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The Stanford Program in International Legal Studies (SPILS) is a unique and rigorous program offering a select group of graduate students from outside the United States the opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary research that applies empirically based methods, adapted from the social sciences, economics and other disciplines, to analyze legal issues. Each of the graduate students accepted to the SPILS program must develop and execute a research study on a socio-legal topic of her or his choice, and report the results in a written 8-credit thesis. The research must involve one or more empirical methods of investigation (quantitative and/or qualitative). SPILS research projects address topics of concern to various nations or regions of the world, or to the international community as a whole. Examples of these empirical projects include analyses of particular legal cultures, legal reforms and policies. The researcher develops her or his work in close collaboration with Stanford faculty and student colleagues. The SPILS program also serves as preparation and screening for Stanford's JSD program, which is only open to a few SPILS students who are selected for admission each year. Like the SPILS program, the JSD program is interdisciplinary and requires an empirically based doctoral dissertation. Past SPILS fellows include specially qualified academics, researchers, lawyers, public officials, judges and other professionals trained in law outside the United States.

Questions concerning SPILS should be directed to

Areas of Concentration

SPILS considers applicants seeking to pursue significant research in one of a wide variety of interdisciplinary areas that reflect strong Law School faculty interest and expertise, including the following areas of concentration:

  • Legal Culture, Legal Institutions, and Civil Society, including such areas as the sociology of law and legal practice, rule of law and critical approaches to legal reform, human rights, women's issues, and the dynamics and reform of domestic, regional and international legal systems.
  • International Economic Law and Political Economy, including the transition of legal systems, law and economic development, privatization, deregulation and economic institutions, international trade, investment and finance, and comparative corporate governance.
  • Environmental Law, Sustainable Development and the Intersection of Law and Technology, including legal frameworks for clean energy and for transition toward sustainability and the development of intellectual property and related fields of law.
  • Criminal Justice Systems, international and domestic, including access to justice and legal empowerment of the poor.
  • International Conflict Resolution, including law and diplomacy, negotiation, mediation and arbitration, international courts and tribunals and restorative justice, and dispute resolution and justice system design.