From the Dean

| Issue 89

Letter From the Dean

Lawyers and athletes at the top of their game share some surprising similarities. Both, of course, must have passion and drive to succeed; both have unique skills that they have developed over years of practice; both must be masters not just of the rules, but also willing to take risks that are not in the official playbook. Great athletes, of course, started their practice very early in life, but haven’t we all met a 6-year-old who is a “born lawyer”?

Our cover story in this issue features SLS graduates who have married their passion for the law with their passion for sports. Their love of sport may fuel their work, but it’s their Stanford Law School education that is allowing them to thrive. Attorneys working in professional sports handle an array of challenging issues—ranging from antitrust matters, to labor and employment, to complex contracting. To a person, our graduates say that their training as lawyers, and at SLS, is a key to their ability to succeed.

Several other stories this fall similarly feature students and graduates who are combining a personal passion with their legal training to pursue surprising paths. A group of our students formed the Stanford Law and Visual Media Project to produce documentaries about contemporary legal topics—one of their films, American, was recently featured at the Chicago International Social Change Film Festival. Alum Daniel Lubetzky explains in these pages his unlikely path to founding and becoming the CEO of the company that produces KIND bars, which today you can see in every venue from Target to your local grocery store. And we feature a student-alum effort to assist recently released prisoners in their re-entry to society. Project ReMADE, founded by our recent graduate Angela McCray, trains former prisoners to launch businesses, teaching them accounting, business planning, and marketing. A crucial part of the effort is the mentoring relationship between the aspiring entrepreneurs and our own graduates who have already succeeded in that realm and are giving back.

| Issue 88

Letter From the Dean

It is often said that lawyers are risk-averse, and there is certainly some truth to that. But, at Stanford Law School, alongside the traditional lawyerly values of caution and judiciousness, there is also a palpable sense that calculated risks are worth taking, that change is not to be feared. In this issue the cover story highlights this important part of the Stanford Law culture—risk taking. The story focuses on our graduates who are pursuing opportunities in emerging markets. Unsurprisingly, they have some stories to tell—and some of them are hair-raising, as in Bill Franke’s description of being, literally, locked out of his Russian company by his “partner.” These graduates are all risk takers. Many of them are not engaged in the traditional practice of law, and all of them are working in corners of the world where there is profound uncertainty about the future, and sometimes even uncertainty about the present rules of the game. I admire the smarts, and the verve, of these graduates, and I know you will find the work they are doing of interest.

This story’s focus on emerging markets also illustrates the importance of our efforts to make SLS more global. Unlike business (or even science and mathematics), law is by its nature a parochial discipline in the sense that legal rules have long been determined, in part, by jurisdiction. It has been a truism for many years that economic, technological, demographic, and social factors have made those jurisdictional borders far less important than they once were. Of course, the study of law must change as a result. Today, many of our students choose to study, or to work during their summers, overseas. [...]

| Issue 87

First Impressions: The Day Forty-Five Report 


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.

| Issue 86

From the Dean

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 [...]

| Issue 85

From the Dean

It takes a thick skin to be a legal educator these days, as anyone who reads newspapers or law blogs can attest. Law schools seem to have become everyone’s favorite whipping boy. I briefly questioned claims about the supposedly declining value of a JD in my recent state-of-the-school letter. A still more persistent criticism, however, has been that we’re not properly preparing students for practice, and I’d like to respond to that complaint as well. Many critics seem bothered by the fact that faculty do scholarship, as if that’s a waste of time and money. It’s a disturbing (not to mention misplaced) critique but only indirectly related to whether law schools provide an adequate education. It needs a reply, which I will offer in the next issue’s letter. Right now, I want to focus on professional education.

The most striking thing about the criticisms is that, so far as I can tell, the complaints come mostly from people who have little idea what law schools today actually do: people who assume that we still look like we did 20 or 30 years ago (when they were law students). We don’t. On the contrary, the professional education law students get today is far superior to the one I got in the early 1980s, which really did look like what the commentators are criticizing: three years of large Socratic classes with only an occasional academic seminar for relief. But law schools have been growing beyond that for years.

