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Why Stanford

Q: How does Stanford Law produce lawyers prepared to address today's multidisciplinary problems?

A: Recognizing that today's lawyers must solve problems that cut across disciplines and areas of expertise, Stanford Law now offers 27 formal joint degrees. These programs allow students to take advantage of the unparalleled number of internationally top–rated graduate programs and departments at Stanford University, all within walking distance. Stanford University ranks number one in eight of the 18 academic categories, in the top 3 in 11 of 18 categories, and in the top five in 17 of 18 categories—an overall record matched by no other university in the world. The law school has seen a ninefold increase in the number of law students enrolled in joint degree programs over the past six years.

Students interested in environmental litigation, for instance, can complement their JD with an MS in environment and resources. Likewise, aspiring patent lawyers can deepen their expertise with an MS or PhD in bioengineering or management science and engineering. And for students with more specialized career aspirations, opportunities to customize a joint degree are virtually limitless.

Joint degrees are merely one facet of a program that is oriented around giving students a three-dimensional multidisciplinary education. Because Stanford Law believes lawyers need to be educated more broadly—with courses beyond the traditional curriculum that deepen their subject-matter and problem-solving expertise—it makes it easier than any other law school in the world for all students, including those seeking less than a joint degree, to pursue substantial coursework outside the law school. (Joint Degrees)

Q: How does Stanford Law prepare students for a world in which lawyers must work collaboratively with other professions?

A: In addition to leveraging the expertise of the wider university by offering an almost limitless number of joint degree programs, Stanford Law has broadened its curriculum for second- and third-year students to include a wide variety of classes that mix students and faculty from different disciplines and require them to work together to solve complex, cutting-edge problems. From negotiations classes that involve law, business, and engineering students to simulation courses in which law students work with peers from the natural and social sciences to prepare for mock trials, there's growing recognition that today's students will be entering professions in which no one works alone or solely in one discipline—and in which they must be able to spot and solve problems that cut across multiple fields. (A "3D" JD: Stanford Law School Announces New Model for Legal Education)

Q: Can SLS students take classes at Stanford's other top-rated graduate programs and departments?

A: Absolutely. Since the launch of our new program, law students have registered for nearly 600 classes outside the Law School—a twentyfold increase from six years ago—and non-law student registrations for courses here grew by a similar amount. The increase is, in part, due to lowered administrative barriers. As part of the law school's push to educate students more broadly beyond the traditional legal curriculum, the school has aligned its academic calendar with that of the university. Additionally, the law school has addressed various other bureaucratic challenges for cross-registration to make it easier for law students to enroll in courses outside the school—and, conversely, for non-law students to enroll in law courses. (The Stanford Graduate Program)

Q: What opportunities do Stanford Law students have to work on international human rights issues?

A:   Students in Stanford's International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic work with activists and communities around the world, gaining intensive experience in factfinding, documentation, advocacy and litigation.   

The International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic is embedded in SLS's unique full-time clinical program.  This means students have unparalleled opportunities to engage in on-site fact-finding documentation and advocacy around the globe.  Students prepare to make the most of these trips with a clinical seminar and training program that includes a three-day intensive simulation of human rights fact-finding and advocacy.   Since the clinic launched in 2011, students have documented abuses and promoted human rights in Bolivia, Brazil, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, and the United States (Americas), at the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha, Tanzania (Africa), in Turkey (Europe), and in Pakistan, India, and Cambodia (Asia). And, in addition to learning the basics of rights advocacy, students study and engage in role play exercises to hone conflict resolution skills that they will apply in their work on projects.

Examples of the clinic's work include a September 2012 investigation into the consequences of US drone policy in Pakistan which received widespread media coverage in major media outlets including the NY Times, the LA Times, CBS Sunday morning, NPR’s on the media and many others.  The report helped shift the terms of the debate on targeted killings by US forces.  The clinic's February 2013 report on the ILO mechanism designed to monitor and report on the conditions in Cambodian textile factories has been covered extensively in major Cambodian daily newspapers as well as leading garment industry publications, and has led to significant engagement by all parties involved on ways to enhance worker protections and factory oversight procedures.

