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Stanford Law School

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Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is a graduate school located at Stanford University near Palo Alto, California. The school was established in 1893 and employed approximately 50 faculty members. It also hosts over 500 students working towards their Juris Doctor degrees.

Stanford Law School is among the most prestigious law schools in the United States. It is often ranked in the top three US law schools by US News & World Report and is currently ranked second. Stanford Law School has educated some of America's most influential legal minds, including Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist and former Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Today, the school continues to produce leaders in the legal field, such as Chief Justice of California Ronald M. George.


A Comprehensive History of Stanford Law

In 1893, Stanford University established its law program with the late California Senator Leland Stanford's widow, Jane Stanford. The Stanfords had initially wanted to create a university in memory of their son, Leland Jr., who had died from typhoid fever at age 15. But upon learning that constructing an entire university would take too long, they decided to focus on law school instead.

The university's first two law professors were Benjamin Harrison, a former President of the United States, and Nathan Abbott. Harrison delivered a series of lectures on the Constitution while Abbott oversaw the law program. Abbott put together a small faculty that he taught to be excellent in their field, instilling in them the rigor and excellence that Stanford University is known for. And thus, the story of SLS began.

SLS was one of the first coeducational institutions in the country and admitted its first class of students in 1895. The school moved to its current location in 1900.


Stanford Law

Admission to Stanford is not easy. Although many law schools claim to have a holistic approach to admissions, SLS is one of the few famous as a black box. The admissions committee looks beyond an applicant's numbers in order to craft an accomplished but balanced incoming class. SLS seeks a diverse student body and encourages underrepresented minorities or those with unique life experiences to apply.

Each year, between 4,000 and 5,000 students apply to Stanford Law School. Admission is very competitive, with the median undergraduate GPA of accepted students being 3.9 and the median LSAT score being 169. However, grades and test scores are not the only factors considered for admission; extracurricular activities, work experience, and prior graduate study are also considered.

Stanford Law School requires applicants to submit either LSAT or GRE scores as part of the application process. On average, Stanford Law applicants who submit LSAT scores have a score of 171, while those who submit GRE scores have an average score of 328. In addition to test scores, Stanford Law also looks at letters of recommendation and essays when making admissions decisions.

Approximately three-quarters of each entering class at Stanford Law School has had at least one year of work experience before starting law school, often in fields such as politics, nonprofits, teaching, banking, or consulting. Additionally, over a quarter of students have completed another graduate degree before beginning their studies at Stanford Law.

Stanford Law enrolls a JD class of around 180 students every fall, making it one of the smaller law schools compared to others in the top 14 rankings. In addition to this, Stanford has 11 full-time legal clinics and offers 27 joint degree programs.

In selecting students for the JD program, two main criteria are considered: the applicant’s intellectual ability and aptitude and the overall diversity of the class admitted. The first criterion, aptitude, recognizes that lawyers must be good at analytical and intellectual abilities. The second criterion, diversity, contemplates that diversity will improve the quality of education at the law school by enabling the exchange of differing views in and out of class and will improve the school’s training of lawyers who take the lead in representing diverse groups and interests.


Admissions Stats
Class of: 2020-2021 2021-2022
25th - 50th - 75th percentile LSAT 169 - 171 - 174 170 - 172 - 175
25th - 50th - 75th percentile GPA 3.77 - 3.89 - 3.96 3.72 - 3.86 - 3.96
Acceptance rate 10.5% 6.3%
Applications received 3807 5685
Acceptances 399 357
Matriculants 1500 1230

Acceptance Rate

In 2005, the law school's acceptance rate was 7.8%, making it the second most selective law school in the United States after Yale Law School. Stanford Law School has an acceptance rate of 6.28% for the class of 2020, making it one of the most selective law schools in the country. The school also accepts a limited number of transfer students each year.

In the 2022 application cycle, 5,685 people applied to Stanford University, and 357 were offered admission. Out of the total number of admitted students, 161 accepted the offer, meaning that the overall yield rate was 45.10%. This means that nearly half of the students who were offered admission to Stanford ended up attending the school.

