On July 24, Stanford University announced that I would be the 13th dean of Stanford Law School. I am both thrilled and humbled by the opportunity to take the helm at this extraordinary institution. Let me share with you some of what I have experienced since late July, and some of my initial impressions from the short time that I have been here.
The first thing that became apparent to me was the depth and warmth of the Stanford community—or, as I have come to think of it, community with a capital C. In the days and weeks following the announcement, hundreds of people affiliated with Stanford called, wrote, emailed, texted, or posted on my Facebook page. I heard from what seemed to be every-one connected to SLS—faculty, administrators, staff, students, and many, many law school alums. But I also heard from dozens of people who are not affiliated directly with Stanford Law School, but rather with the greater university—from professors, to human resources personnel, to department chairs. I heard from people hiking in the mountains, floating down rivers on rafting trips, and traveling abroad. Without exception, they congratulated me, they offered help, and they assured me that I would love my time at Stanford.
Forty-five days into my deanship, I already can say that they were right. What attracted me to Stanford is exactly what I have found here: a deeply held commitment to excellence combined with a genuine willingness to examine the prevailing approaches to legal education and to change course when necessary.
In the pages of this magazine, you will be able to see some of what I have seen since my arrival: the truly amazing accomplishments of our faculty, students, and alums. You also will see evidence of that willingness to question the status quo. The predictable risk of achieving at a high level is that one becomes self-congratulatory and complacent. But I have not detected even a hint of complacency here. Stanford Law School is where it is in part because it has been open to change—whether by altering the curriculum and schedule to facilitate interdisciplinary studies or by fostering hands-on learning through one of the most wide-ranging clinical programs in the nation.
I am now engaged in a high-speed effort to learn all there is to know about Stanford Law School and Stanford University—I am told that I have had 159 separate meetings in the months of September and October—and, so far, I have not encountered a single person who believes we can rest where we are. Everyone is asking, “What should we do next?”
This is a refreshing attitude and it runs deep—it is part of the DNA of Stanford Law School. In the coming months, I will be traveling around the country to meet you, our graduates and friends. I will be asking you what we are doing well and what we can do better. I hope you will help me think through those questions. I look forward to your good counsel as we continue to improve legal education and train tomorrow’s leaders.