Preparing Lawyers for Today’s World Practice: Transforming Legal Education

As a Stanford undergraduate in the late 1960s, Mary Cranston ’75 (BA ’70) rejoiced in the depth and breadth of coursework she was able to take on the way to a bachelor’s degree in political science. So when she entered Stanford Law School a few years later, she was somewhat puzzled. Here was one of the finest law schools in the United States, surrounded by some of the top minds in humanities and sciences, business, engineering, earth science, and medicine. Yet aside from JD/MBA candidates, relatively few Stanford law students ever ventured outside Crown Quad. • “If students just stay in the law school community and don’t go out there and see some of the other things on campus, I think they’ve missed a big opportunity,” said Cranston, who will step down as chair of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in December after eight years in the position. Particularly in an era of incredible technological change and globalization, she firmly believes that “the lawyers who are going to lead the profession are the ones who are able to cross over into other areas.” • Two years ago, as a member of the law school Dean’s Advisory Council, Cranston shared her ideas on interdisciplinary legal education with then-incoming Dean and Richard E. Lang Professor of Law, Larry Kramer. As it turned out, she was not alone. Many alumni told Kramer they wished that Stanford Law School had made it easier for them totake courses and to get to know professors and students from other university schools and departments.

“It was a pervasive theme in conversations with alumni,” Kramer recalled. “In thinking about it, we realized that the rest of the university is training our students’ future clients. The graduates of professional schools and various relevant departments in the humanities and sciences—they are the people our graduates will be working with and for in a few years. And good lawyers need to understand what their clients do. So the idea became to utilize the rest of the university to create a more three-dimensional legal education.”

Thinking like clients

Kramer remains committed to maintaining what Stanford Law School does best: teaching young people to “think like lawyers” through rigorous courses in legal reasoning and case analysis. At the same time, he is intent on building bridges to the wider campus so that students can learn to think like clients, too.

One goal is to set up more joint master’s and PhD programs similar to the longstanding JD/MBA program but with the schools of engineering, education, humanities and sciences, medicine, and earth science. Equally important, Kramer would like to develop course “concentration” sequences for law students who are not seeking joint degrees but want to explore interdisciplinary topics in moderate depth. The agenda also includes new simulation courses designed to teach students to work in teams, more clinical opportunities, a beefed-up international law program, and better interdisciplinary advising.

A major first step took place last January, when law school professors voted to adjust the law school calendar to match that of the university, modifying not just the current semester system but also the days of the week and hours of the day in which classes are taught. For the next several years, this means a modified semester schedule, with the plan being to switch fully to quarters in the fall of 2009.

“We’re proceeding slowly because there are many complexities,” said Dean Kramer. “We want to handle them responsibly and be sure we do what’s best for our students.”

As the dean explains, traditional legal education is “relentlessly solo. But of course once you graduate you almost never work that way again. It’s all teamwork, and the teams are not all lawyers but also clients.” Law students who understand how clients think, what their vocabulary is, how to work with them, and how to solve their problems, he said, “have a huge advantage on any career path.”

Stanford is uniquely qualified to offer this kind of interdisciplinary experience, Kramer added. “What we’re doing here no other university has done, and almost no other university can do, because they don’t have the same number and quality of professional schools. Harvard and Yale, Chicago and Columbia don’t have engineering schools at all. And there’s nothing close to the environmental program here in the School of Earth Sciences.”

Mark G. Kelman, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law and Vice Dean, echoed the point.

“If a law student is interested in medical ethics and wants to work with people in the School of Medicine, we have a medical school right here,” he noted. Harvard’s medical and law schools, in contrast, are 45 minutes apart; Harvard’s business school is across the river. “Stanford,” he said, “has tremendous strengths across the board. It’s a close-knit campus. And we have a commitment on the graduate school side from professors across the campus who really want to work with us.”

Standing room only

Professors are not the only ones who are enthusiastic about the law school’s plans to expand its interdisciplinary curriculum. During last year’s Admit Weekend, Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid Faye Deal set aside one small room for a half-hour session on joint degree opportunities. When the program had finally started, there was a standing-room-only crowd.

“I’ve been here at the law school for 21 years, and it’s amazing how many students are applying now from the hard sciences, like physics and chemistry,” she said. “Applicants really take to the idea of not just spending all of their time in the law school. The message is out there: To be effective lawyers you have to do more.”

Last year the law school introduced a new joint JD/PhD degree program with Stanford’s Department of Sociology—and is nearing completion of similar programs with education, engineering, medicine, earth sciences, and a variety of relevant departments in humanities and sciences including economics, political sciences, history, psychology, and philosophy. Similarly, joint degrees will be established in international studies, area studies, and public policy.

Admission to these joint programs won’t be easy—applicants will have to meet stringent entrance requirements of both the law school and the graduate program of their choice. Still, the new agreements will allow some courses to be counted toward both degrees, thereby reducing the time commitment.

“The bottom line is that students can shrink the amount of time they have to spend getting two degrees by a year or more, which is a lot,” said Jeff Strnad, the Charles A. Beardsley Professor of Law, who has been conducting many of the negotiations with other departments. “That makes this the most attractive joint degree program in the nation, if not in the world.”

