Sitting down to write this letter, I’m reminded that we continue to face historic challenges in an ever-changing world. And I’m thankful for the Stanford Law community, which has remained strong. We wrapped up the 2021-22 academic year, during which we were able to bring faculty, students, and staff back to campus to what felt like a remarkably “normal” year of teaching, learning, and working (mostly) in person after months of a virtual and remote existence. It was enormously gratifying to see everyone come together eager to connect in person and bring life back to our classrooms and gathering spaces.
Here at the law school we are in the business of educating and training a diverse group of extraordinary students to be leaders, ready to make a difference in the world. Our cover story looks at one very special group of the SLS community—veterans who come to us with military experience and resulting unique leadership skills that benefit the law school and the profession after they leave us. SLS actively aims to attract students with military experience by enlisting students and alumni to meet with prospective students and understand the supportive community they’ll find at SLS. In this article you will learn how our alumni feel that serving in the military helped them while in law school and in their legal practice.
I always love reading about our alums who have distinguished themselves as leaders in their fields, whether in law, policy, or other pursuits. Dick Morningstar, JD ’70, has served in various positions including as U.S. ambassador to the European Union, special envoy of the United States Secretary of State for Eurasian Energy, and U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan. His knowledge of energy and security, particularly with regard to Russia and Ukraine, is critical now and his Q&A with Professor Allen Weiner, JD ’89, was enlightening.
Rick West, JD ’71, is an example of a fascinating pivot away from the practice of law and testament to the adage that a law degree is useful in many contexts outside of law. West is a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. He moved away from legal practice and made the shift to art and culture, becoming the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in 1990 and later serving as president and CEO of the Autry Museum of the American West. He retired last year but continues to serve as Autry’s ambassador to Native communities.
Lianne Worden, JD ’09, describes her work as chief of staff and counsel to the chief legal officer at Coinbase, a cryptocurrency company. She is also president of the new SLS Black Alumni Association (SLS BAA), which just finished its first year and is providing a blueprint on “how to launch” for other alumni affinity groups.
As always, here on campus our faculty and students are focused on how they can use their expertise to make an impact working on real-world problems. Professor Michelle Wilde Anderson’s new book, The Fight to Save the Town, is a years-long exploration of four struggling American cities. Her deep research, including interviews with more than 250 residents, paints a picture of struggle but also community, where solutions to the challenges of diminishing tax bases, poverty, and violence are not simple. Another real-world problem is the justice gap in this country, which is rapidly widening. In almost three-quarters of all civil litigation in the United States, at least one party does not have a lawyer. Low-income Americans, moreover, do not get sufficient legal help for 92 percent of their civil-legal problems, which involve securing and protecting basic needs, such as housing, education, health care, and safety. These access-to-justice issues disproportionately affect people of color, seniors, veterans, and survivors of domestic violence. Our students are trying to use technological innovation to tackle this challenge in a policy practicum co-taught by alum Mark Chandler, JD ’81, described in an essay co-authored by Chandler and Catherina Yue Xu, JD ’24 (BS/MS ’18).
These are just a few of the inspiring stories you’ll read about in this issue. I hope they will reinforce the pride that I know we all have for this amazing institution and the faculty, students, and alums who continually break ground and offer insights to grappling with complex problems.