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Academic Program

SPILS fellows are required to take a minimum of 35 credits per year, and a maximum of 42 credits a year, including the required 8 credits of thesis writing. Each quarter, students can take a minimum of 9 credits and a maximum of 14 credits. The fellows are required to be in residence for one academic year (nine months).

Research Project

Each SPILS fellow must complete an intensive empirical research project designed to result in a significant contribution to the scholarly literature or policy debate in her or his area of concentration. Fellows receive intensive faculty advising on the development of their research projects throughout the academic year. Interdisciplinary research workshop provides fellows with a framework within which to develop their projects and receive useful feedback from faculty and international colleagues. Each fellow must give a public presentation of her or his SPILS research following its completion.

Examples of completed SPILS theses include:

  • an analysis of the failure of criminal justice mechanisms to adequately address domestic violence in Kenya, based on interviews with abuse victims in urban and rural settings;
  • an empirical analysis of Taiwanese custody cases, comparing judicial decisions made before and after a recent change in custody law;
  • a study of Spanish legal culture, and professional problems faced by young legal actors, based on interviews with lawyers, judges and prosecutors;
  • an analysis of the viability of alternative compensation mechanisms for Palestinian refugees under international human rights law in comparative historical context;
  • an analysis of Australian Muslim community organizations and their perceptions of counter-terrorism laws;
  • a quantitative study of labor litigation and termination disputes in Mexico;
  • a study of the alternatives to incarceration and community service practice in Armenia;
  • a consideration of the utility of the device of the "special prosecutor" in order to facilitate efforts to constrain arbitrary executive and administrative power in South Korea; and
  • an analysis of the abolition of the death penalty in Turkey as a case study of the impact of EU membership conditionality requirements upon democratization in countries seeking EU accession.

Core Seminars

SPILS fellows are required to take the following core program courses:

  • SPILS Law and Society Seminar (3 Units, Fall)
  • Research Design for Empirical Legal Studies (4 Units, Fall)
  • SPILS Research Methods Workshop (2 units, Winter)
  • SPILS Masters Thesis (4 units, Winter)
  • SPILS Masters Thesis (4 units, Spring)

Course Work

In addition to the required SPILS seminars and workshops and the research for their theses, SPILS candidates take other advanced courses or seminars offered by Stanford Law School or by Stanford University's other graduate departments or professional schools. Fellows select these courses to form a coherent program related to their areas of concentration and research projects. View the full list of courses offered by Stanford Law School.