Diversity and Inclusion

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.

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