Stanford Law School Empirical Research Fellowship FAQ

When is the preferred time to apply for this position?

Applications for the 2023 cycle will be made available in Fall and will be evaluated on a rolling basis.

To whom should I address my cover letter?

Please address your cover letter to both of the following professors:

  • John J. Donohue
  • Daniel Kessler

Should I specify the professor with whom I'd prefer to work in my cover letter?

Please feel free to specify if there are particular research areas that are of interest to you, but we do not suggest that you specify individual faculty members.

After the cohort is assembled, the faculty members carefully match skill sets and interests of the incoming cohort to the needs of expected projects for the upcoming year. This means that you can expect to work with faculty whose projects match your research interests, but we cannot guarantee specific placements.

Are there ideal references?

We are most interested in references who can speak to your academic research skills. While we require at least two academic references, we welcome additional academic or professional references if you believe they can speak to relevant qualifications for the position. All references should be available to speak over the phone regarding your application. Please be sure to include the name, title, institution, phone number, e-mail address, and relationship to the applicant for each reference.

In the past, typical references have included faculty members (e.g., thesis advisors, seminar supervisors) or employers from a research environment.

Letters of recommendation are not required, but can be submitted if available. Letters of recommendation must be signed and sent to by the recommender.

What kind of writing sample should I submit?

The most important requirement of the writing sample is that you are either the sole author or a main contributor to the work. For example, we would greatly prefer to read a paper written solely by the applicant for a class assignment than a paper published in a reputable social science journal to which the applicant contributed little.

The ideal writing sample would be an empirical piece that utilizes well-known empirical, econometric, or statistical methodologies to analyze a research question. In so doing, it would typically present substantive data analysis and/or data visualization. Writing samples may be drawn from an honors thesis, published journal article, class writing sample, etc. However, other writing samples will be accepted if you do not have a sample that meets the above criteria.

Please feel free to submit additional writing samples in the Additional Documents section if you are uncertain about which one to submit.

Can I apply if I don't have substantial programming experience?

We have a strong preference for candidates with statistical programming experience. However, some prior fellows have started the job with only minimal prior programming experience, but with exceptional enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Since many Stanford faculty are pushing the frontiers of data science in a variety of fields (e.g., computer science, statistics, economics, and political science), past fellows have frequently taken advantage of the opportunity to enhance their skill sets in these areas.

Do you accept international applicants?

Applicants with OPT are eligible for the fellowship, and applicants who require J-1 visa sponsorship may also meet eligibility requirements. However, due to the pandemic, the availability of a visa or work authorization will depend on current government, travel, and embassy restrictions. You may read more about visas here.

When is the typical start date for the position?

Professors will work with new hires to determine a mutually agreeable start date. Fellowships typically begin in the late spring or early summer to allow for sufficient overlap between incoming and departing fellows, although earlier and later start dates can sometimes be accommodated.

Will fellows be working in person or remotely in 2023-2024?

Fellows work onsite at the Stanford Law School campus or in a hybrid capacity. Whether the 2023-2024 class of fellows works onsite will depend on the University’s health and safety guidelines for the duration of their fellowship.

What type of research will I be working on?

Stanford Law School is a leading research institution in empirical law and economics and empirical legal studies. Fellows assume critical responsibilities for core research projects spanning many substantive areas, such as criminal justice, anti-discrimination, public health, employment, public finance, voter turnout, judicial behavior, and environmental regulation. Previous fellows have had the opportunity to work on projects that have had a profound impact on both public policy and modern legal scholarship.

For example, previous fellows have investigated the impact of right-to-carry laws on crime, conducted research that led to legislative and constitutional reconsideration of capital punishment in Connecticut, explored predictive analytics to improve federal mining safety regulation, worked on policy reports to shape California disability policy, conducted field experiments to analyze voter behavior and improve food safety systems in major metropolitan areas, and modeled the effect of health care reform on opioid prescribing behavior.

I have submitted an application. When can I expect to hear back?

There will be two rounds of application review. Applications are evaluated on a rolling basis until all positions have been filled, which may happen as late as spring 2023 for the second round of hiring. All applications are regarded as under consideration until that time.

Whom should I contact if I have additional questions?

If you have any additional comments or questions, please send them via e-mail to Please note that we receive a large volume of applications, so we have limited capacity to answer questions at early stages. Do not contact the professors or their support staff with questions about hiring.