Stanford Law School Receives $3 Million Grant to Further Develop Afghan Legal Education Project

Stanford Law School today announces its innovative program—the Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP)—was awarded a $3 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) to further develop and refine the integrated Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws (BA-LLB) degree program at AUAF’s campus in Kabul, Afghanistan. The double-bachelor’s law degree program trains 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. Since its launch as a student-driven initiative in 2007, Stanford Law School students have helped develop textbooks, design courses, mentor AUAF students in international moot court competitions, and build support for the program through symposia and campus events.

The law degree-granting program is the most ambitious of a long series of efforts to fortify legal education in Afghanistan by Stanford Law School since 2007 through its Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP) in collaboration with American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). Since 2010, INL/State has steadfastly supported ALEP and its efforts to build a center of excellence in legal education at AUAF where approximately 50 percent of the law students are women.

The program uses textbooks–soon to be a dozen online–written by Stanford Law students. The textbooks are rigorously vetted with Stanford faculty, AUAF law faculty, and other legal experts and practitioners in Afghanistan. The curriculum emphasizes practical skills, professional responsibility, and substantive instruction in criminal, commercial, comparative, Islamic, and international law.

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, 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.

AUAF law graduates have assumed positions in the legal field, government, international organizations, social service, and academia.  ALEP and AUAF aspire to create not just thought leaders, but leaders who will be at the fore of Afghan law and development.

“ALEP is widely viewed as one of the best rule of law projects in Afghanistan. I am pleased that our students at SLS understand and are motivated to play the long game in delivering excellence in legal education in Afghanistan against all odds. So many have contributed to the success of this project both here and in Afghanistan. I’m gratified by the commitment of our students to the project and the quality of their work. On the Afghanistan side, I’m impressed by commitment and quality, but also by the tremendous resilience and courage of the law faculty and students at the AUAF,” said the grant’s Principal Investigator 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). He added, “INL/State has been and is a superb donor and partner willing and able to problem-solve the many challenges of implementing this program.”

“The Department of Law at AUAF is the university’s premier academic unit and has graduated highly talented and well-prepared lawyers who are transforming Afghanistan.  The female alumni are particularly active in promoting equality of rights for women,” said Kenneth Holland, President of the American University of Afghanistan.

“This program has proven itself invaluable to those working to rebuild Afghan institutions,” said Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School M. Elizabeth Magill. “Our students and faculty have shown their commitment to this exciting program year after year, gaining meaningful experience and learning from peers in Afghanistan in the process.”

For Joe DeMott, JD ’18, the program provided a chance to connect his previous academic interests in the Islamic world with meaningful legal work: “ALEP has allowed me to apply the skills I’m learning in law school to a cause that I care about: promoting the rule of law in the developing world,” he said. “As a member of ALEP, I’ve helped produce three textbook chapters that will actually be used at AUAF.”

ALEP’s student co-leader Stephanie Jill Birndorf, JD ’18, echoed that sentiment: “Meaningful relationships between AUAF and Stanford students and faculty make ALEP textbooks more relevant and motivate students to go the extra mile in promoting legal education in Afghanistan.”

“ALEP’s impact goes well beyond AUAF, contributing meaningfully to the development of the wider Afghan legal education system and training a new generation of legal professionals and leaders ready to meet the challenges facing Afghanistan,” said Mehdi Hakimi, executive director of the law school’s Rule of Law Program and former chair of the law department at AUAF.

The ALEP grants are the largest federal grants Stanford Law School has received. The AUAF law degree-granting program has graduated three classes so far.

About the Afghanistan Legal Education Project
ALEP was founded in 2007 as a student-driven initiative. ALEP will soon complete publication of 10 textbooks about Afghan law for Afghan audiences, and has an additional three forthcoming. In 2012, ALEP received a $7.24 million grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL). This grant has allowed ALEP to expand its textbook-writing capabilities and also helped ALEP to establish the BA-LLB (Bachelor of Arts and Law) degree program at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). Today, ALEP runs much like a small development organization and is student-led with faculty and staff support. ALEP members get experience in comparative law, as well as the satisfaction of creating work products that are immediately useful. 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.