For law students interested in interdisciplinary study but not prepared to undertake a full-blown joint degree program, the dean’s office is working with faculty from other departments and schools across Stan-

Teaming Up for Interdisciplinary Study

Take eight Stanford law students plus eight doctoral students in the natural sciences and engineering. Add an enthusiastic instructor who holds graduate degrees in both law and physics. What do you have? The recipe for real interdisciplinary education in a seminar course on patent expert witnessing.

Scheduled for the first time this fall, Scientific Evidence and Expert Testimony: Patent Litigation is one of several innovative team-oriented problem-solving courses being developed at the law school to enable law students to work closely with graduate students from beyond Crown Quad and vice versa.

Like real attorneys, law students in these interdisciplinary courses will have to listen and learn quickly as their graduate student classmates try to explain their discipline’s terms and processes in laymen’s terms. Then the law students will have to set forth the relevant legal issues in language the graduate students can understand.

“We’re creating a lot of these courses, feeling our way through and generating them as we go along,” said Dean Larry Kramer. “They round off our formal legal education by giving students opportunities to solve problems and work with the people they’re going to work with in the future.”

Preparing Lawyers for Today's World Practice: Transforming Legal Education
Roberta J. Morris

The instructor for the patent litigation seminar will be Roberta J. Morris, a former adjunct professor at the University of Michigan Law School who has practiced and taught patent law for many years. Her credentials—a Harvard law degree followed by a doctorate in physics from Columbia—make her particularly well-suited to teach the interdisciplinary course.

After initial study of patent issues and expert witnessing, students will divide into teams of four, each with an expert and a litigator for plaintiff and an expert and a litigator for defendant. Every team will choose a patent related to the graduate students’ research, and the law students will select the legal issues on which experts would testify if the patent were ever litigated. The teams will prepare for simulated court hearings involving expert testimony, both direct and rebuttal. In the final weeks of the course, each team will present its simulations to judges who are experienced patent litigators with degrees in science or engineering.

“You can find courses on scientific evidence and expert testimony at many law schools,” Morris explained, “but they’re usually about things like DNA and fingerprinting.” What makes this course particularly interesting, she added, “is that each student will have to educate the others about his or her area of expertise for an end that’s really a complete interdisciplinary combination. That’s so unusual.”

At least two other team-oriented interdisciplinary courses are planned for the coming academic year. One is a seminar on modern terrorism, to be led by the law school’s Allen S. Weiner, associate professor of law (teaching) and Warren Christopher Professor of the Practice of International Law and Diplomacy, and Amir Eshel, an associate professor of German studies. The second is a course on California’s coastal land use and marine resource decision making. It will be taught jointly by Stanford environmental law faculty Deborah A. Sivas, director of the Environmental Law Clinic and lecturer in law, and Meg Caldwell ’85—senior lecturer in law and director, Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy Program, and senior lecturer, Stanford Institute for the Environment—together with Alexandria Boehm, an assistant professor in Stanford’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

ford to put together some recommended course lists to enable “concentrations” in fields outside the legal arena. Law students interested in patent law might take a product design sequence at the School of Engineering while those planning a career in business law will receive credit for classes such as accounting, finance, organizational behavior, and capital markets.

Another planned innovation involves “team-oriented, problem-solving simulation courses.” The idea here, said Dean Kramer, “is to take students from different disciplines, put them together, give them a problem or two, and the course will be to solve that problem together.” In an upcoming expert witness course, for example, eight law students and eight science and engineering graduate students will pair up to tackle some hypothetical lawsuits for patent infringement. Other team-oriented courses may focus on intellectual property protection, congressional oversight, medical ethics, and energy.

Hands-on experience

Besides wishing they had better interdisciplinary experiences in law school, many alumni told Kramer that they would have liked more opportunities to practice their legal skills on campus before going out into the real world. The opinion is shared by two recent major studies on legal education, the American Bar Association’s Survey of Law School Curricula and the Carnegie Foundation’s forthcoming book Educating Lawyers. Both recommend that American law schools adopt a more practice-oriented approach.

Susan Robinson, Stanford Law School’s associate dean for career services, hears a similar refrain from recent graduates. “New attorneys often feel that they’ve been really well trained in how to spot issues and how to analyze the problem,” she said, “but they are not necessarily given a lot of the practical skills that they will need to practice.”

To meet the increasing demand for hands-on legal education, Dean Kramer has pumped significant resources into the Stanford Legal Clinics, starting with a $2 million renovation of the clinic work area and the 2005 appointment of Lawrence C. Marshall, David and Stephanie Mills Director of Clinical Education, Associate Dean for Public Interest and Clinical Education, and founder of Northwestern Law School’s Center on Wrongful Conviction.