Application Fee

The Stanford Law School requires all applicants to submit a nonrefundable application fee of $85. This fee must be submitted by credit card through LSAC. If an applicant is unable to pay the fee, they may review and complete the SLS Fee Waiver Application Instructions and Form. The completed form must be submitted to the Office of Admissions as soon as possible. It is important to note that the SLS fee waiver process is distinct from that of LSAC. Allow 5-7 business days for a decision and factor in this timing to ensure you adhere to the application deadline. If you're not sure about applying to law school or just beginning the application process, then please take the time to read some of the excellent pre-law articles found here.


Information for Transfer Students

Transfer students at Stanford have either completed one or more years at another college or university or have gained professional or life experience outside of traditional academia. This includes students from community colleges, four-year institutions, and non-traditional students of all ages. Military veterans are also welcome in the transfer community at Stanford.

The Admissions Committee at Stanford Law School reviews applications from students who wish to transfer to the school with advanced standing. If open spots are available in the second-year class, and the applicant has shown academic excellence in their previous law studies, they may be accepted. The previous law studies must have been completed at a law school that is part of the Association of American Law Schools.

To be eligible for admission to Stanford Law School's two-year J.D. program, applicants must have completed at least one year of law study at another institution. Admission with advanced standing is only granted to candidates who intend to spend two full academic years enrolled at Stanford. Candidates may only apply for admission to the second year of the J.D. program, which begins in the fall term.

The associate dean will decide the amount of unit and residency credit given to transfer students for admissions and financial aid. In most cases, a transfer student will receive three-quarters of residency credit and no more than 40 quarter units of credit. However, in some exceptional circumstances, a student may be given more credit but never more than 45 quarter units of credit for courses completed at another law school. One semester unit is equal to 1.3 quarter units. The admission offer to the transfer student will list the residency and unit credit that has been determined. The academic transcripts of each transfer student from another law school will be carefully examined to determine if the student has completed all the courses that a first-year Stanford Law School student must take. If it is found that the student has not finished all the necessary courses, then the offer of admission will state which courses still need to be completed.

Keep in mind that SLS has an early deadline for transfer applications, June 15. For more information on personal statements and application essays, check out the TLS Guide to Personal Statements.



In 2022, The Princeton Review ranked Stanford No. 2 in "Best Classroom Experience." No peer school can boast of higher accessibility of professors. Though two Stanford faculty members were included on the National Law Journal's most recent list of the nation's 100 most influential lawyers, students can and do enjoy dinner in their professors' homes. Students say their professors "truly want to teach," and they also serve as powerful advocates when a student applies for a clerkship or an academic position. Professors' words of praise will certainly have extra weight since they have the opportunity to know students on a more personal basis.

Student-to-faculty ratio: 7.6 to 1
Full-time faculty: 65

Recent Initiatives

In recent years, the university and law school have been working hard to prepare for a new century of academic excellence. The university has constructed a graduate residence available to law students, and it has earned rave reviews. The law school is on the quarter system, so it matches up with the rest of the university, allowing students to more easily take courses in other departments. Grades in law school have also changed to honors, passes, restricted credit, and no credit system to take some of the pressure off students.

A brand new academic building opened in 2011. Though it did not replace the older law building, it provides additional seminar and clinic space, as well as new faculty and staff offices. Of course, Stanford strives to maintain the student-faculty interaction that it is famous for. Well-designed meeting spaces are on each of the new building's three floors.


The Robert Crown Law Library is amazing, according to its users. From the "super comfy" Aeron chairs to the ubiquitous power outlets, the library is everything SLS students could ask for. The furnishings are "clean and new" and avoid the 19th-century look of other law libraries. The library has more than enough room for students to study, sleep, or do just about anything else. It boasts a sturdy seating capacity of 508 for SLS's 575 students. Whether students need a place to collaborate, study in absolute silence, or do some free printing, the library provides an inviting, well-lit place to do it.

The law library at Stanford holds 500,000 books, 360,000 microform and audiovisual items, and more than 8,000 current serial subscriptions.

In addition to these items, the law library also provides access to some databases and electronic resources. These resources include legal research databases, e-journals, e-books, and more. The law library also provides access to many online legal research guides.

The law library is open to the public Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-5:00 pm. Visitors can access the law library by entering the main entrance on Serra Street. A valid photo ID is required for entry.

