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Peter Thiel’s Quest for One-of-a-Kind Ideas

If he had it to do over again, Peter Thiel said, “I’d still go to Stanford, I’d probably go to law school.” But, he told a packed audience at Stanford on Monday night, when he was young he was probably too driven by the need for prestige. Now he believes, “There is no wisdom in crowds. There is ferocious competition! This is anti-Malcolm Gladwell.”

Stanford Law School Dean M. Elizabeth Magill and Peter Thiel

Stanford Law School Dean M. Elizabeth Magill chats with Peter Thiel

Thiel came to campus to discuss his belief that every great company is built around a secret, which is one of the key themes from his new book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. His visit was sponsored by Stanford Law School and the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES). M. Elizabeth Magill, dean and Richard E. Lang Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, moderated the Q&A session after Thiel spoke.

After he founded PayPal, Thiel made a wise investment in Facebook and startled many with his and $100,000 grants to teens who “stop out” of school, Thiel earned a BA/BS (’89) at Stanford and a JD (’92) from Stanford Law School. It was, he said, “where I feel my whole life began.”

Just a few years later, he found himself at a New York law firm “where everyone on the outside wanted to get inside and everybody on the inside wanted to get outside.” He lasted seven months and three days.

His current focus is to find “one-of-a-kind companies where people are on a mission to do something no one has done before.” Instead of competing against other businesses for market share, he said, “It should be the goal of every company to be a monopoly.” He gave the example of a restaurant in Palo Alto trying to distinguish itself from many competitors by claiming to serve the only British food in town, whereas a monopoly like Google “basically has had no competition in search since 2002.”

Because we’re taught that competition is valuable, it’s a hard habit to break, Thiel said. “Yet when the differences are small, you have to fight much harder to differentiate yourself.” He recalled Henry Kissinger’s description of his fellow faculty members at Harvard: “The battles are ferocious because the stakes are so low.” Sometimes people are so busy fighting to get through a small gate, Thiel noted, they overlook the large door around the corner.

People also get talked out of their ideas before they fully form them, convinced by others that they’re strange or weird. Or they don’t even try to think of something new because they figure that things that haven’t been discovered are too hard to figure out. “If you think there are no secrets to be found, you are not the person who will find them,” Thiel said.

Watch a video of Peter Thiel’s talk at Stanford.

Five Leading Scholars Join Stanford Law School Faculty

STANFORD, Calif., September 24, 2014 – Stanford Law School welcomed five new professors this fall to expand its curriculum in evolving areas of law at the intersection of technology, health policy, psychology, criminology and local government. The new additions bring the school’s total number of core faculty to 60, the highest in the school’s history.

The new faculty members are Michelle Wilde Anderson, a public law scholar and practitioner focused on state and local government; Robert MacCoun, a social psychologist and public policy analyst who has analyzed topics ranging from drug legalization to the military’s “Don’t’ Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; Michelle Mello, an expert in issues related to law, ethics and health policy; Lisa Ouellette, who specializes in intellectual property and patent law; and David Sklansky, an expert in criminal law and procedure and a former federal prosecutor.

new-stanford-law-school-faculty-2014-sm

“This is an incredible year for Stanford Law School. We welcome five exceptional faculty members, each of whom brings sophisticated knowledge to bear on some of the most pressing issues of our day,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, dean and Richard E. Lang Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. “To a person, they are great teachers and mentors as well. We could not be more pleased to welcome them.”

Local Government Expert

Michelle Wilde Anderson, who has been appointed a professor of law at Stanford Law School (SLS), brings expertise in urban policy and city planning. She has researched legal restructuring options and state oversight tools for cities and counties on the brink of financial collapse, and has written about the local governance of high poverty areas. She comes from Berkeley Law School, where she was an assistant professor of law.

Anderson previously worked as an environmental law fellow at Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger and clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. She holds a BA from Yale University, an MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a JD from Berkeley Law School.

