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Stanford Law Clinic Shakes Up Supreme Court Bar

Publication Date: 
September 16, 2009
Source: 
Law 360
Author: 
Jessica Dye

Professors Jeffrey Fisher and Pamela Karlan and Lecturer Thomas Goldstein are recognized for their work with the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, where students have the opportunity to actively participate in Supreme Court cases:

Five years ago, co-founders Pamela Karlan, a veteran Stanford professor, and Thomas Goldstein, a renowned U.S. Supreme Court advocate who co-chairs Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP's Supreme Court and appellate practices, came together with an idea for getting law students involved in Supreme Court practice. They would offer quality pro bono representation that was also a rare opportunity for students to do hands-on, intensive work on cases in the country's highest court.

The clinic they created now enjoys Supreme Court success rivaling that of top appellate practices. According to the National Law Journal, just three private firms and the Stanford clinic argued almost 35 percent of the 78 cases heard in the high court's last term.

It has appeared in more than 63 cases in four years — winning the majority on which they represented a party on the merits — and submitted briefs and petitions for many more. Stanford clinic professors and lecturers argued seven Supreme Court cases in the 2008 term, including back-to-back appearances by co-directors Karlan and Jeffrey Fisher on a single day in March. And it already has three cases on the docket for the 2009-2010 term.

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“We saw this big unmet need,” Karlan said of her early conversations with Goldstein. “We wanted to teach students legal research and writing at the highest level, while serving an underserved community.”

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Instructors argue cases, but students still rack up substantial Supreme Court experience few attorneys get in their entire careers.

Dan Matro, a third-year Stanford student, can already claim three Supreme Court wins, having worked on three successful merits briefs during two terms with the clinic.

“That's pretty amazing — it probably places him in the top 0.1 percent of lawyers for their careers,” Fisher said.