Stanford Law School Launches S-Term

Small Classes Taught by VIP Lecturers Entice SLS Students Back to the Classroom Before the Start of the Regular Term

STANFORD, CA, September 26, 2023— More than 85 Stanford Law School (SLS) students took advantage of the school’s new S-Term, a pilot program offered before the beginning of the regular school year. The S-Term, which was held September 11-21, allowed incoming second- and third-year students the opportunity to explore new areas of study and earn credit for no additional tuition.

S-Term students participated in one of five offered courses, all taught by “VIPs:” Very Important Practitioners and Visiting International Professors, three of whom are SLS alumni:

S-Term took advantage of the September window between the end of most students’ summer jobs and the start of classes. The pilot program allowed SLS to offer small classes taught by high-profile visiting lecturers who otherwise might not be able to teach a full course during the regular term. 

Stanford Law School Launches S-Term

“The S-Term was the result of faculty brainstorming over ways we can continue to innovate our course offerings and inspire the next generation of lawyers,” said Jenny Martinez, the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School. “S-Term emerged as an ideal way to bring more international and alumni guest lecturers to campus. The program allowed our students an additional opportunity to learn directly from some of the world’s top legal practitioners, academics, judges, regulators and others, while giving them the practical advantage of accruing a few credits before the start of the school year.”

A Global Focus

Subject matter with a global focus—which can include field study and international travel—is a centerpiece of several educational programs at SLS, including the S-Term. While not all of the S-Term courses had an international or cross-border focus, the field-study option was inspired by similarly-timed overseas study trips that SLS has offered in past years, including an international criminal justice course in the Hague. SLS students also have other opportunities for international experiences through SLS’s Global Quarter.

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The 13 students who took the S-Term course on legal reform and governance in Ukraine split their time between the SLS campus and Warsaw, Poland, where guest lecturers from Ukraine’s public and private sectors joined the class to lend their experience.

“Our course focused on the Herculean political, economic, legal, and regulatory challenges that must be confronted to manage Ukraine’s social and economic cohesion during wartime, while also looking ahead to what will be necessary to prepare for healthy and durable post-war reconstruction,” said co-instructor Michael Strauss, JD ’01. Strauss is the general counsel of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the largest institutional investor in Ukraine. 

Jensen said the class was developed, in part, because of student demand for Ukraine-focused courses. “The legal and policy issues related to Ukraine are some of the most urgent and compelling issues of our day and S-Term offered an ideal small-group forum for considering these issues,” he said. “We hope this truly unique course will lead to opportunities for students to participate in other projects to concretely assist Ukrainians as they strengthen their legal infrastructure.”

One of the students in the Ukraine class was Alana Murphy, JD ’25, who said she found S-Term to be “a rich, hands-on learning experience that has made my legal research and studies feel more purposeful.” Murphy added that traveling to Warsaw for the second half of the course allowed her to feel closer to the conflict in the country next door and to better understand the far-reaching implications. “My favorite course session was meeting with students from the University of Warsaw who have organized expansive programming supporting displaced Ukrainians in Poland. It was truly an honor to witness their drive and determination and to hear from Ukrainian students at the university dedicated to memorializing friends and classmates who have died defending their country,” she said. 

Tackling Hot Topics

Katharine Weymouth, JD ’92, former CEO and publisher of The Washington Post, said she was “delighted to be part of the first S-Term at Stanford Law School” and added that the opportunity was as much an educational experience for her as for her students. “I never would have imagined when I was an SLS student that I would one day return to campus to teach a class,” she said. “In fact, this is my first-ever teaching gig and the opportunity to build a class from the ground up has offered me a learning experience right alongside the students. I have really enjoyed connecting with students and talking about some of the issues I have spent my career focused on: the role of the media in an ever changing landscape; the first amendment and its limits; and the erosion of public trust in the so-called mainstream media, along with other topics.”

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Kara Salovaara, JD ’24, took the Changing Media Landscape class and said she enjoyed learning about Weymouth’s in-the-trenches experience with complex issues of free speech. “I also benefited from hearing the nuanced perspectives of other journalists and editors of large news publications who visited our class,” Salovaara said. “On our first day, when we got to hear from both Ms. Weymouth, and Kevin Merida, executive editor of the Los Angeles Times, I thought, ‘only at SLS!’” 

Gregory Schwartz, JD ’25, said he took the class, in part, “to learn about the tension between an informed public and national security from editors who oversaw the Snowden leaks,” he said. “The opportunity to learn from the reporters actually making those decisions has been remarkable.”

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.