Psychology and Behavioral Science Expertise

Robert MacCoun holds a joint appointment as a professor of law at Stanford Law School and as a senior fellow with the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. During two quarters as a visiting professor at SLS in 2012, he said he was impressed by the “intensively interdisciplinary environment, with faculty engaged in empirical social science, the humanities, science and technology, and real-world problem solving.”

MacCoun is a renowned psychologist and behavioral scientist who has studied illicit drug use, drug policy, alternative dispute resolution, judgment and decision making, social influence, and bias in the use and interpretation of research evidence. His analyses of military unit cohesion were cited during “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” debates about inclusion of gays and lesbians in the military.

Prior to his faculty appointment at SLS, he was a member of the faculties of Berkeley Law School and the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. Before that, he was a behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation. He earned a BA at Kalamazoo College, and an MA and PhD at Michigan State.

Law and Health Policy Scholar

Michelle Mello, another new professor of law at SLS, holds a joint appointment as a professor of medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine. She is a leading empirical health law scholar who has focused on understanding the effects of law and regulation on health care delivery and population health outcomes. She has written on topics including the medical malpractice system, medical errors and patient safety, research ethics and pharmaceuticals.

Before joining SLS, Mello was a member of the faculty and director of the Program in Law and Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. She also was a key consultant to the National Program Office of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s program in Public Health Law Research, studying disclosure and compensation of medical inquiries. She holds a BA from Stanford University; an M.Phil from Oxford University, where she was a Marshall Scholar; a PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a JD from Yale Law School. In 2013 she was elected to the Institute of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

Intellectual Property Expert

Lisa Ouellette has joined the SLS faculty as an assistant professor law specializing in intellectual property (IP) law, with emphasis on the economic effects of U.S. and international patent laws on innovation. Her strong background in physics and law enables her to bring practical experience and scientific expertise to analyses of IP issues, enhancing Stanford Law School’s reputation as a leader in law and technology policy.

Ouellette was a postdoctoral associate in law and a Thomson Reuters Fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School prior to coming to SLS. She previously clerked for Judge John M. Walker, Jr., on the U.S. Court of Appeals and for Judge Timothy D. Dyk of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. She received a BA in physics from Swarthmore College, a PhD in physics from Cornell University and a JD from Yale Law School.

Criminal Law Expert

New SLS Professor of Law David Sklansky has expertise in criminal law that is grounded in his experience as an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, where he specialized in white-collar fraud prosecutions. In that role, he served as special counsel to the independent review panel appointed to investigate the scandal in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart Division. He has written extensively on topics that include the political science of policing, the regulation of jury deliberations, the application of the Fourth Amendment to surveillance technologies, and the relationship between criminal justice and immigration laws.

Sklansky was a visiting professor at Stanford Law School in 2011. Prior to coming to SLS, he was a member of the Boalt Law faculty and the UCLA School of Law faculty. He won campus-wide Distinguished Teaching Awards at both UCLA and U.C. Berkeley. He also practiced labor law at Bredhoff & Kaiser. He clerked for Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. He holds an AB from U.C. Berkeley and a JD from Harvard Law School.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

 

Stanford study finds that clean energy is good politics

This story was written by Clifton Parker and was published Sept. 15, 2014 in the online version of the Stanford Report.

Renewable energy seems like good politics on either side of the aisle, according to a new Stanford study that scrutinized how states across America use clean energy.

Dubbed The State Clean Energy Cookbook, the study was created by Stanford’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance and the Hoover Institution’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy. The project was co-chaired by Stanford’s George P. Shultz, former U.S. secretary of state, and a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution, and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a Stanford Law School alumnus (JD ’68) who chaired the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and serves as a Distinguished Fellow at Steyer-Taylor.

State Clean Energy ReportOverall, the study analyzes and makes specific recommendations regarding 12 clean energy policies. In short, it’s a roadmap or blueprint for how to approach clean energy now and into the future.

