Message from the Director
Welcome to the Mills Legal Clinic!
In the SLS clinics, law students represent real clients on real cases and projects. The classroom curriculum gets students started on “thinking like a lawyer,” and in the clinics, they start performing and having the real professional responsibility of acting like a lawyer. In courtrooms, boardrooms, legislatures–anywhere legally trained people advance the interests of their clients–SLS clinic students make profound differences in the lives of their clients and bring the lessons they have learned in the classroom to life.
So, what kind of law student should do a clinic while in law school? Every kind! The SLS clinical program is designed to give transformational, and transferable, professional education to every kind of law student, regardless of whether they plan to be a litigator, deal-maker, scholar, politician, entrepreneur, or all of the above over the course of his or her career.
The SLS clinical program prides itself not only on practice characterized by a diverse, engaging, and important set of subject matters and modes of lawyering, but, even more importantly, on creating within each and every clinic the opportunity for a universally valuable professional education. The clinics at Stanford, consolidated into the Mills Legal Clinic (MLC), sets the gold standard for experiential education. Clinical education at SLS turns a law student into a lawyer. A professional.
You may be tempted to survey the names of the eleven clinics, scanning for one that matches your personal subject matter interest. That would be a mistake. Of course any student who knows he wants to be an environmental litigator, for example, should apply to the Environmental Law Clinic. But none of the clinics are designed to provide “job training” for a particular kind of career. Instead, every clinic teaches the habits of mind, pride in craft, and, most importantly, the exercise of professional judgment that every legally trained person needs.
What makes each of the eleven clinics capable of such universal transformation? Three things set SLS clinics apart and make me confident that any of them would advance the professional development of any law student.
Full–time. At SLS, the word “clinic” means full-time. Every single one of our clinics operates exclusively on a full-time model. Students enroll in one of the 11 clinics for a full-time quarter, during which they have no other competing academic commitments. Whether in the International Human Rights, Criminal Defense, Intellectual Property, or any of the other clinics, students come to work every day, all day, ready to live what it means to work on behalf of a client. This immersion is not just a difference in quantity; it makes a difference in quality. In full-time clinic, students, faculty, staff, and clients work together every day—they collaborate extensively, and our students receive comprehensive mentoring and real-time feedback. Full-time clinic enables students to truly assume the role of the lawyer, without juggling their identity as a student at the same time. Full-time clinic promotes spontaneous and continuous interaction, and our students report that the full-time nature of clinic makes a world of difference to their learning experience.
Faculty-led. Each of the eleven clinics is directly supervised by a member of the Stanford faculty. These professors are not just leading lawyers in their fields, but are dedicated teachers, held to the same exceptionally high standards that apply to all members of the SLS teaching faculty. When we say each student gets extensive and personalized feedback, we mean from these senior faculty who have dedicated their careers to the craft of selecting matters best suited for students to take the leadership role, and providing the kind of just-in-time mentorship and training to instill confidence in students to take on that responsibility.
One law firm. The Mills Legal Clinic operates as a single, consolidated law firm (with the exception of the Criminal Prosecution Clinic which, because of conflict of interest reasons, operates outside of the MLC umbrella). In a state-of-the-art office suite, clinical students in all of the clinics work side by side in an open floorplan bullpen designed to promote collaboration and interaction. A student in the Organizations & Transactions Clinic can explain the licensing agreement she is drafting for a nonprofit client to a student in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic who is helping a refugee obtain asylum in the U.S. While their cases may not on the surface seem to have much in common, working side by side they see similarities in the two versions of functioning as a lawyer. Maybe both are handling the challenge of a shifting factual terrain. Or a client whose goals seem to shift during the course of the representation. Because MLC is one law firm, the two students can speak freely about their clients’ matters without running afoul of confidentiality rules.
As you learn about MLC, you’ll see students doing amazingly sophisticated and meaningful work for their clients. You’ll see them in courtrooms, boardrooms, legislative halls, and on site with their clients around the community, the nation, and the world. You’ll see them making a difference in one individual’s life, and in the law of the land. Mostly, you’ll see them making the crucial pivot from being a student of the law to being a nimble, wise, and skilled advocate and advisor. SLS alums routinely say that clinic was a high point in their legal education, and that the real-life experience and close mentoring they got from the clinical faculty prepared them not only for their work immediately after law school, but for a lifetime of professional meaning.
Associate Dean of Clinical Education
Director, Mills Legal Clinic and Community Law Clinic