Outside of the clinic, SLS provides a space for critical reflection on human rights law and practice.  In the spring of 2013, SLS will launch the Stanford Human Rights Center with a year-long speaker series on ‘The Future of Human Rights.’  Speakers in the spring include Ken Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch and Paul Hoffman, one of the nation’s premiere human rights litigators (in matters involving the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 law that allows rights violators to face justice in US courts).  In the fall the series will continue with more speakers, including Professors Mahmood Mamdani and Makau Mutua, who bring critical understandings of the role of human rights in global politics.

Q: How are Stanford Law students participating in the fight for environmental protections?

A: Stanford's Environmental Law Clinic is deeply involved in efforts to effect changes in law and public policy around global warming. Under clinic director Debbie Sivas '87, students engage in natural resource litigation, administrative practice, and policy work involving federal public lands, marine and coastal resources, biodiversity, water quality, and global climate change.

Recent clinic participants have successfully litigated cases involving the protection of Joshua Tree National Park, the regulation of invasive species discharges from ships, the preservation of the Medicine Lake Indian sacred site, and the conservation of the endangered Mojave desert tortoise. Others have successfully advocated for policy reforms before state commissions to protect California's coastal estuaries from the impacts of power plant cooling water systems. And still others have worked on National Forest fire management policy, post-Katrina wetlands destruction, the protection of sea turtles from harmful fishing practices, the conservation of endangered vernal pool species and habitat, the preservation of public trust tidelands, and climate change litigation. (Environmental Law Clinic)

Q: How can Stanford Law students work on problems relating to immigration law and policy?

A: The Immigrants' Rights Clinic (IRC) at Stanford Law School is committed to protecting the human rights of all non-citizens regardless of immigration status. Led by Associate Professor of Law Jayashri Srikantiah, students engage in varied efforts, including seeking humanitarian relief from deportation on behalf of non-citizens with criminal convictions, obtaining asylum protection for non-citizens fleeing persecution, and assisting immigrant survivors of domestic violence in gaining lawful status in the United States. Case in point: Tina Cheng ’10 and Brian Goldman ’10 successfully prevented the deportation of Phong Nguyen, a lawful permanent resident who was placed in removal proceedings due to a one-time drug conviction that involved no jail time. Brian and Tina marshaled evidence, wrote briefs, and argued in two different courts on behalf of their client.

In addition to representing clients, IRC students collaborate with immigrants' rights organizations on various advocacy projects, from investigating concerns about how local law enforcement agents enforce federal immigration laws to researching how profiling practices by the U.S. government at the nation’s borders have undermined civil liberties. Students also gain valuable experience on broader policy-setting cases. For example, the clinic recently filed an amicus brief on behalf of the American Immigration Lawyers Association to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on the cutting edge issue of how immigration courts should evaluate prior fraud convictions. (Immigrants' Rights Clinic)

Q: How can Stanford Law students get hands-on experience fighting for education and civil rights?

A: The Youth and Education Law Project—aka YELP—offers Stanford Law students the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of educational rights and reform work, including direct representation of youth and families in special education and school discipline matters, community outreach and education, school reform litigation, and policy research and advocacy. Case in point: The Youth & Education Law Project of Stanford Law School's Mills Legal Clinic and the law firm of Bingham McCutchen are representing children and their families in a historic lawsuit that was filed on May 20, 2010 against the State of California. The lawsuit asks the court to declare the current education finance system unconstitutional and to require the state legislature to establish a school finance system that provides all students an equal opportunity to meet the academic goals set by the State.

Another case in point: YELP recently celebrated a win for one of its clients—a deaf child with autism who was excluded from the California School for the Deaf (CSD) because of her additional disabilities—when the case against the school was settled out of court in August 2007. As part of the settlement, CSD will create an environment for developmentally delayed students at the school that should provide a model for similar schools nationwide. YELP is led by William Koski, Eric and Nancy Wright Professor of Clinical Education at Stanford Law School. (Youth and Education Law Project)

Q: What is Stanford Law School's commitment to public service?

