Stanford Law School
559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
Application Deadline: Feb. 3, 2014
Annual Tuition: $50,580
Class of 2015 Stats:
Acceptance Rate: 9.7%
Total Applicants: 3,966
Students of Color: 38.4%
Total Full-Time Enrollment: 575
Median LSAT: 170
LSAT Scores (25th-75th percentile): 168-173
Median GPA: 3.86
GPA Scores (25th-75th percentile): 3.76-3.96
Employed at Graduation*: 93.2%
Employed Nine Months Later*: 95.8%
Bar Passage*: 88.5%
“In order to figure out what a charge is supposed to be, I tried to find the origin of the idea of a ‘charge to the class’ and as far as I can tell—or, I should say, as far as Google tells me—there is not one,” Stanford Law School Dean Mary Elizabeth Magill said in her speech to the graduating class of 2013. “But, we are at Stanford—we don’t care about the pedigree of this term,” she added cheekily. Tied with Harvard Law School at No. 2 in the U.S. News ranking, Stanford Law School doesn’t lack the prestige of its East Coast counterpart, but it lacks (or at least appears to lack) a preoccupation with prestige. The dean’s charge to the class? Don’t lose yourself in your career, and bring Stanford’s sense of community to the world beyond.
Good weather puts people in a good mood, which could explain why SLS faculty and students seem unusually mellow. Faye Deal, Stanford’s Associate Dean for Admissions, writes The Fayemous SLS Admissions Blog, and in one post, she essentially tells over-planning applicants to chill out. “How many times have you gone on a road trip and decided to take a side trip along the way and do some exploring?” she asks. “How else would you have come across that little café or that fruit stand that had the coldest drinks in the heat of the summer? How else would you have discovered that hike which led to a glorious view of a valley usually only seen by those brave (or foolish) enough to ignore the private property signs?”
The students at Stanford also seem relatively far along in life—proof that high school dynamics don’t always plague law school. Many SLS students have spouses or live in San Francisco, 45 minutes away from the Stanford bubble. Some students even have families of their own. “For the Stanford Law Class of 2013, over a dozen babies were born to a class of 189,” recent graduate Jake Klonoski writes in a heartfelt blog post. His daughter was one of them. At SLS, Klonoski also faced his brother’s death and received an order to return to military service. “Looking back now, I realize how easily I might have given up on law school and how reasonable such a decision would have been,” he writes. “Reflecting on that time today, I believe staying at Stanford Law gave me more support than I would have gotten anywhere else.”
The sense of community is partly a result of Stanford’s class sizes. A typical 1L section has 30 students, and the vast majority of upper division classes have fewer than 25. 1Ls take a fair number of required classes, but there’s room for electives in the winter and spring terms, and upperclassmen have plenty of choice. Some offerings from the past few years: “Venture Capital II,” “Toxic Harms” and “Can Philosophical Insights or Empirical Knowledge Help Us Make Hard Choices?” For students seeking practical experience, there are 12 different clinics—including the Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic. Students who plan on sticking around Palo Alto might want to check it out.
In fact, many graduates do stay close. Employment statistics from the Class of 2012 show that the biggest chunk of graduates took jobs in the Bay Area (56); the next biggest chunk headed down to Southern California (33). The rest of the class scattered more or less evenly around the United States, with the exception of the Midwest. In previous years, New York and Washington D.C. also drew plenty of grads.
Though many graduates take jobs in law firms with 500 or more lawyers, that percentage has steadily decreased in the last few years: it was 52% in 2009 but only 34% in 2012. In the same timeframe, a bit more than a quarter of graduates have taken clerkships. Stanford’s site notes that “[a] substantial number of graduates work for one or more years before serving as clerks.” Graduates in private law firms earn around $160,000 a year, and clerks earn around $63,945. Those salaries certainly make life in San Francisco a little easier.
