Law and Policy Lab


Real clients. Real challenges. Real solutions.

Our policy labs provide Stanford Law students with hands-on experience influencing and advising individuals, government agencies, and non-profit organizations about cutting-edge issues in real time. They provide a fantastic way to develop important legal skills through interdisciplinary thought and resources. There is no better way to dive into a legal career than through the Policy Lab.

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

Mission

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.

An innovation in experiential learning deepens our commitment to policy: The Law and Policy Lab 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 such areas as education, copyright and patent reform, governance and transparency in emerging economies, policing technologies, and energy and the environment.

Policy labs address 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 through empirical evidence that scopes a policy problem and assesses options and courses of action. 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 grounded in 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.

Law and Public Policy 1

SLS Guide to Courses in Public Policy and Social Problem Solving

Are you interested in a law and policy career solving social problems? This handy guide will help you navigate the many relevant courses within and outside the law school.

View Guide

SLS Policy Lab Summer Job Opportunities

Each summer, our policy labs hire a few law interns in positions that are similar to legal internships focused on legal research and writing. Interns work with real policy clients on issues connected to regular policy labs. These positions can be funded through the Levin Center’s summer public interest funding program. Postings for summer positions usually occur in May.

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

Scoping Policy Labs Worldwide

The Law and Policy Lab is undertaking a survey of policy labs around the world, starting with Latin America. In future installments, we will add summaries of labs in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and across Asia. The survey is not exhaustive but serves as a guide to the type of work policy labs are undertaking to shape effective interventions and solutions to problems both regionally and internationally.

Map created by Eli Yuan Shi.

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 an array of master classes that hone the empirical skills required for policy analysis. Among these classes, the Elements of Policy Analysis (Law 7846), teaches you how to hypothesize, organize, test, and evaluate policy issues, and introduces design thinking, stakeholder analysis, implementation strategies, cost-benefit analysis, statistical techniques, and effective policy writing and communications.

A variety of other skills classes offer a strong empirical complement to traditional legal advocacy. These classes will help 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. These are some of the skills you’ll rely on as you navigate your career in law and policy.

Elements of Policy Analysis
View All Master Skills Classes

Students in Class

Contacts

email: policylab@law.stanford.edu

Paul Brest 1

Paul Brest

  • Professor of Law, Emeritus
  • Director of Law and Policy Lab
  • Interim Executive Director, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance