Law and Policy Lab


Real clients. Real challenges. Real solutions.

Many of our graduates will be leaders in policy arenas, and all of our graduates will need to solve problems and work on teams. What better place than Stanford, with its focus on interdisciplinary study and solving real-world problems, to practice these important skills?

M. Elizabeth Magill, Dean, Stanford Law School

About the Law and Policy Lab

SLS Policy Lab icon red

Engagement in public policy is a core mission of teaching and research at Stanford Law School. First-year courses explore the policies underlying basic legal doctrines, and advanced courses focus on policy in areas ranging from intellectual property to criminal justice. The Mills Legal Clinic gives students direct experience counseling and advocating for clients on both law and policy issues, and many of the law school’s centers, programs, and journals engage students in policy research and scholarship.

A new venture in experiential learning deepens this commitment to policy: The Law and Policy Lab – Stanford’s unique policy incubator – is finding solutions to some of our most pressing issues. Under the guidance of seasoned faculty advisers, Law and Policy Lab students counsel real-world clients in an array of areas, including education, copyright and patent reform, public enterprises in developing countries, policing and technology, and energy policy.

Policy labs address policy problems for real clients, using analytic approaches that supplement traditional legal analysis. The clients may be local, state or federal public agencies or officials, or private non-profit entities such as NGOs and foundations. Typically, policy labs assist clients in deciding whether and how qualitative or quantitative empirical evidence can be brought to bear to better understand the nature or magnitude of their particular policy problem, and identify and assess policy options. The methods may include comparative case studies, population surveys, stakeholder interviews, experimental methods, program evaluation or big data science, and a mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis. Faculty and students may apply theoretical perspectives from cognitive and social psychology, decision theory, economics, organizational behavior, political science or other behavioral science disciplines. The resulting deliverables reflect the needs of the client with most resulting in an oral or written policy briefing for key decision-makers.

The Law and Policy Lab reflects the law school’s belief that systematic examination of societal problems, informed by rigorous data analysis, can generate solutions to society’s most challenging public problems. In addition to policy analysis, students hone the communications skills needed to translate their findings into actionable measures for policy leaders and the communities they serve. The projects emphasize teamwork and collaboration, and many are interdisciplinary, giving law students the opportunity to work with faculty and colleagues from across the university with expertise in such fields as technology, environmental engineering, medicine, and international diplomacy, among others.

Policy Areas and Clients

policy areas and clients

The Law and Policy Lab brings students, faculty members, and policy makers together to work on projects of mutual interest and benefit. Practicums span a wide range of relevant and pressing policy areas, encompassing everything from network neutrality to China’s solar industry. The image above offers a glimpse of the topics covered by practicums and the diversity of clients seeking help.

Clients:

Participating clients come from the local, state, federal and international levels. Drill down to see a sample list of clients from past practicums.

International Level
National Level
State Level
County Level

Featured Practicum Work

Law & Policy Lab 1

Students produced a policy report to the White House's Office of Management and Budget to assist future Administrations in deploying more effective administrative governance tools in the energy and environmental arenas.

Master Skills Classes for Future Change-Makers

For students enrolled in the Law and Policy Lab — and for those interested in achieving social change at scale — SLS offers 10 master classes that hone the empirical skills required for policy analysis. Students learn to hypothesize, organize, test, and evaluate policy issues, and are introduced to design thinking, stakeholder analysis, implementation strategies, cost-benefit analysis, statistical techniques, and regulatory drafting.

While not required for work in Law and Policy Lab practicums, skills classes offer a strong empirical complement to traditional legal advocacy. In the classroom, you tackle provocative problems and cases — learning to make decisions in conditions of uncertainty and to influence behavior through incentives, penalties, and “nudges,” as well as regulatory reform. In the field, you apply your skills to real-world challenges.

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Students in Class

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