The Law School Goes Live

Two Stanford Law students file a claim for unpaid wages and penalties on behalf of a restaurant kitchen worker who lost his job after his face was burned by oven cleaner and his employer told him to “just wash it off.” Another student wins a motion to quash in federal district court for a client who posts a message anonymously on an internet message board and is subpoenaed by a Canadian pharmaceutical company that says it was defamed (see story, p. 7). A third student wins a summary judgment motion in federal district court that protects a nearly extinct freshwater fish species, the Santa Ana sucker, from destruction of the last areas of its “critical habitat.” 

These are just a few examples of how law students represent live clients in the School’s clinical programs, which are undergoing a dramatic expansion in size and scope. According to students, these experiences are exhilarating. 

The Law School has long pioneered superb simulated practice courses, from Federal Litigation to International Business Transactions to Deals. But two years ago, the faculty decided that we should build the premier clinical program in the country. 

Live client representation, after all, teaches invaluable lessons in practical judgment and ethical responsibility that cannot be learned in the classroom. Law school clinics benefit clients who otherwise would go unrepresented, and remind students that their responsibilities as lawyers extend beyond themselves to society. And, as alumni who worked with such giants as former Stanford Law Professor Anthony Amsterdam well know, working one-on-one with a great lawyer instills lessons that last a lifetime. 

To achieve this goal, the Law School recently hired two clinical faculty members and aims to raise that number to five in the near future. Associate Professor Bill Koski has worked for two years with law students in his Education Advocacy Clinic, most notably pursuing a lawsuit in federal district court against a nearby school district for its failure to educate disabled children. Last year the School hired Associate Professor Michelle Alexander ’92, whose new Civil Rights Clinic was immediately oversubscribed. Confirming our views of her legal talent, a lawsuit she filed on behalf of the ACLU of Northern California in 1999 just ended in a settlement limiting racial profiling by the California Highway Patrol (see story, p. 7).

Koski and Alexander joined a clinical program that already offered innovative, popular courses, including the Criminal Prosecution Clinic taught by Professor George Fisher (see story, p. 8), the Cyberlaw Clinic taught by Lecturer Jennifer Granick, and the Environmental Law Clinic taught by Lecturers Debbie Sivas ’87 and Mike Lozeau. 

The School continues to develop a clinic focused on civil practice in community law, taught this year by Visiting Professors Shauna Marshall from UC Hastings and Gary Blasi from UCLA. In this clinic, students learn the theory and practice of poverty law. 

But a poverty law clinic needs clients. Last year, when the East Palo Alto Community Law Project announced it was closing, we realized that local opportunities to represent indigent clients were in jeopardy. We decided that Stanford should take the lead in creating a new legal services office in East Palo Alto that would provide both clinical experience for students and legal aid for the community. 

The Stanford Community Law Clinic, which recently opened its doors in a newly renovated space in East Palo Alto, is the proud result of that effort. In just a few months, Stanford Law School-with the help of the University and the local legal community-funded, staffed, and housed a community legal services organization designed for clinical education. 

The Clinic is run by an experienced and expert legal staff (see opposite page). Students who work at the Clinic will represent clients who need legal aid with housing, wages, and government benefits. The Clinic will also provide students with pro bono opportunities to help local residents with guardianships, consumer rights, and small business transactions. 

As Stanford Law students represent increasing numbers of real clients in courtrooms, council chambers, school districts, and boardrooms, their education will be immeasurably strengthened. We aim, with your support, to make superb clinical training a lasting complement to the excellent training we provide in the classroom.