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Stanford Law School Launches the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession

Publication Date: 
January 29, 2009
Stanford Law School

STANFORD, Calif., January 29, 2009—Stanford Law School today announced the establishment of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession (CLP), a center dedicated to advancing research, teaching, and policy on crucial issues facing the legal profession.

“The last generation has brought profound changes to the legal profession, raising concerns about the culture of legal practice, the effectiveness of bar regulation, the delivery of legal services, particularly to low-income consumers, and the role of lawyers in public policy, public service, and corporate governance,” said Deborah L. Rhode, Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law and CLP’s founding director. “Yet these issues have received far too little focus in academic institutions. There are only three other centers on the legal profession at major law schools. Stanford’s new center will be unparalleled in its scope and focus, supporting research, curricular initiatives, policy work, and public programs on a wide range of issues affecting the profession.”

“The Center on the Legal Profession comes at a time when the need to develop alternative ways to practice law and to structure a legal practice is critically important to the future of the profession,” said Larry Kramer, Richard E. Lang Professor and Dean. “As a great research university Stanford is uniquely positioned to play a path-breaking role in studying the issues and promoting reform.”

Center on the Legal Profession’s Inaugural Public Lecture by Aric Press Today

To celebrate its establishment, the center is hosting its inaugural event today: a public lecture by Aric Press, editor in chief of The American Lawyer, who will discuss topics including the possibilities for significant change in the large law firm world. His address, The Challenges & Change in the Legal Profession will be followed by a question-and-answer period with the audience. When: 5:00 pm - 7:00 p.m. Where: Moot Court Room (room 80), Stanford Law School, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, CA 94305-8610. For more event information, see our calendar listing.

Mission of the Center on the Legal Profession

The mission of the CLP is to stimulate new research and teaching, expand public understanding, and promote policy reforms in three key areas:

Professional Responsibility

Among other issues of professional responsibility, CLP will study ways to address inequalities in legal assistance and to create more effective bar regulatory structures. The center has received a major grant from the Sokolove Charitable Fund to support the Roadmap to Justice Project—an initiative to develop a national agenda for expanding access to legal services for low- and middle-income individuals. In October, an East Coast forum on access to justice brought together experts from a range of backgrounds, including representatives from the bar, the courts, law schools, law firms, corporate counsel, legal services, and public interest organizations. A similar event is scheduled for the West Coast in March, and the publication of a national Roadmap to Justice policy paper is planned for summer 2009. The center is also supporting two empirical research projects designed to improve the quality and evaluation of pro bono service and to understand and enhance ethical infrastructures in large firms. In July 2010, the Center will also be the first American sponsor of the International Legal Ethics Conference.

The Lives of Lawyers

As the business of law evolves, issues such as escalating billable hours and competitive pressures have had enormous—and often negative—effects on practicing lawyers. The Center will focus on the conditions of legal practice, with special attention to issues related to the quality of life and diversity. Plans call for empirical research on legal workplaces, including a study of organizations that have developed alternative workplace structures governing compensation, client service, and work/life balance.

Leadership Development

Another CLP priority is leadership development, a practice that has received little attention from law schools even though many JDs go on to fill leadership positions in firms, nonprofits, and the public sector. In addition to developing interdisciplinary courses, the center intends to create continuing education offerings to help lawyers sharpen their leadership skills and address competitive and ethical challenges.

Across all three areas, the CLP plans to support research by Stanford professors and students, develop collaborative projects with experts at other institutions, and encourage new courses, conferences, and continuing education opportunities.

To achieve its goals, the center will draw on the expertise of several Stanford Law faculty, including professional responsibility expert Norman W. Spaulding, Nelson Bowman Sweitzer and Marie B. Sweitzer Professor of Law and associate dean for curriculum, and Michele Landis Dauber, professor of law and Bernard D. Bergreen Faculty Scholar, who has advocated for workplace reforms in large law firms. Other likely collaborators include Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, the Rock Center for Corporate Governance, the Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law, and the Stanford Center on Ethics.

About Deborah L. Rhode

Deborah L. Rhode, director of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, is one of the nation’s leading scholars in the fields of legal ethics and gender, law, and public policy. An author of 20 books, including Women and Leadership and Moral Leadership, she is the most frequently cited scholar in legal ethics. Professor Rhode is the former president of the Association of American Law Schools, the former chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, the founder and former director of Stanford’s Center on Ethics, and the former director of the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford. She also served as senior counsel to the Minority members of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary on presidential impeachment issues during the Clinton administration. She has received the American Bar Association’s Michael Franck award for contributions to the field of professional responsibility; the American Bar Foundation’s W. M. Keck Foundation Award for distinguished scholarship on legal ethics, and the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award for her work on expanding public service opportunities in law schools. She is currently a columnist for The National Law Journal and vice chair of the board of Legal Momentum (formerly the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund). Before joining the Stanford Law faculty, Professor Rhode was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, and write books and articles for academic audiences, as well as the popular press. Along with offering traditional law school classes, the school has embraced new subjects and new ways of teaching.



Judith Romero
Associate Director of Media Relations
Stanford Law School
650 723.2232