Stanford Law Students and Alumni Learn How to Run for Public Office at 2-Day Boot Camp

Close to 100 current SLS students and graduates spanning decades came together in early February for an event on how to run for public office. Co-sponsored by the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, the two-day event was designed to help students and alumni understand  the possibilities for a meaningful career in public office as well as to provide a “nuts and bolts” guide for running a campaign. 

Stanford Law Students and Alumni Learn How to Run for Public Office at 2-Day Boot Camp
Alumni and students gathered at SLS for a 2-day event on how to run for public office.

“Serving in public office is an extremely high calling,” said Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean M. Elizabeth Magill during her opening remarks to the students and alumni in attendance. Magill also said Stanford Law School graduates were particularly well-suited for public office, noting that they “have a deep understanding of policy and are also kind and empathetic.”

The boot camp was split into a day of discussions and a day of workshops. On day one, elected officials with JDs discussed their career paths and lessons learned from their own campaigns. Panelists included City of Berkeley Councilmember Sophie Hahn (JD ‘88), District 24 Assemblymember Marc Berman, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, San Mateo Mayor David Lim, AC Transit Board Member Elsa Ortiz. The panel was moderated by Professor Allen Weiner (JD ‘89). A second panel covered other roles for JDs in campaigns and within the political process, including graduates Robin Johansen (JD ‘77), a founding partner of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, LLP and Matthew Platkin (BA ’09, JD ‘14), the Policy Director at the Phil Murphy for Governor campaign. The day finished with an overview of redistricting and electoral mapping by Stanford Political Science Professor Bruce Cain.

Day two topics included “how to” sessions on creating a campaign budget, political fundraising, volunteer recruitment, field organizing, using social media in a campaign, as well as specific issues facing people of color, women, and LGBTQ candidates.

“The trajectory of lawyers entering public office often appears unclear and disjointed,” said current Stanford JD/MBA candidate Matt Agnew. “Learning how other lawyers made the transition provided invaluable insight into how to navigate likely barriers to entry and ultimately the maxim of simply ‘get involved.’”

“We have faith in our graduates that they can make a difference,” said Associate Dean for Public Service and Public Interest Law Diane Chin. “We wanted to encourage those both considering running and who want to get involved in a different capacity by providing them with support and concrete skills.”