Stanford Law School -- Dean Larry Kramer
Dean Larry Kramer is profiled in San Francisco Attorney magazine.
Over the years, Stanford Law School has made itself a pipeline for Silicon Valley, sending newly trained lawyers on the way to key positions at top tech companies. The list includes general counsel at Google, Apple, Oracle, Cisco, and eBay. If Microsoft acquires Yahoo and starts calling itself a Silicon Valley firm, you might as well add another business to the list. But Stanford Law School Dean Larry Kramer isn't content supplying great problem spotters to the business world. He is positioning the law school so it can train innovators in all segments of society, not only in law. Through four years of Kramer's leadership, Stanford has indeed become a virtual laboratory for all sorts of innovation. One group of students formed an organization that's putting pressure on big law firms to boost diversity numbers among their recruits and partnership ranks. Another student group built an Internet venture that expects to do about $6 million in business this year.
And yet, Kramer still is not content. The fifty-year-old Chicago native came to Stanford with a little innovation of his own, a plan to overhaul the very model of legal education. Kramer's plan calls for tearing down traditional barriers between the law school and other graduate programs at the university. Stanford isn't the only law school testing out curriculum changes, but other schools seem intent on revising mainly the first year of study. Kramer is betting that an overhaul of the second- and third-year programs will be more effective. If he's right, the valley might be witnessing the arrival of its newest innovation. Call it Law School 2.0.
"Law schools have traditionally taught one thing: how to think like a lawyer," Kramer says, explaining why he aims to shake up a system that's served Stanford so well for so long. Most students learn to think like lawyers in the first year of school, meaning "it's the second and third year where we are pretty much failing our students." What's missing from legal education? Clinical experience and the ability to work in teams, for starters. Just look at other professional degree programs as a comparison, and law school doesn't exactly measure up: "You can't become a rabbi or a priest without having worked under supervision," Kramer says.