The mission of the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law at Stanford Law School is two-fold. Internally at the law school, the Levin Center provides a rich resource for students who are interested in exploring or already committed to advancing the public good and achieving social justice through the law. Our research agenda is focused externally – to support the development and health of the public interest legal field, with a particular interest within the US in legal services for the indigent, and internationally regarding the interaction of international human rights mechanisms with domestic reform efforts.
Stanford Law School offers an array of classes and clinics that provide students with a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge and practical skills to support the pursuit of careers in public interest. We also support students pursuing careers in the public interest and public sector through our pro bono program, externships, mentorships, career services, speaker series, and opportunities for financial assistance.
The Levin Center houses public service and career services programs, and coordinates events ranging from skills training to career panels to social events designed to strengthen our public interest community. We strive to create a strong foundation for our students and alumni committed to public interest careers, which includes offering a formal mentoring program to connect them to one another. We also oversee a variety of public interest funding programs that tangibly support public interest and public sector students and alumni.
We organize about a hundred events each school year to address several important goals and serve current students and alumni. Such events can be grouped in one of four categories, and each category is denoted by an icon:
Events in this category introduce students to the wide array of opportunities to serve the public interest. We spotlight attorneys working in various substantive areas and workplace settings.
- Our Public Interest Alumni Mentor-in-Residence speaker series invites mid-level alumni who graduated 3-10 years ago to return to campus and speak about their careers since graduation. The intimate lunch format enables a casual conversational tone so students can ask questions.
- Each Fall, we hold several practice overview panels to offer a glimpse into careers in nonprofits, civil governmental agencies, criminal governmental agencies, private public interest law firms, and international practice settings.
- Employers regularly make recruiting visits to Stanford Law School as well. In recent years, attorneys from the ACLU of Northern California, Immigrant Justice Corps, Institute for Justice, California Attorney General, Navy JAG, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Security Agency have spoken on campus.
One of our key priorities is developing a strong community at Stanford Law School. We believe every law student should incorporate public service into his or her practice.
- We host a public interest welcome reception each September so that faculty and upper-class students can meet and greet our first-year students. Dean M. Elizabeth Magill and almost all of our public interest faculty always attend.
- We organize a public interest mentoring program to connect 1L students with upper-class students and faculty mentors who share their public interest goals. These small groups are usually assigned by practice area (e.g., criminal prosecution, environmental law, gender and sexuality) and enable 1Ls to join a network of those with similar interests.
- Shortly after the casual welcome reception, we hold our annual Fall Public Service Awards Dinner. This formal seated awards dinner honors two outstanding public interest attorneys and is our biggest event of the year.
- Each spring, we celebrate the end of the year with our spring public interest awards reception. We recognize the graduating students who have earned Pro Bono Distinction, students selected for public interest awards, and graduates who will be starting their careers in public service thanks to fellowships and governmental honors programs.
- Before final exams begin, the Levin Center will sponsor public interest study breaks so students can drop in for fruit, cheese, junk food, and other snacks before returning to their studies. These breaks also offer the opportunity to check in with Levin Center staff.
- We also host summer receptions to convene our public interest alumni and the law students interning in that city. Levin Center staff have organized such events in New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
We often have compelling speakers discuss the latest substantive issues. Recent speakers have discussed topics like the debate over mass surveillance, the impact of California's recent prison reform initiatives, and whether stereotyping in the workplace constitutes unlawful discrimination.
As part of its core educational mission, Stanford Law School seeks to explore current issues of national and international justice through a legal lens. Levin Center staff organizes events to help students analyze and reflect on legal responses to difficult social issues. For example, in Winter 2015, after a series of highly publicized incidents of racial violence involving police officers across the country, we began #SLSforJustice. SLS faculty, staff, and students gathered to discuss the legal and policy implications of these issues through a series of events, classes, reading groups, and informal discussions. It was an opportunity for the SLS community not only to teach about and learn from the events, but also to share personal experiences and move forward together.
In Winter 2016, we delved more deeply into the national dialogue on the intersection of religion, national security, and US immigration policy, particularly as they relate to Muslims.
More recently during winter 2017, we held a number of events in response to the 2016 election, including a Boot Camp for alumni and students interested in running for office; faculty panels discussing the impact of the executive transition on attorneys in the administration and anticipated policy changes in education law, environmental law, health care, immigration law, foreign affairs, and national security; and additional talks on how local and state government agencies interact with the federal government.
The experienced Levin Center staff provide a number of workshops to equip students with the knowledge and skills to undertake a successful public interest job search. We also will feature panels of alumni and upper-class students to share their advice on common public interest challenges.
- Each October we host a workshop intended to guide first-year law students through the job search process. This includes providing an overview of common options, typical timelines, details regarding Stanford's financial support for public interest law students, and the research tools students will need to identify the employers that will meet their respective needs.
- We also offer targeted workshops to 2L and 3L students based on their needs, such as our workshop on postgraduate fellowships, how to transition from the private sector to the public sector, and governmental honors programs.
- Panels of alumni and upper-class students also share their experiences when applying for clerkships as public interest students, whether or not they decided to participate in the On-Campus Interview Program, and living on public interest salaries with the help of Stanford Law School's Loan Repayment Assistance Program.
The Levin Center’s research is conducted by its experienced legal staff, working in concert with students and faculty. Read more about our community in our quarterly e-newsletter, Create Change.
The groundwork provided through classes and clinics, and the opportunities created by the Levin Center enable our graduates to achieve the careers and advance the causes that first inspired them to earn a law degree.
Current and former students who wish to speak with a public interest counselor should contact one of our staff members directly for an appointment.