Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion In Action at SLS

Legal education must prepare students to work effectively in a highly diverse society scarred by racism and other forms of subordination and structural inequality. Students, staff, and faculty have collaborated over the last five years in mutual recognition that past reform efforts at Stanford have not been equal to this charge and that change in the profession as a whole must begin with legal education. Some of the school’s recent work on hiring, promotion, admissions, curriculum, climate, cultural competence, cultural humility, anti-racism, and other areas are listed below. The Dean’s Initiative on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, announced this summer, indicates that much more of course remains to be done. As we move forward, it is important to honor the collective effort involved – particularly the time, energy, and creativity of traditionally underrepresented students, staff, and faculty whose work has been essential to advancing this enterprise.

Since 2015

  • First woman of color appointed Dean of the Law School: Jenny Martinez
  • First woman of color appointed Associate Dean for Clinical Education and Director of the Mills Legal Clinic: Jayashri Srikantiah
  • First woman of color appointed Associate Dean for Public Service and Public Interest Law and Acting Director of Center for Racial Justice: Diane Chin
  • Fourth woman of color appointed Associate Dean of Students: Jory Steele
  • Third woman of color to receive tenure since 2009: Shirin Sinnar
  • Fourth woman of color appointed in the tenure line: Rabia Belt
  • Prof. Ron Tyler, Director of Stanford Criminal Defense Clinic received tenure
  • Two new appointments of people of color in the tenure line in the last two years: Diego A. Zambrano and Julian Nyarko
  • Cultural competence adopted as a learning outcome for the Law School under ABA Standard 302(d) as a “skill needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession.”
  • Expansion of course offerings on race, policing, and prosecution.
  • Quarterly meetings with members of affinity groups hosted by Associate Dean of Students and Associate Dean for Public Service and Public Interest Law

Since 2018

Working Group formed with students and members of Racism Lives Here Too to respond to concerns about DE&I at the Law School.  Policy labs created to structure research on DE&I.  Recommendations were adopted by the Dean.  Reforms include:

  • Racial Justice Center Approved
  • Minority admit weekend redesigned to increase law school funding and logistics support to pan-affinity groups
  • 1L required 4-unit doctrinal class moved out of the fall to reduce doctrinal workload and increase time for student pro bono, public interest, and other extra-curricular work
  • 1L Fall Discussion Seminars created to foster discussions across difference and interdisciplinary perspectives on law in small group settings with topics connected to the reasons students have chosen law as a profession. For course descriptions of seminars offered this fall see: https://law.stanford.edu/discussion-seminars/
  • SLS Hosts Culp Colloquium designed for emerging scholars to “further the racial diversity of the legal academy”
  • Grievance procedure revised for reporting classroom incidents
  • Approval of embedding cultural competence training in the mandatory curriculum of the law school
  • Annual Cultural Humility Training for Clinical Faculty redesigned and expanded
  • 1L Pro bono training in Cultural Humility expanded
  • Pipeline Project for Diversity in Admissions initiated: Stanford Law Scholars Institute (n.b. live sessions suspended summer 2020 due to Covid-19)
  • Leon Cain Community Leadership Award created to recognize outstanding student contributions to the law school community, including advancing and improving diversity and inclusion
    • The following students received the 2019 Leon M. Cain Community Service Award:
      Rachel Sohl, JD’ 21
      Marlena Wisniak, LLM ‘19
      Meghan Koushik, JD ‘19
      Carra Rentie, JD ‘20
    • The following students received the 2020 Leon M. Cain Community Service Award:
      Aryn Frazier, JD’ 22
      Michelle Portillo, JD ‘21
      Diana Sánchez, JD ‘20
      Diana Guzmán Rodríguez, JSD ‘20
  • Expansion of Orientation including DE&I session for all 1Ls conducted by Dereca Blackmon
  • Speaker series on the Social Science of Identity and Prejudice featuring Claude Steele, pioneering scholar on stereotype threat, Mazarin Banaji, leading scholar on implicit bias, and other prominent scholars
  • Regular 3-Unit Critical Race Theory course taught by core faculty (Prof. Richard Thompson Ford)
  • Ad Hoc Committee on Financial Access to improve material support for low income students created.  Committee members Faye Deal, Diane Chin, Amalia Kessler, and Alison Morantz held listening sessions with students during academic year 2019-2020 and report to dean on concerns.  Recommendations to be implemented beginning 2020-2021.