A: "Every aspect of the Levin Center’s work allows students to understand the difference they can make in society. Our mission is to provide the programs, financial support, and courses that help students reach their goals to help people, change society, and create a better world." ―Diane T. Chin, Associate Dean for Public Service and Public Interest Law and Lecturer in Law

"From the very first day of law school we want this spirit of commitment to public service to be part of the DNA of the law school and part of what our students identify as the professional ethos of lawyering." ―Lawrence C. Marshall, Professor of Law, David and Stephanie Mills Director of Clinical Education and Associate Dean for Public Interest and Clinical Education

Toward that end, Stanford Law offers a wide variety of opportunities for students to engage in public service, from clinical courses to loan forgiveness for students pursuing public interest careers to the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law—recently established to foster enthusiasm for public service in all students, no matter what their career trajectory. To provide this exposure, the Levin Center offers, among other things, an in-house pro bono project focused on Social Security disability claims, faculty lectures, a Public Interest Awareness Week, personalized career counseling, and a mentor-in-residence program. (John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law)

Q: What is Stanford Law School's role in sentencing reform efforts?

A: The Stanford Criminal Justice Center (SCJC) is working on the issue of sentencing reform on several fronts. It partnered with the Little Hoover Commission on its Sentencing Reform study—a complete review of the opportunities for sentencing reform in California within the broader context of the state's correctional policies—and launched the Stanford Executive Sessions on Sentencing and Corrections, an innovative working group that brings together criminal justice experts and researchers to discuss policy issues and develop strategies for reforming California's sentencing and correctional systems. Additionally, SCJC has held or co-sponsored a series of conferences on such varied topics as challenges of mass incarceration in America, the war on drugs, capital punishment, and media, justice and the law. The SCJC is headed by faculty co-directors Robert Weisberg and Joan Petersilia and executive director Debbie Mukamal. (Stanford Criminal Justice Center)

Q: How is Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project shaping the copyright debate?

A: The Center for Internet and Society's Fair Use Project (FUP) provides legal support to projects designed to clarify—and extend—the boundaries of "fair use" in order to enhance creative freedom. Since it was established in 2006, the FUP has scored several major victories.

Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to review the constitutionality of restoring copyrights in foreign works and granted cert in Stanford Law School Fair Use Project’s case Golan v. Holder. The case could affect the status of many famous works, including symphonies by Shostakovich and Stravinsky, books by Virginia Woolf, artwork by Picasso, films by Fellini and Hitchcock.

In September 2009, The Fair Use Project settled a copyright case against the Estate of James Joyce for its client, Stanford University Acting Professor of English Carol Shloss. The Estate agreed to pay $240,000 in Attorneys’ Fees to Shloss and her counsel. The case sought to establish Shloss’s right to use copyrighted materials in her writing under the fair use doctrine. In November 2009, FUP’s client, Brian Transeau, was vindicated when the Second Circuit affirmed dismissal of a copyright case on summary judgment and awarded $175,000 to Transeau in attorneys’ fees. The plaintiff, Ralph Vargas, claimed copyright to stock musical elements, which FUP sees as a threat to musicians’ creative freedom and ability to build on existing works to create new works.

Additionally, FUP formed a unique partnership with Media/Professional Insurance and intellectual property attorney Michael Donaldson to provide legal support for documentary filmmakers who rely on the fair use of copyrighted material. The initiative was announced at the International Documentary Association's 25th Annual Celebration of Academy Award Documentary Nominees in Beverly Hills. (Center for Internet and Society, Fair Use Project)

Q: How many Stanford Law alumni count themselves as former Supreme Court clerks?

A: Stanford Law School records date back to 1949 when Warren Christopher '49 clerked for Justice William Douglas. And many have followed in his footsteps—from Marshall Small '51 (BA '49) to Alan Austin '74 to Buzz Thompson JD/MBA '76 (BA '72) to Susan Creighton '84. And, of course, one famed former clerk rose to Chief Justice—the Honorable William Rehnquist '52 (BA '48, MA '48), who clerked for Justice Robert H. Jackson. Today, approximately 118 Stanford Law School alumni count themselves as former Supreme Court clerks. (Clerking at the Supreme Court)

Q: What are Stanford Law students doing to help individuals facing life imprisonment under California's Three Strikes law?

