Professor Charles W. Kingsfield Jr., the fictional law professor made famous in The Paper Chase for his intimidating interactions with students, seems a bit dated in 2010 and that aloof teaching style certainly doesn’t match that of Stanford Law’s faculty today. Here, the small class size fosters faculty and student interaction, and professors have a reputation for being approachable.
But they are still—well—faculty.
“I remember not needing to attend office hours but wanting to go just to get to know my professors. I guess I could have made up clever questions for an excuse to go, but I didn’t,” says Kevin Mills ’11, co-president of the Law Association.
Mills and co-president Jennifer Cain ’11 (MBA ’09) heard similar stories from fellow law students—that they wanted to get to know their professors, to benefit from their experience. So they proposed a mentorship program and with the help of Stephanie Ahmad ’11 and Laura Conniff ’11, the program launched in fall 2009 with 25 faculty members leading groups of seven. Approximately 100 1L and 50 2L students participated this year.
The mentoring focuses on relationship building. There is no formal agenda—just a requirement that groups meet once a quarter in a casual setting. Topics for discussion run the gamut from course study to campus lectures to events, but actual career guidance is not given—though it may be an organic outcome of the bonds that form (this is a key differentiator from the Public Interest Mentoring Program, which is career-focused).
“It’s really a great way to get to know a faculty member outside of the classroom and in a smaller group setting,” says Theodore Kider ’12, who is in Dean Larry Kramer’s group. “With the class size and the faculty we have, it makes sense to get everybody talking and interacting from the first quarter of our first year on campus.”
“It has been great fun for us as faculty members to get to know students in a more informal setting than that provided by classroom and office hours,” says Amalia D. Kessler (MA ’96, PhD ’01) professor of law and Helen L. Crocker Faculty Scholar. “It’s also an important chance for us to find out what the students are thinking about—what excites them, what worries them, and what we as a school can do to help. And happily, I’ve also found that the conversations continue after our group meetings, since students whom I might not otherwise have met then feel empowered to come speak with me one-on-one.”