The researchers noted that in the last two years alone, GOP-dominant “red” states have adopted policies that could serve as models for others seeking to meet proposed federal targets for reducing heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions.

“There’s no blue or red tinge to it. It’s across the board,” said Shultz.

Indeed, the report evokes “an encouraging conclusion” noting, “both red states and blue states are turning green – whether measured in dollar savings or environmental improvement.”

Dan Reicher, executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center, said that Democratic-leaning states are using more green energy for environmental reasons, while more conservative states are following suit to reduce energy costs and to boost the electrical grid’s reliability through the use of various power sources.

He explained that these policies could be particularly valuable as states develop plans to meet pending U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations to cut power plant carbon emissions. The study also analyzes the U.S. Department of Energy’s State Energy Program, which assists all 50 states.

“Most of the policies we discuss in the report have met several tests. They are already on the books; they are in operation in both blue and red states; they enjoy good support; and, implemented well, they can be cost-effective,” Reicher said.

For example, North Carolina is a solar power innovator. It ranked third among states, after California and Arizona, for solar capacity installed last year, according to the report. One of its largest utilities got the state’s go-ahead to offer green power – produced in and out of the state – to commercial customers that run energy-hungry data centers.

Then there’s Colorado, considered a “purplish” state, or moderate, politically speaking. It was the first state to allow community solar gardens, whereby people who don’t have rooftops viable for solar panels can join others on projects that will produce grid-connected power. California and Minnesota have recently adopted similar programs.

The report describes states as the “laboratories of democracy” when it comes to energy efficiency for adopting innovative programs and policies that could be beneficial for the future.

It illuminates, as Shultz put it, “what works and what doesn’t.”

U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Carlos Bea to Focus on Religion in Constitution Day Lecture on Monday

STANFORD, Calif. September 12, 2014 – The controversy swirling around the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which allows for-profit corporations to restrict health care insurance benefits based on religious beliefs, provides a timely backdrop for Stanford Law School’s annual Constitution Day lecture.

Judge Carlos Bea (BA ’56, JD ’58), a former competitor on the Cuban Olympic basketball team and current judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, will speak at 4:45 p.m. Monday in Paul Brest Hall. His talk is open to the public, but registration is required.

Judge Carlos Bea

Judge Carlos Bea

The Constitution Day lecture is held each year in honor of “Constitution and Citizenship Day,” which commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

“Judge Bea has led a fascinating life, is an admired jurist and will address the deeply interesting topic of religion in the public square,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, Dean and Richard E. Lang Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.

Describing his Constitution Day lecture, Judge Bea said, “Supreme Court decisions have provided several tests by which to determine the constitutionality of religious displays on public property and the religious content in government actions. … In my talk, I hope to help explain the path the court has taken in making these decisions, and where it might be going in light of its most recent decision, with a view to determining how much religion can be put in or talked about in the public square.”

Born in Spain, he was just 5 years old in 1939 when his mother, a widow, whisked him and his brother out of Europe after learning that the Germans had marched into Poland. They endured a frightening voyage across the Atlantic, worried that German submarines would sink their ship, and landed in Cuba, where his father and grandmother had been born. Then his mother decided to take them to California. He explained in a 2007 address to the Board of Immigration Appeals, “She assured us that with cities named San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, everyone in California spoke Spanish.”

Judge Bea wound up studying at Stanford for his undergraduate and law degrees, where he played on one of the best basketball teams in Stanford’s history, a move that proved to be his saving grace when he was later faced with deportation. Already a strong player as a sophomore, he won a spot on the Cuban Olympic team because of his family background and played in the 1952 summer games at Helsinki, then delayed his return to the U.S. for a year. He held a student visa when he sought U.S. citizenship two years later, and the hearing officer accused him of trying to avoid the draft and issued a deportation order.

