Write like an attorney: Class on lawyering process pushes UNLV’s Boyd School of Law up national rankings


Steve Marcus

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Kathy Stanchi, right, and law student Hope Gregorchik pose after an interview in Downtown Summerlin Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

Mon, Jul 4, 2022 (2 a.m.)

One of the required courses during a student’s first year at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law is “lawyering process,” a class heavy on legal writing.

And when it comes to legal writing, nobody does it better than UNLV.

UNLV’s lawyering process program is so good, U.S. News & World Report has ranked it at the top of the nation for five years running. The latest set of rankings—technically the 2023 version—was released earlier this year.

“Each law school has a bit of a different take on it, but this is a course that’s required for every first-year law student in the United States,” said Kathy Stanchi, a law professor at UNLV. “You’re learning how to write legal documents and analyze client problems from a lawyer perspective.”

Stanchi said a big part of the course revolves around the research of a problematic topic and subsequent writing about different legal solutions to the problem. Those writings could be in the form of client letters or perhaps a memo to a senior legal colleague that details how the law might be able to resolve an issue.

Stanchi said students also learn about how to effectively communicate through email—it’s all part of the process to get students to write like a lawyer. Students eventually learn about how to write persuasively, too.

“Lawyers are pressed for time, so they don’t always want to read lengthy copy or analysis,” Stanchi said. “These days, people are demanding shorter documents or phone calls. A lot of what students do is to learn how to have a lengthy analysis, but then boil it down.”

Stanchi said the legal writing faculty at UNLV is one of the top groups in the nation in that area of law.

That group of professors includes, along with Stanchi, Lori Johnson, Rebecca Scharf, Joe Regalia and Mary Beth Beazley.

“They cherry-picked people from all over the country to come teach here,” Stanchi said. “Because the program is so good, they’ve been able to attract people. Mary Beth Beazley has been teaching legal writing for decades and has written multiple books. She’s a highly visible and accomplished person. As a unit, I think we all bring something to the table.”

Hope Gregorchik, a part-time student at UNLV, is about halfway to a law degree.

A Pittsburgh native, Gregorchik said she knew she wanted to find a good part-time law program to attend. Eventually, she zeroed in on UNLV because of its part-time program ranking from U.S. News.

“They were in the top 25 of part-time programs across the nation, so I was down to move to Vegas,” Gregorchik said. “I definitely paid attention to those rankings. I wanted to be sure I was getting the best quality for what I’d be paying.”

An English major as an undergraduate student, Gregorchik said the skill of legal writing, which she learned partly from Stanchi, is much different than the types of writing she had been used to before law school.

“It’s very research heavy and the planning part of it is so much more important than any other type of writing I’ve done in the past,” Gregorchik said. “It’s a lot of problem solving within your writing. It’s difficult, I won’t say it’s not, but it’s really all about practice. I really like it.”

Overall for 2023, UNLV’s law school ranked 67th out of 192 in the country. Its part-time law program ranked 20th. According to U.S. News, the publication evaluates law schools in part on their successful placement of graduates into the workforce, faculty resources, and legal opinions produced by the school.

“Nationally, I think that third semester required course is a big distinguisher between Boyd and a lot of other law schools in the country,” Stanchi said. “If you only teach students in their first year, that’s sort of the last involvement you get with litigation-based or transactional-based writing. You can forget that pretty easily.”

Stanchi went to law school at Boston University and came to UNLV a few years ago from Temple University.

She said her decision was based on what she perceived as the opportunity to “work with the leaders in the field.”

When asked about how perspective law students view rankings like those put out annually by U.S. News, Stanchi said she believes they pay attention.

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This story originally appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

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