International Public Interest Initiatives


International Public Interest Initiatives 4

In response to the globalization of public interest lawyering and growing student interest in pursuing international careers, the Levin Center has developed an international program that connects students and alumni to educational opportunities and careers in this growing field.

Legal practice is globalizing at a rapid rate. Virtually every arena of public interest law — from environmental law to criminal law, from public health law to national security law — has international aspects. At the same time, certain strategies such as human rights, rule of law and development finance are more commonly deployed in international as opposed to domestic practice. In order to address these complexities, the Center provides individualized career counseling and career development resources to respond to the specific needs of students who are planning to pursue international public interest careers.

The Levin Center also partners with public interest attorneys seeking to build rule of law in transitional societies. The Levin Center has hosted visiting fellows from a number of transitional societies around the world and has given them the opportunity to mentor our students and to connect with resources that address leadership and organizational development challenges and opportunities in their home countries.

Titi Liu, who directs the program, teaches courses on the role of law in social change in a global context and on lawyering and leading in transitional societies.

Visiting International Public Interest Lawyers Program

SLS’ visiting international public interest lawyers program offers leading human rights and rule of law practitioners from transitional societies an opportunity to visit Stanford Law School for a week, engage with our faculty and students, and experience the diverse and dynamic social justice community here in the Bay Area.

Visiting Public Interest Attorneys 8

Spring 2016: Deyaa Alrwishdi is a founder of the Free Syrian Lawyers Association, whose mission is to train diaspora Syrian lawyers in human rights and reform the Syrian justice system in order to lay a foundation for a transition to rule of law. Deyaa has also defended human rights activists at the domestic and international level and serves as a researcher with the Damascus Center for Human Rights. Deyaa spoke on “Prospects for Peace and Transitional Justice in Syria” during his visit to SLS.

Visiting Public Interest Attorneys 1

Fall 2015: Dmitri Holtzman is the founding Executive Director of Equal Education Law Centre in South Africa. EELC’s mission is building a society in which the quality of education received by learners is not dependent on their socio-economic status and their parents’ ability to pay school fees. Its overriding goal is to ensure the realization of every learner’s right to an equitable, safe and adequate basic education by operationalizing the South African Constitution and other laws. Dmitri spoke on “Organizing and Litigating for Education Quality and Equity in South Africa” during his visit to SLS.

Visiting Public Interest Attorneys 2

Fall 2015: Hou Ping is the Vice President and Founder of LesGo, a nonprofit organization working on LGBT rights in China. LesGo advocates for recognition of and equality for the LGBT community in Suzhou and surrounding areas. She has a particular focus on the rights of female migrant workers in China. Hou Ping spoke on “The Crackdown on the Chinese Legal Profession” during her visit to SLS.

Visiting Public Interest Attorneys 7

Spring 2014: Seife Asfaw leads a network of legal aid centers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. His primary responsibilities include daily assessment and monitoring of the activity of legal aid centers in Addis Ababa, mentoring and supervising legal aid service providers and paralegals, conducting human rights training and building relationships with donors and collaborative partners. Faced with a challenging operating environment, Asfaw works within the framework of Ethiopian law to advance human rights, specifically by expanding citizens’ knowledge of and access to legal services. Seife spoke on “Human Rights Challenges and Opportunities in Ethiopia” during his visit to SLS.

Visiting Public Interest Attorneys 4

Summer 2012: At the time that Wendy Zhang visited SLS, she served as the Deputy Director of Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center, Chief Program Officer of Beijing Zhicheng Migrant Workers’ Legal Aid and Research Center, and Secretary General of Rural Areas Rule of Law Institute of Beijing Law Society. Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center is the largest legal aid provider in China and played a significant role in the development of the public interest lawyering field in China. Wendy is now a faculty member of Jindal Global Law PISchool in India and Executive Director of the Center for India and China Studies

Resources for Students Working Overseas


Be sure to review Stanford’s portal for students going overseas, where you will find a comprehensive Travel Checklist that includes the following key travel steps that you can take as early as 6 months prior your trip.

Good resources on culture and why it matters:

Other Questions to Ask (from Stanford website)
• What dress is considered appropriate in the host country, both in hot and cold weather?
• Are gender roles different than at home?
• What is the host country’s impression of people from your country?
• What things can you learn/bring/do to show respect for your hosts and a willingness to learn about the culture? e.g., Are there any famous authors from your host country? Read something they wrote before you go!
• How are ethnicity and race viewed/discussed (or not discussed)?
• How is class measured/viewed/discussed (or not discussed)?
• How is time treated (e.g., for an event at 6 pm, should you show up at 6 pm or 8 pm?)


Common sense preparation that makes even more sense for overseas placements:

1. Do the necessary research about an organization before beginning to work there: Who is on the Board? What are their funding sources, relevant cases, future goals?
2. Call your supervisor before you start and have a conversation about what you will be working on, express preferences if that makes sense.
• Clarify overall expectations
• Make a plan for structured feedback
• Ask questions about organizational culture
3. Be sure your precise start and end dates are confirmed. Because you will be reserving plane tickets and making housing arrangements, any minor changes on the employer’s side could be extremely inconvenient and/or expensive for you. Also, if you are planning to come back for OCI you don’t have a lot of leeway in terms of scheduling if you are to get in a full 10 weeks of work.

When you are there, pay particular attention to:

1. Be culturally aware—review the resources above.
2. Be flexible—you may not have the permanent office or the technological resources that you’re used to. Be creative and don’t let these conditions distract you from the valuable experience you can gain and the significant contribution you can make.
3. Ask for detailed, consistent feedback. Because you are in a very different office context, it is particularly important to not make assumptions about your supervisor’s expectations. Try to schedule weekly meetings with your supervisor—stay late and you’ll have more opportunities for feedback: clients stop calling, support staff have gone home.

In addition, review Stanford Law School’s Public Interest Career Handbook and their Summer Job Success pointers (summarized below):

• Produce good work product
• Request feedback on your work
• Understand your client’s problem
• Be creative
• Ask questions
• Meet deadlines
• Think about getting a writing sample
• Building your network during your summer experience
• Be respectful
• Confidentiality

Reaching out to alumni
Alumni, especially in overseas locations, are often very excited to hear from current students and can be a terrific resource. You should reach out to alumni with whom you share common interests etc. to schedule coffee or tea before you depart for the summer. You can find listings of regional alumni chapters and their contacts here.

You can search for individual alumni based on various criteria here.

Finally, you should check this page frequently for updated information on alumni events in your area this summer.

Reaching out to advanced degree students
We have LLM, JSM, and JSD students here from all over the world, and they are a great resource for JD students preparing for a summer abroad. Student profiles are at this link:

You can contact the Advanced Degree Student Association as well as advanced degree students you meet through classes, the dormitories or other activities.

International Legal Research
Conducting international and comparative law research while you are overseas will present some unique challenges.

Follow these links for two resources developed by the SLS library:

SLS’ Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian extraordinaire, Sergio Stone, who also serves as the Deputy Director of our Law Library, is an invaluable resource and he has indicated he is happy to meet with students before they depart for the summer. You should also look out for training sessions he offers on foreign, comparative and international research.

Time and resources permitting, reference librarians will field research questions from students over the summer. They can be reached at