Stanford Law School and American University of Afghanistan to Build Law Degree Program in Afghanistan with $7.2M Grant from the U.S. State Department

Funding will support the development of an integrated five-year double bachelors degree program at American University of Afghanistan to train Afghan lawyers

alep logo

STANFORD, Calif., September 24, 2012—Stanford Law School today announced that its innovative program— the Afghanistan Legal Education Project(ALEP)—has been awarded a $7.2 million dollar U.S. State Department grant, through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL/State), to support Stanford and the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in developing a full, five-year integrated Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degree program at AUAF’s campus in Kabul, Afghanistan. The objective of the new, double-bachelors law degree is to train Afghan students to become professional lawyers who can provide much-needed legal representation services, help enforce the nation’s new constitution, help stabilize the rule of law, and become legal educators who will go on to train the next generation of Afghanistan’s professional lawyers and its leaders.

The new degree-granting program is the latest in—and most ambitious of—a long series of efforts to fortify legal education in Afghanistan that has been undertaken since 2007 by Stanford Law School through its Afghanistan Legal Education Project in collaboration with American University of Afghanistan, and since 2010, with support from INL/State. Most recently, the two schools developed a certificate in legal studies at AUAF, which saw its first graduates this spring. This past semester, approximately 200 students took law classes and every class was oversubscribed. All indications are that student demand will continue to grow, and Stanford, AUAF, and INL/State have been partnering to meet that demand.

The new law degree program will build on this existing certificate program and use textbooks written by Stanford Law students that have been rigorously vetted with Stanford faculty, AUAF law faculty, and senior judges, bureaucrats and lawyers in Afghanistan. The curriculum will emphasize practical skills, professional responsibility, and substantive instruction in criminal, commercial, comparative, Islamic, and international law. A number of courses will be practice-oriented and geared to experiential learning. Law is an undergraduate discipline in Afghanistan, and so students will first take two years of AUAF’s general liberal arts education followed by three years of legal studies instruction.

M. Elizabeth Magill, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean
M. Elizabeth Magill, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School

“In order to rebuild Afghanistan’s institutions, and particularly its legal institutions, the country must have a generation of lawyers who have been trained in a rigorous way,” said Stanford Law School Dean M. Elizabeth Magill. “This program will help with that effort, and it is exciting that our students and faculty are contributing in distinctive ways to this foundational work.”

The Afghanistan Legal Education Project emerged in 2007 at Stanford Law School as a student-led initiative to produce legal textbooks and legal curriculum focused on Afghanistan’s current laws, with the aim of contributing to the effort to rebuild the country’s institutions.

ALEP’s first initiative involved partnering with American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul to produce a legal textbook of secular laws, setting them out in systematic order and providing insight into the ways in which they interact with Islamic and customary laws. Since that first successful effort, the program has continued to expand: ALEP has produced four textbooks, with a fifth and a sixth in production. One is the introduction to Afghanistan law. The others offer detailed analysis of commercial law, criminal law, and international law (from an Afghan perspective). The fifth will cover constitutional law, and the sixth will cover professional responsibility.

erik jensen
Erik G. Jensen, Professor of the Practice of Law and Director, Rule of Law Program and Affiliated Faculty Member at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University (FSI).

“This grant is the culmination of over five years of hard work by students and faculty at Stanford Law School, and leadership and faculty at AUAF.  I am grateful to INL/ State Department for this grant,” said Erik G. Jensen, professor of the practice of law, director of the law school’s Rule of Law Program, faculty advisor for ALEP since its inception, and an affiliated faculty member at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University (FSI). “INL/State recognizes and supports our long track record of success in offering quality legal education in Afghanistan. The grant is important to students and faculty at Stanford and AUAF, to the expansion of legal education in Afghanistan, and, in some small but significant way, to the future of US-Afghan relations as this successful education project will be implemented well beyond the 2014 scheduled ratcheting down of US military involvement in Afghanistan.”

Thomas Hushek, Director of the State/INL bureau in Kabul, affirmed the United States’ emphasis on legal education in Afghanistan.  “The Strategic Partnership Agreement between the United States and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan includes a joint commitment to increasing Afghans’ access to quality higher education.  Legal education is a critical element of justice reform, and ALEP’s expansion ensures that U.S. support in this area will include AUAF as a valuable private institution partner, together with our long-term partners in the public university system. The State Department is very pleased to support a program that has such significant support and interest from students at AUAF and Stanford alike.”

The grant is the largest federal grant Stanford Law School has received. The new law degree-granting program will graduate its first class in 2015.