A: The Criminal Defense Clinic is the only legal organization in the country devoted primarily to representing individuals facing life imprisonment under California's Three Strikes law, which was enacted by voter-approved initiative in 1994. The Clinic represents defendants charged under the Three Strikes law with minor, non-violent offenses at every stage of the criminal process: at trial, on appeal, and in state and federal post-conviction habeas corpus proceedings. Current clients include inmates serving life sentences for stealing one dollar in loose change from a parked car; for writing bad checks; and for simple possession of less than a gram of narcotics. The Clinic was founded in 2006 by Professor Larry Marshall and is supervised and instructed by Michael Romano and Galit Lipa. (Criminal Defense Clinic) Since 2009, Project students have led one of the country’s most successful criminal defense organizations, winning the early release of more than a dozen clients.

Q: Do Stanford Law students get the opportunity to work on Supreme Court cases?

A: Yes. Stanford’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic—the first of its kind at any law school—gives students the opportunity to explore a realm few lawyers experience in their careers: the Supreme Court of the United States. Under the direction of professors Pam Karlan and Jeff Fisher and lecturers Tom Goldstein, Amy Howe, and Kevin Russell, clinic members work on real Supreme Court cases, representing parties and amici curiae.

The Clinic served as lead or co-lead counsel in the following recent cases: Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts in which the clinic argued that the prosecution in a criminal case violates the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation clause when it introduces a forensic laboratory report in place of live testimony from the analyst who performed the testing; Flores-Figueroa v. United States in which the clinic argued that a person does not commit federal aggravated identity theft unless he knows that the false identification he uses belongs to another person; and Jimenez v. Quarterman in which the clinic argued that the time period for seeking federal habeus corpus relief restarts when a state prisoner has his direct appeal reinstated by state courts. (Supreme Court Litigation Clinic)

Stanford Law students have worked on 121 U.S. Supreme Court cases since Spring 2004, 39 of which the Supreme Court has decided on the merits, nearly one out of every twelve cases the Court has decided over that period.

Q: How is Stanford Law improving legal education around the world?

A: Founded in 2007, the Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP) is dedicated to developing innovative legal curricula to help Afghanistan’s universities train the next generation of lawyers and leaders. Under the supervision of Lecturer in Law and Co-Director of the Rule of Law Program Erik Jensen, Stanford Law students are devising courses, preparing textbooks, helping to hire instructors, and assisting in the implementation of Afghanistan’s first secular legal curriculum.

The project’s first course, an Introduction to the Law of Afghanistan, has been successfully taught, and the textbook and statutory supplement students wrote for the course are listed as essential sources by Afghanistan’s Attorney General’s Office. Students also completed new textbooks in commercial law and criminal law, each with a statutory supplement, which will serve as the foundation for new courses in those areas. Plus they helped hire instructors, launched a website, and began the process of getting the completed books translated into Dari and Pashto.

And the work continues, with a new group of students turning to still other subjects—now supported by a timely $1.3 million federal grant. The goal of the project is to produce the materials to cover an entire four-year curriculum of legal instruction. (Afghanistan Legal Education Project)

ALEP’s success has led authorities in other countries to seek Stanford Law School’s assistance, and in 2009 the school inaugurated the Bhutan Law and Policy Project to assist the Bhutanese to develop a mediation system capable of resolving commercial disputes that have begun to emerge with economic development. (Bhutan Law and Policy Project)

In 2010 work began on yet a third project, this time in East Timor. The Timor-Leste Legal Education Project is a partnership with The Asia Foundation forged by Erik Jensen, who launched both previous efforts as well. Under his guidance, and with assistance from the Martin Daniel Gould Center for Conflict Resolution, students are developing applied materials based on Timorese law in contract drafting and legal ethics.