Stanford law students can participate in any of nine clinics, including the longstanding Stanford Community Law Clinic, which provides free legal assistance to low income Bay Area clients; the Criminal Prosecution Clinic affiliated with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office; the new Capital Defense Clinic; the new International Community Law Clinic: Ghana focusing on economic development and human rights in Ghana; and clinical programs centering on Supreme Court litigation, cyberlaw, education advocacy, environmental law, and immigrants’ rights. Plans are under way to create new clinics that focus more on transactional work as well.

Marshall’s immediate aim is to provide a quality clinical experience for every student who wants one. Ultimately, he would like Stanford to be the first law school in the nation to require hands-on training for all its future lawyers.

The goal as he explains it, however, is not for all Stanford law students to go out and become public interest lawyers. Instead, Marshall wants “them all to go out and know that no matter what they’re doing, the license to practice law creates an opportunity to make the world better, one person, one life, or one issue at a time.”

Beyond borders

Another curricular area that Dean Kramer would like to strengthen during his term is international law. Currently, Stanford’s international program, like that of most law schools, focuses on matters of public international law, such as human rights violations and treaties between nations. It’s a highly respected group of scholars studying “very important issues,” Kramer said, “but only a small number of our graduates are actually going to deal with that when they leave here.”

For the vast majority of law students, learning something about how to deal across borders with private clients, businesses, and attorneys is going to be more useful. To that end, Kramer hopes to establish some joint international studies degree programs with Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the School of Humanities and Sciences. He’s also on the look-out for outstanding faculty in the areas of trade, tax, development, and foreign investment. Among his recent hires: Alan Sykes, a nationally recognized expert on international trade from the University of Chicago [see page 25].

A final, essential piece of the puzzle, as Kramer sees it, is student advising. As he explains, in the traditional legal curriculum there were not many choices to make, so students could talk to anybody on the faculty and get answers to their questions. But with all these new options in the law school buffet—joint degree programs, concentrations, interdisciplinary courses, clinics, and international programs—students are

An International Perspective

For Michael Jacobson ‘80, senior vice president and general counsel of eBay, globalization is not just something he reads about in the morning papers. It is a major part of his day-to-day working life.

“At eBay we operate in north of 30 countries now, and I have lawyers in 22 of them,” said the attorney, who earned his JD from Stanford in 1980 and joined the pioneering online marketplace in 1998. “There are many issues that cut across boundaries,” he added. “My San Jose–based intellectual property team needs to be aware of more than just U.S. intellectual property law. And my employment and benefits team spends more than half its time on global issues as opposed to U.S. ones.”

eBay isn’t the only company looking for internationally savvy lawyers.According to Susan Robinson, Stanford Law School’s associate dean for career services, more and more employers are on the look-out for talented young hires who can navigate laws regulating private relationships across national borders.

“The practice of law has become a very global industry,” she noted. “Law firms, public interest organizations, government organizations—they all have aspects of their work that are internationally focused, and even in a transaction between two domestic companies, there may be international issues that you want to take into consideration.”

Preparing Lawyers for Today's World Practice: Transforming Legal Education 1
Michael Jacobson ‘80

Stanford historically has had a strong reputation in public international law, which deals with subjects like the United Nations, treaties, and international human rights. Building on that, Dean Larry Kramer hopes to hire new international faculty in the coming years to teach and do research in such fields as international business, development, and tax. The school made a good start this past year by hiring international trade scholar Alan O. Sykes, a veteran University of Chicago economist and lawyer who serves as associate editor of the Journal of International Economic Law.

Working with Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar (MA’96, PhD’00), associate professor of law and Deane F. Johnson Faculty Scholar, Sykes plans to organize an international law workshop next year that will bring to campus guest speakers who will give students a window on the historical development of international legal arrangements, as well as address some problems that justify transnational regulation. In the fall, he will teach a first year class on torts and in the spring of 2008 a course on international trade law.

Case studies in Sykes’s international trade law classes cover a wide spectrum of World Trade Organization disputes, ranging from controversies over U.S. steel tariffs and cotton subsidies to European Union regulations against the sale of American hormone-raised beef and genetically modified food products.

“It would have been nice if there had been courses on these kinds of things when I was in law school,” said Sykes, who earned his JD and doctorate in economics from Yale before entering private practice and academia.“Whether it’s traditional trade or investment arrangements, services trade, securities work, or mergers and acquisitions, an awful lot of stuff is transnational,” he said. One way or another, lawyers of the 21st century “will have to become familiar with international law—and with the laws of foreign countries that bear on the work they’re doing.”

bound to be somewhat overwhelmed. “You don’t want to just throw students into the middle of it and say, ‘Figure it out,’” he said. “We need to create a good system for individual advising of students so they can put together a curriculum that makes sense for each of them.”

In the end, law students will have to decide for themselves how far they want to venture beyond the security of Crown Quad. If you ask Mary Cranston, though, their time could not be better spent.

“Look at what lawyers are called upon to do in the world today. It’s way beyond what a traditional lawyer would have done 20 or 30 years ago,” she noted. “The basic skills that lawyers need to be truly strategic advisers to their clients are much broader; you do need to understand business and you need to understand technology.” Stanford University, her alma mater, “is an incredible resource for law students.” And the sooner they start crossing those new bridges, the better.