The Daily Journal's Kevin Lee caught up with Dean M. Elizabeth Magill to discuss her first couple of months as dean of Stanford Law School and where she plans to take the school under her leadership.
University of Virginia law professor Richard C. Schragger has a tall tale to tell about Mary Elizabeth Magill, a former faculty colleague who became Stanford Law School's 13th dean in September.
When the six-week-old baby of Schragger and fellow law professor Risa L. Goluboff became ill during a snowstorm one winter, the concerned couple decided to call Magill, herself a mother, for suggestions on a nearby hospital.
Instead, Magill, known to her colleagues as “Liz,” drove out in the inclement weather, picked up Goluboff and the baby and ferried them to the hospital.
Stanford Law School Vice Dean Mark G. Kelman heard that sort of praise about Magill from her colleagues at Virginia. Kelman led the Stanford committee responsible for finding possible successors to former dean Larry Kramer, now the president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
“We would literally get responses from Virgnia that said she was the person that everyone, regardless of age or experience or background, thought was the single most-valuable colleague on campus,” Kelman said.
Magill said she initially did not pursue a career in law, even though her family is heavily involved in the legal field. She grew up in Fargo, N.D., and is the daughter of senior Judge Frank J. Magill of the an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Magill said she has been impressed with Stanford Law School's clinic system, where students spend an entire quarter devoting their time to real-world matters with actual clients.
She reserved particular praise for the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, run by professors Joan Petersilia and Robert Weisberg, which provides an avenue for collaboration between students and state government officials, including the state attorney general, on legal and political issues.
“They do terrific work, the kind of work that lawyers might do in the world,” Magill said. “They are contributing to public policy by advising Kamala Harris about what the answer to her question is.”
Magill wants to replicate that cross-collaboration between professional practitioners and students in other legal sectors.
The new dean also has prioritized boosting the school's global business platform. Magill recently tapped a faculty committee to look into how the school can prepare students for international dealmaking, arbitration and litigation in the private sector.
“I'm out on the road meeting alums, and a very large percentage of people practicing law today are working on some matter that you could call global,” she said. “They are doing international deals, they are moving their goods overseas, they are moving capital and goods across the border. … A lot of our graduates are going to go out and practice that kind of law, and I need to do more to prepare our students for that.”
Kelman said the move toward expanding scholarship and opportunities in global business will be one of Magill's greatest challenges. Magill also will have to help plan and execute major fundraising efforts for the law school.
But Kelman said Magill has been able to balance strong leadership with a willingness to listen and work with others.
“I'm a big fan of hers,” Kelman said. “My hopes have been borne out.”