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Opportunities for Excellence

In addition to providing students with substantive knowledge in the field of public policy, Stanford Law offers experiences—from clinical work to negotiation workshops to externships—that sharpen practical skills and cultivate professional values and connections.

A Stanford Law education in public policy emphasizes the quantitative and qualitative research skills that are critical to legal and policy analysis. Through hands-on experience as well as coursework, students learn to do statistical analysis, design surveys, and deploy focus groups effectively. They come to understand organizational behavior, risk analysis, and cognitive psychology. And because law students who go into public policy must be able to negotiate, students can gain basic and advanced advocacy skills through resources like the Martin Daniel Gould Center for Conflict Resolution as well as work with real clients through the Mills Legal Clinic of Stanford Law School.

Stanford Law’s externship program (LINK NEEDS TO BE VERIFIED) allows students to take a semester away, after rigorous faculty review, to collaborate with people who are doing real policy work. Students have had the opportunity to work with legislators, advocates, lawyers, and scientists to pass California’s landmark law limiting statewide greenhouse gas emissions. Students have investigated the role of prison guards in efforts to reform the juvenile justice system; studied and reported on police reform efforts in South Africa; and drafted opinion pieces, Senate testimony, and letters to policymakers.

Stanford also offers special courses and events tailored to public policy interests. For example, in a workshop on criminal justice reform, students, instructed by a leader in the field, gained insider perspective from prisoners and others, did their own policy analysis, and formulated policy recommendations. Other students have had the rare opportunity to take workshops with the head of one of the country’s most powerful environmental agencies, the California Coastal Commission.