Judge Bea got lucky when the chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), Thomas G. Finucane, turned out to be an avid basketball fan and began quizzing him on what position he had played at Stanford. A few months later, the board reinstated Bea’s residency.

Judge Bea credits Carl Spaeth, then Dean of the Law School, and faculty members with giving him a tremendous amount of support during this trying time. “When I finally won in 1958, I threw a party, and a lot of the faculty came,” he recalled in a 1990 interview with Stanford Law magazine.

Mindful of his own difficult path to citizenship, Judge Bea touched on the topic during an address to the Board of Immigration Appeals in 2007. “We are a nation of immigrants and the subject is a vital one for all of us,” he said. “Every time an Albert Einstein invents a theory, an Arnold Schwarzenegger becomes a governor or a rookie Hispanic judge writes a dissent, I am reminded that immigrants aren’t just a previous generation long gone, they are an ever-changing contribution to our society, which really is a melting pot.”

More on Judge Carlos Bea

Judge Carlos Bea was nominated by President George W. Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2003 and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Prior to that, he served in private practice for 31 years, specializing in construction and business litigation. In 1990 he was appointed by California Gov. George Deukmejian to the San Francisco County Superior Court bench, where he handled complex litigation cases, including two concerning the use of the gasoline additive MTBE.

While in private practice, Bea taught courses in civil litigation advocacy as an adjunct professor at Hastings College of the Law and as a Lecturer at Law at Stanford Law School. He received the Pro Bono Recognition Award from the State Bar of California in 1989 for his work on pro-bono immigration cases. He was named an Honorary Vice Consul of Spain from 1979 to 1993 and received three decorations from the King of Spain and the Spanish government in recognition of his service.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

Stanford Law School’s Lucas Guttentag to Advise Obama Administration

STANFORD, Calif., September 8, 2014 – Stanford Law School’s Lucas Guttentag began serving the Obama administration today as Senior Counselor to the recently confirmed Director of U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), Leon Rodriguez. USCIS is a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“I’m honored and delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the administration at this very important time on an issue to which I’ve devoted most of my professional life,” said Guttentag, who has taught courses at Stanford Law School (SLS) since 2012 and was appointed Professor of the Practice of Law in 2014.

Lucas Guttentag

Lucas Guttentag

“We will miss Lucas Guttentag’s expertise at Stanford Law School, but we are pleased he will share that expertise with the nation at this critical time,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, Dean and Richard E. Lang Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.

Guttentag described his new role as “advising the director on policy matters in support of the administration’s efforts to improve and reform the immigration system.” The White House announced last weekend that President Obama has decided to postpone action on immigration reform until after the November elections.

Guttentag has a long history of expertise in immigration law and rights. He founded the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation in 1985 and was its national director for 25 years. He has argued major class action and constitutional cases on behalf of immigrants before the U.S. Supreme Court and many federal circuit and district courts for three decades.

In 2001 he successfully argued a case in the Supreme Court that established the right of immigrants to have independent federal judicial review of administrative deportation orders. He has litigated other cases that challenged the indefinite detention of Haitian refugees at Guantanamo Naval Base, a federal law penalizing citizens and immigrants who marry during deportation hearings, and numerous challenges to state and local immigration laws.

More About Lucas Guttentag

Guttentag was named a Human Rights Hero by the American Bar Association’s Human Rights journal in 2001, was honored as one of the leading immigration advocates of the last 25 years by the National Immigration Forum in 2007, and was chosen as California Lawyer of the Year for Appellate Law by California Lawyer magazine in 2002. He received the annual outstanding litigation award from the American Immigration Lawyers Association four times.

He received his JD cum laude from Harvard Law School and his BA with honors from the University of California at Berkeley. Early in his career, he served as law clerk to Judge William Wayne Justice in Texas and practiced civil rights law in Los Angeles. In addition to being on the Stanford faculty, he was regularly teaching at Yale Law School.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School (www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global expertise, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.