“We’re tremendously excited by news of this wonderful grant,” said AUAF President C. Michael Smith. “We’ve built a strong partnership with Stanford for providing legal instruction in Afghanistan, and we are very pleased that we’ll be continuing this partnership in a full law degree program. Most important, however, is the difference this program will make for Afghan students, who will now be able to earn a law degree here in Afghanistan that, with Stanford’s involvement, will meet international standards for excellence.”

About M. Elizabeth Magill

Mary Elizabeth Magill was appointed the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School on September 1, 2012.  She is the law school’s 13th dean. Before coming to Stanford she was on the faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law for 15 years, serving most recently as vice dean, the Joseph Weintraub–Bank of America Distinguished Professor of Law, and the Elizabeth D. and Richard A. Merrill Professor.

An expert in administrative law and constitutional structure, Dean Magill teaches administrative law, constitutional law, and food and drug law.  Her scholarly articles have been published in leading law reviews, and she has won several awards for her scholarly contributions. She is a member of the American Law Institute and served as a fellow in the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, and the Thomas Jefferson Visiting Fellow at Downing College, Cambridge University.

After completing her BA in history at Yale University in 1988, Dean Magill served as a senior legislative assistant for energy and natural resources for U.S. Senator Kent Conrad, a position she held for four years.  She left the Hill to attend the University of Virginia School of Law, where she was articles development editor of the Virginia Law Review and received several awards for academic and scholarly achievement. After graduating in 1995, Dean Magill clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and then for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

About Erik G. Jensen

Erik G. Jensen is a professor of the practice of law at Stanford Law School, director of the law school’s Rule of Law Program, and an affiliated faculty member at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University (FSI). A lawyer trained in Britain and the United States, he has, for the past 27 years, taught, practiced and written about the field of law and development in 30 countries. He has been a Fulbright scholar, a consultant to the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the African Development Bank, and a representative of The Asia Foundation, where he currently serves as a senior advisor for governance and law. His teaching and research activities explore various dimensions of reform aimed at strengthening the rule of law, including the political economy of reform; the connections between legal systems and the economies, polities and societies in which they are situated; and the relationship of Islam to the rule of law. As co-director of the Rule of Law Program, Jensen serves as faculty advisor to student-driven projects in Afghanistan, Bhutan, Timor-Leste, and Iraq that, with strong local partnerships, develop legal tools in these developing democracies.

About the Afghanistan Legal Education Project

Founded in 2007 as a student–driven initiative, the Afghanistan Legal Education Project at Stanford Law School (ALEP) develops innovative legal curricula to help train the next generation of lawyers and leaders. ALEP has developed an extensive law curriculum at the American University of Afghanistan with strong support from INL/State Department.

ALEP’s principal focus is researching, writing, and publishing original legal textbooks. Since 2007, ALEP has published four textbooks, which are among the first to specifically address Afghanistan’s post-2004 legal system: An Introduction to the Law of Afghanistan (2nd Edition), Commercial Law of Afghanistan, Criminal Law of Afghanistan, and International Law of Afghanistan. These textbooks have been rigorously vetted by Afghan and international legal experts. All of ALEP’s publications are available online for free use and distribution on the ALEP website under “Publications.” Dari and Pashto translations are forthcoming. More information is available at:

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.

About American University of Afghanistan

The American University of Afghanistan is dedicated to providing world-class higher education that prepares leaders to meet the needs of Afghanistan and the region. AUAF students learn from faculty who hold master and doctoral degrees from a wide array of prestigious institutions throughout the world. Students study in state-of-the-art classrooms, including science and computer laboratories and video-conferencing facilities. Students have access to a comprehensive research facility at the Bernice Nachman Marlowe Library, which provides access to electronic databases in addition to its 12,000-volume library.

As the only private, not-for-profit, independent university chartered in Afghanistan, AUAF has grown from an initial enrollment in 2006 of a mere 53 students to more than 1,700 full and part-time students studying across four degree programs in 2012. Additionally, over the past six years AUAF has partnered with Stanford Law School, University of California – San Diego, Indiana University, Thunderbird School of Global Management, and the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development to strengthen its academic programs. AUAF has grown into a thriving academic and intellectual center, providing the most rigorous and fulfilling university experience in the region.

About U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement

The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), headed by Assistant Secretary William R. Brownfield, advises the President, Secretary of State, other bureaus in the Department of State, and other departments and agencies within the U.S. Government on the development of policies and programs to combat international narcotics and crime. INL programs support two of the Department’s strategic goals: (1) to reduce the entry of illegal drugs into the United States; and (2) to minimize the impact of international crime on the United States and its citizens. Counternarcotics and anticrime programs also complement counterterrorism efforts, both directly and indirectly, by promoting modernization of and supporting operations by foreign criminal justice systems and law enforcement agencies charged with the counter-terrorism mission. More information is available at: