It employs more than 80 faculty and hosts over 500 students who are working towards their Juris Doctor (J.D.) or other graduate legal degrees such as the Master of Laws (LL.M.) and the Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.). It has an average class size of just 170, giving Stanford Law School the smallest student body of any law school in the top 15 of the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking. It also maintains the nation's first Supreme Court litigation clinic.
Stanford first offered a curriculum in legal studies in 1893, when the university hired its first two law professors: former President Benjamin Harrison and Nathan Abbott. Abbott was given control over the program, and assembled a small faculty over the next few years. The law department was almost exclusively composed of undergraduates at this time, and included a large number of students who might not have been welcome at more traditional law schools at the time, including women and Hispanic, Chinese and Japanese students.
In 1900, the department moved from its original location in Encina Hall to the northeast side of the Inner Quadrangle. The new facilities were much larger and included Stanford’s first law library. Beginning to focus more on professional training, the school implemented its first three-year curriculum, and became one of 27 charter members of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). In 1901 the school awarded its first professional degree.
Starting in 1908, the law department began its transition into an exclusively professional school when Stanford's Board of Trustees passed a resolution in 1908 to officially change its name to law school. Eight years later Frederic Campbell Woodward would be appointed the first dean of the school, and in 1923 the school was accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Stanford's law program officially transitioned into a modern professional school in 1924 when it began requiring a bachelor's degree for admission.
The 1940s and 1950s brought a great deal of change for the law school. Even though World War II caused the school's enrollment to drop to less than 30 students, the school made quick efforts at expansion once the war ended in 1945. A move to a new location in the Outer Quadrangle, and the 1948 opening of the law school dormitory Crothers Hall (the result of a donation by Stanford law graduate George E. Crothers), allowed the school to grow, while the publication of the Stanford Law Review started building the school a national reputation. The decision that Stanford should remain a small law school with a very limited enrollment was made during this period. For the third time in its history, the law school relocated in the 1970s, this time to its current location in the Crown Quadrangle.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the law school aimed to become more diverse. A great deal of new and progressive student organizations established themselves, several of which focused on legal issues which largely affected Chicanos and women. The first female and black professors were hired at the school during this period, and the school sought to academically diversify its student body by collaborating with the Stanford Business School to create a joint-degree program. In March 2011, Stanford was listed with an "A-" in the "Diversity Honor Roll" by The National Jurist: The Magazine for Law Students.
Earning national recognition in the 1980s and 1990s, the law school made efforts to make its curriculum more progressive. Classes were offered focusing on law relating to technology, the environment, and intellectual property, and international law, allowing students to specialize in emerging legal fields. Additionally, the school’s clinical program was established starting with the public interest East Palo Alto Community Law Project. By the dawn of the 21st century, the law school had created many new opportunities for its students to specialize and get involved in community projects. Over the past few years, a new focus on interdisciplinary education has emerged.
Academics and admissions
Stanford Law School is known for its uniquely low student-to-faculty ratio, with first-year classes counting approximately 180 students.
The academic program is flexible and includes a diverse array of courses and clinics. First-year students (or 1Ls) are required to take criminal law, civil procedure, contracts, torts, and legal research and writing during the fall quarter, and constitutional law, property, and federal litigation during the winter quarter. Upper-level courses range from white-collar crime to a Supreme Court simulation seminar. SLS also boasts a clinic program that allows student to get hands-on experience. The Supreme Court Clinic has successfully brought over thirty cases before the Court, making it one of the most active Supreme Court practices of any kind. Because of its proximity to other top academic programs on campus, there has been a growing focus on joint-degree programs and classes within the other professional schools.
Students run about thirty student organizations and publish seven legal journals. The most influential journal is the Stanford Law Review. Advocacy skills are tested in the Kirkwood Moot Court competition.
The Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford holds 500,000 books, 360,000 microform and audiovisual items, and more than 8,000 current serial subscriptions.
Stanford has a chapter of the Order of the Coif, a national law school honorary society whose stated purpose is to encourage legal scholarship and advance ethical standards of the legal profession. However, as part of Stanford's grade reform, the law school no longer awards the honors of the Order of the Coif or Graduation with Distinction.
Between 4,000 and 5,000 students apply for admission each year. Selection is extraordinarily competitive: the median undergraduate grade point average of admitted students is a 3.9 and the median LSAT score is 170 (out of 180). Beyond numbers, Stanford places considerable emphasis on factors such as extracurricular activities, work experience, and prior graduate study. About three quarters of the members of each entering class have one or more years of prior work experience and over a quarter have another graduate degree. In 2006, Stanford Law School's acceptance rate was 8.7%, one of the lowest in the nation. The Law School also accepts a small number of transfers each year.
In January, 2014 U.S. News & World Report ranked Stanford second in their overall law school rankings of US law schools. The school was also ranked by US News at eighth in the nation for clinical training.
Bar passage rates
Based on a 2001-2007 six-year average, the California State bar passage rate for Stanford Law students was 88.8%. In July 2010, 98% of Stanford law students taking the bar for the first time passed.
According to the American Bar Association for 2012 Stanford Law graduates, 91.71% are employed in a position that required for the graduate to pass the bar exam; 4.97% are employed in a position in which the employer sought an individual with a J.D. or in which the J.D. provided a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but which did not itself require an active law license; 1.1% are pursuing graduate work full-time; .55% have a deferred employment starting date; and 1.66% are unemployed and seeking employment. Based on a 2001-2007 six-year average, 98.7% of Stanford Law graduates were employed 9 months after graduation.
Programs and centers
Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program (ENRLP)
Rule of Law Program
Stanford Program in International Law
Stanford Program in Law, Economics & Business
John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics
Stanford Program in Law, Science & Technology (LST)
Martin Daniel Gould Center for Conflict Resolution Programs
Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance
In January 2011, Stanford was given an "A" (#4) in the "Best Public Interest Law Schools" listing by The National Jurist: The Magazine for Law Students.
Upon graduation, about a third of the class clerks for a judge; about half join law firms. Stanford alumni practice in 50 countries and 49 states, and are partners at 94 of the 100 largest law firms in the United States. Despite its small size, Stanford has produced the fourth-most professors of law in the United States, according to a 2009 study and the fourth-most clerks to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a 2000 finding.
The film Legally Blonde was originally set at Stanford Law School, which is also the setting of the book it is based on; however, Stanford did not approve of the script, so the setting was changed to Harvard.