Learning by working in the public interest is a critical component of a Stanford Law education. The Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law offers many opportunities for students to hone their skills through practice and see the difference they can make as lawyers, whether they ultimately pursue a public interest career, work in government or the private sector, or enter academia.
The ethical codes of the American legal profession encourage attorneys to provide significant pro bono legal service throughout their careers. Stanford Law emphasizes the value of law in service of the common good by expecting faculty and students to provide pro bono legal services and creating opportunities for them to do so. Working closely with experts, students in the pro bono program volunteer their services to clients in need. Those who volunteer the recommended 50 hours receive special recognition upon graduating.
A dedication to pro bono work is a distinguishing feature of the Stanford Law community. In the class of 2012, 140 students have registered for the voluntary pro bono program and intend to earn Pro Bono Distinction by graduation. In 2008-09, more than 200 students contributed more than 7,500 hours of law-related service. Some volunteered for a project called Rural Education and Access to the Law (REAL), discussing mortgage, foreclosure, and bankruptcy problems with clients. Some worked with Asylum Access to assemble a compendium of information about state refuge laws in Africa and Latin America. Others assisted victims of domestic violence in applying for temporary restraining orders.
For students interested in more concentrated public service experience, the Levin Center helps locate and fund summer internships that engage students in real legal work across the United States and around the world. Funding is guaranteed for every student who demonstrates financial need. Second- and third-year law students may also participate in our externship program, which combines fieldwork in nonprofit and government organizations with structured coursework or independent study. Participants may work for local organizations, on the East Coast, or in Africa, Asia, Europe, or South America.
Playing a vital role in a Stanford legal education, the Mills Legal Clinic of Stanford Law School offers ten clinics that enable students to work on real cases for real clients. Clinics range from the high-profile and high-impact Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, to the Cyberlaw and Environmental Law Clinics, to clinics offering direct services to the community. (To learn more about the Mills Legal Clinic please see Clinical Legal Education at Stanford.)
Since I entered private practice, I’ve been involved with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the world’s pre-eminent environmental advocacy group. There are many ways lawyers can serve the public interest, from representing the poor, to working with nonprofits, to improving education. All provide a level of personal satisfaction that cannot be achieved in private practice alone.
Charles E. Koob ’69, Retired Partner, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP