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International Law…Thriving at SLS

I was surprised by one question I was asked during our Admitted Students’ Weekend, which was whether our international law program was as strong as the program at some other schools.  It shows you how slow reputation is to change, because we’ve developed an amazing program in the last decade or so.

It starts with a substantial group of faculty whose expertise is in international law—all leaders in their respective subfields:  Al Sykes in international trade, Jenny Martinez in public international law, Allen Weiner in public international law and national security law, Amalia Kessler in comparative law, John Merryman in comparative law, Tino Cuellar in international criminal and administrative law and in national security law, Josh Cohen in international jurisprudence.  Plus, faculty in a variety of arenas teach international courses in their areas of expertise, such as Paul Goldstein’s courses in International IP Law, and Michael Wara’s in International Environmental Law.  There are, as well, visiting faculty each year from Europe, Latin America, and Asia teaching comparative courses.  In most years, SLS offers more than 25 international law classes – so many that our problem has been not spreading the students out too thinly.

But classes are only one part of SLS’s international program.  There are, for instance, joint degrees in International Policy Studies and in East Asian, Latin American, Eastern European, and African Studies—all capable of being completed in three years.  The school has also recently begun a program in and about China that has several basic courses taught by Mei Gechlik and that will include courses taught by visiting faculty from Peking University, Tsinghua University and possibly even the Central Party School.  Mei and/or the China Law Student organization oversee a variety of other activities, including several annual conferences, travel to China, and a new project in which SLS students will work with Chinese faculty and students translating and generating commentary about the Supreme People’s Court’s new “guiding cases” (the Chinese version of precedent).

Clinics and experiential learning are a key part of our international program, as they are of everything at SLS.  We just hired Jim Cavallaro from Harvard Law School, who will come and enlarge our international human rights clinic, spreading its reach from Africa to include Latin America.  And, remember that students at SLS do not take other classes while taking a clinic, which enables us to send them to work in-country for upwards of 10-11 weeks—something no other law school does or can do.  Similarly, the law school’s development/rule-of-law projects in Afghanistan, Bhutan and East Timor give students an opportunity to work on projects with lawyers and political leaders in these countries.

Stanford being Stanford, research opportunities naturally abound.  Most of the law school’s centers include international projects in their portfolio, and with Cavallaro’s arrival, we will be launching a new center on international human rights that will complement and work with similar centers in the medical school, the business school, the education school, and with the Program on Human Rights at the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI).  Law students and faculty similarly play key roles in other FSI entities—including the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), the nation’s oldest and most important center on security, which is co-directed by Tino Cuellar; the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), which includes the law school’s Rule of Law Program; the Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation (SCICN), which is directed by Allen Weiner; and various other centers both in FSI and across the University.  The law school then supplements all this with a steady stream of visitors from other countries to teach classes and participate in programs, conferences, and other special events.

On top of all this, we have created a plethora of opportunities for law students to study abroad in countries ranging from Mexico to Germany to Italy to Japan, China, Singapore, and more.  Just as important, or even more so, our Office of Career Services has a staff person dedicated to helping students find work abroad, whether for a summer or permanently.

Just so you know, this quick description just skims the surface of what is happening at the law school—and it scarcely touches the truly limitless opportunities available to law students in the rest of  Stanford University (as Dean Kramer says, at SLS “the University is the law school”).  Do we have the best international program in the country?  We think so.  At the very least, there is more here of high quality than any law student could realistically hope to take advantage of—even under our flexible program.

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