Stanford Law Review Elects First Muslim, Iranian-American President

Stanford Law students recently elected Daniel Khalessi ‘13, J.D. ‘22, as president of the Stanford Law Review (SLR), Vol. 74. Khalessi is SLR’s first Muslim, Iranian-American president.

Daniel Khalessi

Khalessi attended Stanford University as an undergraduate, receiving his B.A. in International Relations with Honors from the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) and a Certificate in Iranian Studies in 2013. While at Stanford, he interned for Ambassador Susan Rice at the United Nations and the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Middle East North Africa Office and studied abroad at Oxford. 

Before attending law school, Khalessi co-founded Fireside, a digital town hall, and worked at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, where he analyzed U.S. foreign policy toward China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. He earned an M.A. from Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and an M.A. in Economics from Peking University in China as a Yenching Scholar. 

From the first publication in 1948, SLR’s founding principals are to educate and foster intellectual discourse among the student membership and to contribute to legal scholarship by addressing important legal and social issues. Warren Christopher, the 63rd United States Secretary of State, was SLR’s first president. 

Stanford Law Review

The Stanford Law Review is operated entirely by Stanford Law School students and is fully independent of faculty and administration review or supervision. Student Law Review editors select, edit, and publish articles and notes on the cutting edge of legal scholarship. They are trained to critically and comprehensively evaluate submissions. Through a team-editing process, they address each piece’s analysis, writing style, research, organization, and accuracy and work closely with authors to improve their work. In addition, student authors who submit notes for publication receive extensive editorial assistance. Each year, SLR publishes one print volume with six separate issues—published once a month from January through June. These issues contain original scholarship by, among others, Law Review members, other Stanford Law School students, professors, judges, and practicing attorneys.

Below, Khalessi discusses the significance of his election, and priorities and changes at the SLR:

What do you see as the significance of your election as the first Muslim and Iranian-American President of SLR?

Khalessi: My journey here is part of the larger story of the Stanford Law Review. Twenty-five Stanford Law students launched the first Volume of SLR in 1948. Many of them had just returned from World War II and had families to support. Back then, Stanford was a relatively young law school and our East Coast peers—Harvard and Yale—had law reviews since the late 1800s. Over time, the journal these Stanford students founded became one of the most influential in the legal community.  

Like the founders of this law review, my presence here is unlikely. I am the son of Iranian immigrants. My father died when I was nine years old. And I had to come to terms with who I was as a kid growing up in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks and the tensions between my country and the country of my heritage. The notion of becoming the first Muslim and Iranian-American president in the 74-year history of the Stanford Law Review was completely foreign to me. I hope my election demonstrates some degree of progress. But I also want to make it clear that there is still so much more progress to be made as we strive to build a more tolerant and inclusive legal community and society. 

What do you hope you will learn in this role? 

Khalessi: At SLR, we have the privilege of editing and publishing cutting-edge scholarship written by some of the most brilliant legal minds in the world. These include articles by legal scholars and student notes by our own incredibly talented Stanford Law School classmates. I hope to learn from all of the pieces we work on. But above all, I hope to continue to learn from my wonderful classmates on SLR, who are brilliant, thoughtful, and genuinely kind people. Our class joined SLR in the middle of this pandemic, an economic recession, and the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. I have been inspired by the tenacity and hard work of every single one of my SLR colleagues. In addition, I have learned a great deal from my predecessor Sam Ward-Packard, the president of Volume 73. I am excited for us to build upon the values and strong foundation that Sam and his colleagues established.  

 I hope my time at SLR will make me a better lawyer, editor, colleague and leader.   

What are your top priorities? What do you hope to accomplish? 

 Khalessi: In addition to building upon our predecessors’ successes, we have already initiated a number of exciting changes. We recently appointed SLR’s first Multimedia Editor, who is working to make SLR’s content more accessible through videos, podcasts, and social media. Recently, we hosted a fireside chat on the GameStop saga with Former SEC Chair Joseph Grundfest and Professor Darryl Duffie. We also recently appointed our first Diversity, Social, and Alumni Relations Chairs. Together, we hope to enhance the diversity, community, alumni network, and entrepreneurial spirit of SLR.  

What would you say to current 1Ls who are considering whether or not to join SLR?

Khalessi: We value you and we encourage you to apply to SLR. If you made it to Stanford Law School, you have the full potential to become a member of SLR. Believe in yourself and don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough. 

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.