*Derived from school-reported U.S. News data
How Stanford Compares Vs. Peer Law Schools
|2013 TTS Rank||2||3||5||1||11||12|
|Employed At Grad||90.7%||90.9%||93.2%||93.2%||90.6%||93.1%|
Source: Schools reporting to U.S. News
Academics & Programs: “People are happy” at Stanford Law School, and why wouldn’t they be? There are “tons of programs,” an array of specialized centers, and a couple dozen joint-degree options. The ten clinics here include a Supreme Court litigation clinic and a cyber law clinic, just to list a couple. “The resources available to us at Stanford are fantastic, and sometimes unbelievable,” gushes a 2L. The “amazingly brilliant” and “diverse” faculty is “a great mix of practically minded and experienced—professors and wild-minded theorists.” Professors are “incredible lecturers and easy to approach outside of the classroom.” “I have yet to meet a professor who is not only doing something amazing but is completely approachable and dying to help us get jobs and do research,” gloats a 2L. Moreover, Stanford is “so small that everything is very easy to do.” “All of my seminars have had fewer than ten people,” gloats a 2L. “The university as a whole has a lot of red tape,” but the law school’s administration is “very receptive” and accessible at almost every level. “It’s the opposite of the ‘factory’ feeling at large professional schools,” explains a 3L. “If you want to do something new or nontraditional, just ask. Usually you can work something out.”
Campus Life/Facilities: The Stanford campus is “sprawling” and “beautiful,” with “acres of rolling green hills for hiking, and palm trees everywhere.” “The law school is hideous from the outside but, inside, it’s quite nice.” The library is a world-class research facility “and all law students have twenty-four-hour access to study there.” “I can’t study in any other university library,” admits a comfortable 1L, “because I have become too accustomed to the law school’s Aeron chairs.”
A few students call Career Services “underwhelming,” but “Pretty much everyone can get a firm job if they want one.” They can get that job anywhere in the country, too. Less than fifty percent of all newly minted Stanford Law grads take jobs in California. Stanford is also “seriously committed to public interest law,” and the “great loan repayment program” here is arguably the best in the country. Also worth noting is the impressive historical fact that well more than 100 Stanford law graduates have clerked for one of the Supreme Court Justices.
Of course, nothing is perfect, even at Stanford. Some students love the pass/fail grading system while others say it provides little incentive to work hard. Despite these complaints, though, students call Stanford “the best law school west of the Appalachians,” and they “have a hard time seeing why anyone would choose to go to law school anywhere else.”
“Small size makes for a more personal experience” at Stanford. Here, “You really get to know your classmates, and there is consequently no competitive behavior.” The academic atmosphere is “very collaborative.” There are “study groups galore.” Students describe themselves as “ridiculously smart people” who are “highly ambitious” and “work extremely hard.” “It easy to feel like you must have been admitted by mistake,” confesses an awed 1L. There is “lots of diversity” in terms of age, background, ethnicity, and pretty much every attribute. Some students call the political environment “overwhelmingly liberal.” Other students say “there’s a critical mass of right-of-center students,” and they point out that you definitely won’t see too many protests among law students. “Perhaps that’s because everyone harbors secret Supreme Court ambitions and wouldn’t want to pigeonhole their position on an issue somewhere the Senate Confirmation Committee could find it,” suggests a 1L. Certainly, “you won’t have to contend with snow or gloomy weather” at this school. “The weather is perfect ninety percent of the time.”
Some students call Palo Alto “a cultural wonderland” that has everything you need including “incredibly nice” graduate student housing located right next to the law school. Other students gripe, “Living in Palo Alto is like living in a suburb, which to anyone who is coming from an urban area will be a shock.” “A big percentage of Stanford students are married, or commute from San Francisco, so they have their own lives away from the school.” Extracurricular activity is constant for everyone, though. “Having the law school right in the middle of Silicon Valley allows for many practitioners, general counsels, venture capitalists,” and the like to drop by. Student organizations are profuse. “Everyone at Stanford is president of a club, editor of a journal, director of a pro bono, and a board member of a society,” claims a 2L. “Social events are plentiful,” and they are “always a hoot.” There is something of a fraternity-like culture if that’s what you are looking for, but it’s “not [an] overwhelming scene,” and we aren’t talking about people doing multiple keg stands. “You have to remember that everyone had to be pretty studious and dorky in order to get in here,” says a 1L.
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.