We planned originally to use this issue of the Stanford Lawyer to recognize and celebrate the results of “The Stanford Challenge,” the university’s recently concluded, five-year fundraising effort. The overall goals of the campaign, you may recall, were to promote research engaged directly with some of society’s most pressing problems—preserving the environment, improving human health, creating a stable international order, and improving K-12 education—while at the same time enhancing our teaching to better prepare students for these and other challenges ahead. Both goals required bridging disciplinary divisions that have in some ways become obstructions to the kind of thinking and problem solving we need today. As such, The Stanford Challenge jibed perfectly with the law school’s strategy to improve and enhance legal education by integrating more fully into the larger university, and we developed our plans accordingly.
With your help, the law school campaign exceeded even our most ambitious projections. More than 7,600 alumni participated, together with other friends and supporters, and you delivered $247 million in new resources, well above our initial target of $205 million. These resources, in turn, have enabled Stanford Law School to build a world-class clinic, enlarge the academic faculty, develop a cutting-edge public interest program, launch an array of new research centers, strengthen financial aid and loan forgiveness, and build a physical plant that accommodates and enhances the new program. Combined with important accompanying internal changes—calendar alignment, the creation of new joint degree programs, the development of interdisciplinary problem-solving classes, and a range of other initiatives—Stanford Law now offers its students an unparalleled set of opportunities and boasts a program wholly unique in American legal education.
Yet the articles that follow go beyond our initial intentions to tell a more interesting story rather than give mere description of new programs and initiatives. They portray an institution that encourages and thrives on the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit of its members. I hesitated to write that last sentence, and even now I suspect that some of you cringe to read it, because talk about innovation and entrepreneurship is such a tired, overused cliché, particularly in connection to anything in Silicon Valley. But sometimes clichés become clichés because they are true, and that’s the case here. What Stanford and the law school have accomplished, they have accomplished because our students, faculty, staff, and alumni are never satisfied; they are constantly inventing new things or coming up with better ways to do old things. John Hennessy has said that Stanford can be nimble “because it is unburdened by a glorious past.” (I loved that line.) But whether it’s that or something else, the spirit of the frontier—the belief that everything is possible and we can always do better—unquestionably pervades this institution. It reflects a truth I think everyone at Stanford grasps—that if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. And while we may not be the only place where people understand this, at no other institution is the idea more deeply embedded in the life and blood and DNA of the place.
I think it is this willingness to change, and this drive to innovate and improve, that make being at Stanford Law School so enriching and exciting—that and the relentless demand for quality. But part of demanding quality involves being self-critical. And while that’s normally a good thing, it’s important occasionally to close one’s critical eye and take a step back in order to appreciate just how special Stanford Law is. I feel so privileged to have been part of this community. I cannot imagine a better one. The opportunity to serve as dean has been by far the best and most rewarding work of my life, and I could never adequately thank you for the opportunity to do so and for the support and good will you have shown. I leave with a belief that we have made progress over the past eight years and that the school is even better than when I came. But I still see the endless possibilities for future growth and future developments and—knowing the caliber of people here—cannot wait to see what you make of them.