. (Our clinic students, of course, get the training that comes with dealing with live clients.) That's one of the reasons that my upper-level Professional Responsibility students are doing presentations in class. It's also why those presentations require teamwork. Teaching students legal ethics in a way that forces them to construe statutes (the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and figure out how to convey information to people who don't already know it is part of their legal training. Again, it's a mix of teaching and research that lets me give students the opportunity to practice some of the skills that they'll need after graduation. While I was waiting in line to speak this morning, I heard numerous examples of what the budget cuts will do to the educational system in Nevada. I couldn't help thinking about what a success story Boyd is. We're a young law school, and yet we're able to turn law students into skilled and ethical lawyers. We're doing a very good job on what amounts to a shoestring budget: we're understaffed, our students' tuition dollars are stretched to the breaking point, and we still do everything that a good law school must do in order to be relevant to legal education and to the public. Several of us have had many opportunities to go elsewhere. I'm choosing to stay because I believe in the strength of our school, even in the face of this budget crisis, and because I value what my colleagues are doing to keep our school's trajectory moving in the right direction. As you consider how to deal with the budget crisis, I would urge you to focus not just on how (and how much) we at UNLV teach but also on how our research benefits the state and the country (and, for some of my colleagues, the international community). Investing in education here in Nevada is crucial if our state is to survive. We can and should invest wisely–with all that "investing wisely" means– but we have to invest.

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