In 2020

Recent responses to concerns about classroom climate:

  • Numerous letters from faculty expressing their views on the use of racial epithets, including one signed by over 120 faculty
  • Unanimous faculty vote approving mandatory training on Inclusive Teaching Practices for all SLS Instructors
    • Committee on Teaching and Classroom Climate established to develop trainings
    • Research-based resources and feedback from students to be shared with all 1L faculty
    • Trainings to begin 2020-21 academic year and to continue thereafter
  • Dean Martinez holding small group meetings with entire faculty on classroom climate
  • Prof. Richard Ford is serving on a university committee of the Planning and Policy Board on to develop university-wide guidance on classroom speech, including the use of racial epithets, in view of the “Leonard Law” and past litigation holding Stanford University’s speech code an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.
  • Prof. Ron Tyler and Prof. Larry Marshall co-leading orientation discussion of Just Mercy joined by two dozen other faculty
  • Prof. Norman W. Spaulding named Special Advisor to the Dean on DE&I Initiatives

Responses to impacts of Covid-19:

Although the economic recession has had profound effects on the university’s operating budget, the law school has taken the following steps to mitigate some of the extraordinary financial burdens students are facing.

  • Covid Emergency Fund to provide material support for some of the exceptional financial costs incurred as a result of the pandemic
  • Financial aid awards increased by $2500 per student and student contribution held flat rather than annual inflationary increase.
  • Funding provided for summer jobs for students who lost other employment.
  • More than $2 million total in additional spending on student financial needs as a result of crisis.

Message from the Dean

Jenny S. Martinez
Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School

We live in a society comprised of people of many different backgrounds, identities, viewpoints, and beliefs.  America is becoming increasingly diverse, and our interactions and transactions with the rest of the world are constant and pervasive. One of the fundamental roles of law and government institutions is to provide a forum for people to work out their differences of interest and belief and find a way to live together in conditions of fairness.

While our laws express valuable commitments to due process, equal protection, and freedom, our society and our legal system have not always lived up to these ideals and not everyone has been treated fairly; the task of forming a more perfect union (to paraphrase the preamble to the U.S. Constitution) is forever ongoing.  Preparing our students to engage in that work is an important part of our mission in training the next generation of lawyers.  Not everyone will agree on what are the best laws and policies to further the goals of our communities – local, national, and international.  Indeed, navigating these differences of opinion is one of the central tasks of lawyers.  Thus, learning how to understand the experiences and perspectives of and work with people different from oneself is a vital part of preparing to be an effective lawyer.  And one of the most valuable roles lawyers can play in society is that of bringing the ability to see the world through others’ eyes to the arenas in which they serve as leaders. This all begins in law school. To this end, our curriculum, the dynamics in our classrooms, support for and opportunities for all of our students, and our efforts to attract diverse and talented individuals to SLS have long been subjects of thoughtful work by our faculty, staff, and students.

Over the past year, we have engaged in an extensive examination of the experience of our students at the law school, with a particular focus on issues related to diversity and inclusion. The Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion, established by former SLS Dean Liz Magill in Winter 2018, issued a report that included recommendations for concrete measures to ensure this is a place where all our students can thrive, and the implementation of these recommendations has been the focus of work across the law school since last summer.

We are proud of what we have accomplished, but our work is far from done.  Indeed, that we are an academic institution committed to learning and growing means that, in some ways, we will never be finished with this work.  I am deeply moved by the enthusiastic effort I have seen thus far as our entire community has embraced the need for change and improvements illuminated by the Working Group. I look forward to our continued collective efforts to make the SLS experience one in which every individual student feels a sense of ownership and belonging, and in which all our graduates leave with the tools they need to effectively practice law and serve as leaders in the legal profession, business, government, and throughout our diverse society.

Jenny S. Martinez
Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School