An intimate conversation with former Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak about the Right to Dignity. A briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on real time applications of International Humanitarian Law. In depth conversations with a leader of the Druze minority community about the relationship between religion, state, and ethnicity. These are just a few snapshots from the Stanford Law School Israel Trek, a privately organized initiative that took nearly forty SLS students on a week long, legally focused journey to Israel. This inaugural trip aimed to bring students in direct contact with the practice of law in an international context by delivering a panoramic view of the most important features and challenges of Israel’s legal system.
Israel, a young country with a rich tradition of jurisprudence derived from British Common Law, Civil Law, and American sources, provided a perfect opportunity to add a critical dimension to the law school global experience. The composition of our group, equally divided between JD and LLM students, ensured that our conversations would be dynamically comparative and geared towards building substantive connections between these communities. Because this trip was student-conceived and led, we were able to craft an experience that addressed the most salient issues in Israel’s legal landscape while also furthering Stanford Law School’s commitment to expanding the bounds of legal education and determination to bring its students into contact with the law as it is developed and practiced outside the United States. According to Allie Valicenti J.D. ‘19, “as someone who hopes to work on a career that will cross boundaries, this trip was a valuable encounter with the nexus of legal and cultural issues that the very best lawyers need to navigate, no matter their area of practice.”
Our itinerary ranged broadly across exposures to constitutional, corporate, and human rights law. We met former Chief Justice Aharon Barak and current Supreme Court Justice Daphne Barak-Erez, visited one of Israel’s premier tech-oriented boutique law firms, and heard from the General Counsel of Wix about the legal opportunities and challenges in Israel’s hi-tech sector. We engaged with law students and professors from Israel’s top law school at Tel Aviv University and were briefed at the Syrian border about broader regional developments. We heard first hand from Dr. Naffez Nazzal, a premier Palestinian academic, author, and activist about the challenges presented by a stalled peace process, and met with leading intellectual and author Daniel Gordis. Throughout, the focus was to give our participants an intimate look at the nexus of law, culture, and politics in one of the most discussed countries on the planet. Mohit Khubchandani, a current LL.M. student from India reflects, “the trip breaks many long-standing myths about Israel. It’s a beautiful land with a rich cultural heritage. You have to be there to experience it.”
We hope that this trip can serve as a template for future student led trips to other countries, as Stanford Law School continues to educate its students to serve as legal leaders. Pritzker Professor of Law and Business Professor Robert Daines notes, “effective lawyers and policy makers of the future are likely to require understanding of and empathy for our increasingly globalized world. Student led trips to see the legal and business cultures of other countries may be one way for SLS students to gain this experience and to increase collaboration between our J.S.D, L.L.M and J.D. students.” We are excited for the future of these kinds of collaborations, and sure of the conviction that SLS has much to learn from and contribute to, the wider world.