Stanford Law School Launches Neukom Center for the Rule of Law

Gift from Sally and SLS Alum Bill Neukom includes support for an endowed chair and faculty fellows; Center to collaborate with World Justice Project and the Wright Center for the Study of Computation and Just Communities at Dartmouth 

Sally and Bill Neukom at the dedication of the William H. Neukom Building at Stanford Law School
Sally and Bill Neukom at the dedication of the William H. Neukom Building at Stanford Law School

October 20, 2022 – Stanford Law School (SLS) announced the launch of the Sally B. and William H. Neukom Center for the Rule of Law, thanks to a significant gift from the Neukom family. The Center will conduct academic research and teaching, experiential learning and collaborations across Stanford and beyond with a sharp focus on rule of law-related issues.

William Neukom, a 1967 graduate of Stanford Law School and former Microsoft general counsel, has a long history of providing financial and leadership support to the school and within the SLS alumni community. The couple’s gift comprises programmatic support as well as a new endowed chair for the Center, a faculty fellowship and a post-graduate fellowship, and support for an executive director. 

“The rule of law provides the basis for just and prosperous societies,” said Jenny S. Martinez, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean. “In countries with weak rule of law, people lack safety and freedom, while societies with robust rule of law allow people to thrive. Lawyers are essential in strengthening and advancing rule of law here in the U.S. and abroad. We could not be more grateful to Sally and Bill for helping advance the important role SLS plays on the international stage in developing lawyers who will advance the rule of law.” 

The Neukom Center will build on Stanford Law’s strengths as a global platform for interdisciplinary research, elevating the topic of rule of law across the Stanford campus and throughout academia. The Center will support the work of faculty and students on issues such as accessible and impartial justice; accountability of public and private actors; open, fair, and efficient government; and laws that are clear, stable, and protect fundamental rights. The Center will conduct research and teaching, host public convenings, and develop strategic collaborations with colleagues on and off campus.

“Developing leaders with a clear understanding of how the rule of law impacts justice is critical for democracy, and for our world,” said Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of Stanford University. “I am so grateful to Sally and Bill for elevating this work at Stanford, and for enabling the kind of collaborations that will make a difference far beyond our campus.”

The new Center will collaborate with other, complementary programs established by Neukom, beginning with the World Justice Project (headquartered in the U.S. with offices around the world), an independent, multidisciplinary organization working to advance the rule of law worldwide, and the Wright Center for the Study of Computation and Just Communities at Dartmouth. 

“Fundamental to an equitable world, the rule of law is the very foundation of communities of justice, opportunity and peace,” said Neukom. “Stanford Law School has an important role to play on an international stage in advancing the rule of law, and Sally and I are pleased to support that effort.”

The new Center will sponsor an annual research consortium, a named distinguished lecture series, graduate student research and policy labs. Unique among peer schools, SLS’s Law and Policy Labs provide students with hands-on experience advising government agencies and non-profit organizations about cutting-edge policy issues in real time. The impact of the law school’s policy labs will be amplified by using a rule of law lens on important legal issues, including access to civil justice, criminal justice reform, and freedom of speech. 

About William H. Neukom

William “Bill” Neukom is the founder and chief executive officer of the World Justice Project, an organization devoted to promoting the rule of law throughout the world. He is a retired partner in the Seattle office of the international law firm K&L Gates, and is a lecturer at Stanford Law School where he teaches a seminar on the rule of law.

Neukom was the lead lawyer for Microsoft for nearly 25 years, managing its legal, government and industry affairs, and philanthropic activities. He retired from Microsoft as its executive vice president of law and corporate affairs in 2002, and returned to his law firm and served as its chair from 2003 to 2007. Neukom was president of the American Bar Association (ABA) from 2007 to 2008 and received the ABA Medal in 2020. He was the chief executive officer of the San Francisco Giants baseball team from 2008 to 2011. Neukom joined the board of directors of Fortinet, Inc. in 2013 and currently serves as its lead independent director.

At Stanford, Neukom serves in several advisory roles, including as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council at Stanford Law School (which he chaired in 2013-14) and the Board of Directors of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He also has served as a volunteer for multiple Stanford Law reunion campaigns, and as a member of the steering committee and leadership council for The Stanford Challenge. The William H. Neukom Professor of Law Chair at Stanford Law School was established in 2002 and supports faculty working in human rights, intellectual property rights, ethics and legal responsibility, global rule of law issues, and antitrust and consumer protection. In 2011, Stanford Law School dedicated the William H. Neukom Building at Stanford Law School, which is named for his lead gift. 

Neukom is a trustee emeritus of University of Puget Sound and Dartmouth College, where he served as chair of the board from 2004 to 2007. He is chair of the External Advisory Board of the Population Health Initiative at the University of Washington. Neukom earned his A.B. from Dartmouth College and his LL.B. from Stanford University and has honorary degrees from Dartmouth College, Gonzaga University, the University of Puget Sound, and the University of South Carolina.

In 1995, Neukom and his children founded the Neukom Family Foundation, which supports nonprofit organizations in the fields of education, the environment, health, human services, and justice. He and his wife, Sally, live in Seattle and together have five children and sixteen grandchildren.

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 model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.