If you are reading this letter, you must be thinking about applying to law school. And if you’ve gotten this far, I encourage you to go a step further and spend more time getting to know Stanford Law School. Plan a visit to our campus. Spend time on our website. If you do, I think you will see that we are a unique institution.
We are, first and foremost, thoroughly committed to excellence in teaching and in advancing knowledge. Our average class size is very small; many of our classes are team-taught; and our faculty members are deeply committed to the classroom.
Our faculty are also pioneering scholars. They have reshaped our understanding of fields of study in their scholarship; many have authored casebooks that dominate the teaching of the classic curriculum in law schools across the country. They have identified and defined the boundaries of new fields, like cyberlaw and law and the biosciences. Stanford professors have revitalized clinical training in a number of notable ways, including creating the first Supreme Court Litigation Clinic in the country where students work on live cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
When this faculty talent is joined with our remarkable students, we create a rich, vibrant community that, because of its small size, remains intimate. Our students are academically gifted, but they are also interesting people. Many come to us with advanced degrees or substantial experience beyond the law—from the corporate world or the military, from the seminary or the high-tech industry, from nonprofits or educational institutions. They have intellectual curiosity, a passion for excellence, and a commitment not just to study law but also to shape the future wherever they land.
But at Stanford Law School, we are always asking whether we can do better—whether we are preparing our students today for the professional challenges they will face tomorrow. Asking ourselves that question has led to changes to our curriculum that provide our students with the skills and experiences they need to be successful in the ever-changing legal marketplace. That curriculum prepares our graduates to lead in the legal profession, industry, government, and in the nonprofit sector.
In rethinking our curriculum, we recognized that we should keep the foundational learning that occurs in the classic first-year curriculum. We also realized, however, that we should build on that foundation by enlarging the opportunities available to students in their second and third years. Our second- and third-year students now can take advantage of the whole of Stanford University, which has top graduate programs in every field. If they choose to do so, SLS students can combine the study of law with other disciplines in order to gain knowledge that will help them in their professional lives, whether as lawyers or clients. We now offer more than two dozen joint degrees.
We also have greatly expanded clinical training. Students who enroll in a clinic do so full time for a quarter and thus face no competing courses or exams. As full-time advocates for their clients, under the close supervision of clinic directors, our students learn what it means to be a first-rate lawyer, advocate, and professional.
Finally, we have expanded the international dimension of our curriculum and developed a variety of new programs to give law students direct experience of studying and working in a global setting. Students can study abroad in student exchange programs. They have access to enlarged opportunities for externships and summer jobs abroad. They can enroll in our international human rights clinic. Or they can take advantage of law and development programs that have students working in countries around the globe including Afghanistan, Bhutan, Timor Leste, and Iraq.
Even though our new curriculum has opened SLS to the broader university and the world, we remain a tight-knit community. We are the smallest of our peer schools, and here you will find open doors and a level of accessibility and interaction that is the envy of larger schools. You will get to know and learn from all your teachers and classmates, rather than be lost in a crowd.
Let me close by noting that Stanford Law School has long been committed to providing the finest legal education to the most talented students in the nation, regardless of financial need. And, for those whose goal is to enter public interest practice, we help make that dream a reality through the most generous loan repayment assistance program of any law school in the country. In addition, we continue to have the most generous financial aid, and our graduates have the lowest average debt burden compared to graduates at our peer law schools.
I hope you enjoy learning about Stanford Law School.
Jenny S. Martinez
Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School