It is true that tenured and tenure-track faculty still teach a broad array of doctrinal classes in the traditional way. We do so because it remains as efficient and effective a method as anyone has found to teach the overarching theoretical structure of a field. Faculty also teach courses and seminars of a more academic nature, on everything from legal history to interpretive theory to the relationship of law to disciplines like economics, philosophy, sociology, and psychology.

| Issue 84

From the Dean

Students today put a lot more thought into choosing a law school than they did in the past. And they have access to vastly more information with which to do so. In addition to a surfeit of books offering advice on the best law schools, not to mention U.S. News, they can (and do) turn to blogs and list serves and chat groups to gather information and exchange stories and opinions. On top of this, most schools invite admitted applicants to spend a day or two on campus, where they can learn still more about the school and meet current students and faculty.

I really enjoy these weekends. I love meeting prospective students, each more amazing than the last. I like explaining what we do at Stanford Law and why. I especially enjoy conversations in which someone challenges me to explain why he or she should choose Stanford over some other law school. But this year was different in one respect. A number of admitted students were still undecided about attending law school at all, still looking to be persuaded that a law degree is worth the time and money—still unsure, in the lingo of the moment, that law is a good “value proposition.”

Prospective law students do not have these concerns because of the economy. Hard economic times usually make law school more attractive, as young people sensibly invest in their education while waiting for things to [...]

| Issue 83

From the Dean

This issue of Stanford Lawyer looks at criminal law. It’s an area of real strength at SLS. We have top scholars in the field, and offer a wide selection of courses. The Stanford Criminal Justice Center, co-directed by Bob Weisberg and Joan Petersilia, does cutting-edge research on criminal and penal policy. And two clinics—one focusing on defense, the other on prosecution—give students an opportunity to take what they learn in classes and from research and apply it in real-world settings. Students interested in criminal law and justice can thus experience the full range of learning situations needed to launch a successful career: classes, research, and experiential learning. It’s a model of legal education we are implementing across the curriculum—from business law to intellectual property law to environmental law, international law, and more—replacing the unguided, haphazard curriculum of the past with opportunities for structured immersion in the array of experiences needed to train great lawyers.

This idea of a guided and structured curriculum is no small matter. Advice on what to do while in law school has long been scarce—not just at Stanford but everywhere. Most of us were told that it didn’t matter much what courses we took, that we should just look on our time in law school as an opportunity to do a sort of “liberal arts in law” degree.

| Issue 82

From the Dean

As I sit here typing, the din of nearby construction continues unabated outside my window. At times, the noise makes working difficult, but I’m happy to endure it because the Neukom Building—our new academic building that will be named for William H. Neukom ’67, whose generosity (along with that of many others) made it possible—is so important to the law school’s future. It’s important, first, to address a critical space shortage for faculty and staff, and, second, to give our growing clinic much needed room to thrive. But the Neukom Building offers yet a third benefit inasmuch as the space it adds will enable us to repurpose our current facilities in ways that meaningfully enhance the research opportunities available to students and faculty.

| Issue 81

From the Dean

A few weeks ago, I greeted this year’s class of incoming students. They were anxious, as first years always are, but this year’s jitters were about more than the Socratic Method.

That morning, The New York Times had published the latest in a stream of articles describing the economic woes of large law firms—and, with them, the supposedly diminishing prospects of graduates from elite law schools. These stories have surprised me because I thought everyone had agreed long before the economy collapsed that the system funneling students to these firms was broken and needed to change. • Of course, “big law” is not about to disappear (though it does seem likely to become a bit less big). And that’s a good thing: The mega-firms do valuable work, and, for the right people, they are wonderful places to make a career. They have great lawyers, and they work with influential clients on interesting and important cases and transactions. For many, they are the right choice. • Just not for everyone. If there has been a problem, it’s that too many of our graduates have gone to these firms for the wrong reasons—with predictable results, including boredom, frustration, and early lateral movement.