Stanford’s Center on the Legal Profession Renamed after Founder Professor Deborah L. Rhode

Deborah L. Rhode

Stanford, CA – May 12, 2022 – Stanford Law School announced today that the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession (CLP) will be renamed the Deborah L. Rhode Center on the Legal Profession after founder and prominent legal ethics scholar, Deborah L. Rhode, who passed away in early 2021. Rhode, who was the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law at Stanford, established the CLP in 2008 to advance the legal profession through original research, advocacy, teaching, and public programs. As part of her legacy, Rhode’s estate generously donated funds to help endow the Center and its ongoing work. Members of the CLP Advisory Forum and other friends of the Center also contributed to ensure that the Center can continue to advance Rhode’s priorities and values.  

“Throughout her life, Deborah dedicated her talent, time and inexhaustible scholastic focus to bettering lawyers and the legal profession, and now her generous legacy will continue that work for years to come,” said Jenny Martinez, the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and dean of Stanford Law School. 

In March 2021, Stanford Law School (SLS) appointed two new faculty co-directors to lead CLP: Professors David Freeman Engstrom and Nora Freeman Engstrom. Under their leadership, CLP is continuing to focus on reforming legal-services regulation to increase innovation and access to justice and building a stronger, more diverse profession. Drawing on the new co-directors’ expertise, the Center has also added two priorities: understanding and shaping the role of technology in law and lawyering, and protecting consumers and clients in civil litigation.

Nora Freeman Engstrom and David Freeman Engstrom
Professors Nora Freeman Engstrom and David Freeman Engstrom

“It is such an honor to be leading a Center named for one of my mentors and heroes,” said Nora Freeman Engstrom, the current Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law at Stanford. “It’s also fitting that we are currently engaged in an ambitious multi-pronged effort to address the access-to-justice crisis—which was perhaps Deborah’s greatest priority.”  

Currently, the Center is pursuing a few specific projects to promote legal access, including a Policy Lab where students are conducting original research by interviewing innovative legal services providers in the U.S. and UK; a six-state pilot effort (called the Filing Fairness Project) to improve civil filing systems to pave the way for scalable technology that can assist self-represented litigants; and an upcoming convening of judges, lawyers and scholars on the challenges of multidistrict litigation. These national efforts continue to be heavily influenced by the lifelong work of Professor Rhode. 

As David Freeman Engstrom, LSVF Professor of Law, explained: “Thanks to Deborah’s estate and our generous supporters on the Advisory Forum, this new endowment will enable us to carry out high-impact work. We’re tackling fundamental research questions about access to justice—and then we’re building the infrastructure and the partnerships to answer those questions and effect real change out in the world by making the system work better.” 

About Stanford Center on the Legal Profession

CLP’s work focuses on reforming legal-services regulation to increase innovation and access to justice; understanding and shaping the role of technology in law and lawyering; protecting consumers and clients in civil litigation; and building a stronger, more diverse profession. The Center seeks to connect theory with practice and translate scholarly research to real-world impact. It is guided by an Advisory Forum made up of prominent leaders at law firms and corporate legal departments who provide insight into the challenges facing the profession.  

In its first decade, CLP published the first coursebook on leadership for lawyers and helped to introduce a cutting-edge course on leadership for law students at schools around the country, launched the Legal Design Lab to rethink the delivery of legal services, and helped accelerate efforts to diversify the profession.  In the last few years, CLP has focused on work with judges, state bars, and other policymakers to translate the findings of Rhode’s research into new approaches to legal-services regulation that increase innovation and access to justice.

About Deborah Rhode

Rhode was a pathbreaking and world-renowned scholar, teacher and advocate in the fields of legal ethics, access to justice, gender and the profession, and leadership. She was the nation’s most frequently cited scholar on legal ethics and authored 30 books in the fields of professional responsibility, leadership, and gender, law and public policy. Rhode graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Yale College and received her JD from Yale Law School. She clerked for United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall before joining the Stanford Law School faculty in 1979.

Read more about Rhode:
SLS Tribute
Stanford Celebration of the Life and Work of Deborah Rhode

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.