The law library at Stanford is a great resource for legal research and information. This is a great place to start your search if you are looking for legal resources.

The first floor of the Law Library is where you will find the main entrance, circulation desk, reference desk, student computers, and conference rooms (for SLS affiliates only). This is also where you will find federal materials, Vrooman popular reading titles, and specialty collections. The second floor is a quiet study space available 24/7 for SLS students, faculty, and staff. This is also where you will find the "Teaming Room," which provides scanning, printing, and faxing services. The basement houses most of the Law Library's browsable print collection, including folios. The Locked-Stacks is a closed stack space that houses selected print materials and the Law Library's microform collection. You must visit the Circulation Desk on the first floor to access materials in the Locked-Stacks.

Quality of Life

Students who are guaranteed housing in their first year: 100% Months of the year in which weather makes it difficult to traverse the Stanford campus: 0 SLS is 45 minutes from San Francisco, 30 minutes from the beach, and 3.5 hours from the snow.


Located at the northern end of Silicon Valley, the school is technically in Stanford, Calif. Generally speaking, this means Palo Alto. Palo Alto and Stanford have a combined population of about 75,000 and are wealthy and suburban, with multi-million-dollar homes a common sight. Crime is low, and the surroundings mostly range from pleasant to gorgeous. Nevertheless, not everyone enjoys spending time there. One student likened the city to "a suburban Disneyland for adults," and is put off by the "endless strip malls, though they are all upscale in nature."

Stanford students generally live, study, and party on campus, for its 8,000 acres provide enough activities for them. As a result, one student remarked, "SLS exists in a bubble, but it's such a nice bubble it hasn't bothered me too much. " Downtown Palo Alto and its Caltrain station are roughly two miles away from the law building, and students can drive to the ocean or San Francisco in less than an hour. World-class wine tasting in Napa Valley and great skiing in Squaw Valley are only a few hours away. Closer to home, Stanford students can bike over the sprawling campus and hike in the nearby foothills. The Mediterranean-like climate with its 300 days of sunshine encourages students to stay active and sane. "It's true that the good weather makes me want to go out more, but it also helps me feel good about myself when I'm studying in the library and I look out and see palm trees and mountains. It puts things into perspective," one student said.

Medium stanford3.jpg

The dearth of public transportation is one sore spot for students. The campus shuttle is convenient for getting around Palo Alto, but to go anywhere else, a car is practically a necessity. Of course, many students do not own cars, so those who do are sure to be popular any time their classmates want to take advantage of the Bay Area's amenities.

Student Culture

Above the Law reported in 2013 that Stanford ranked fifth in a survey on law school social life (that is, party schools). The admissions office does a stellar job of finding 170 students who can all get along with one another. Students say that getting to know their classmates is "very easy" since they see each other so often. Perhaps as a result, another said that "this place generates the sort of trust and collegiality that makes people feel OK about leaving their laptops in the library unattended for hours."

Since classmates form close bonds, students feel that they will have a very powerful network once they graduate, despite the relatively small number of Stanford alumni. Students collaborate and share notes and volunteer to help sick classmates catch up on the class material. In fact, one student who fell ill said, "They picked up groceries for me, drove me to doctor's appointments, and just came by to visit and cheer me up when I was having a really hard time." The one downside of this closeness is that gossip spreads quickly and "everyone knows everyone else's business."

Because it is difficult to get into and around San Francisco without a car, students spend much of their free time on campus and in town, especially during their 1L year. To relax and socialize students often host apartment parties or head to Bar Review in downtown Palo Alto. Students are encouraged by their peers to find an appropriate balance of work and play. "Studying all the time is not an acceptable way to be here, but neither is out all night, never coming to class," said one. Most students are satisfied with the nearby options for cutting loose, but 2Ls and 3Ls do head to San Francisco in increasing numbers, suggesting that they exhaust Palo Alto's fun after a while.


1Ls are guaranteed housing on campus so long as they are willing to accept what the school assigns to them. Many students will likely be assigned to the brand-new Munger Graduate Residence, a short walk from the law school. Named for donors Charles and Nancy Munger, the new residence has won universal praise from SLS students, with many calling it "the most beautiful student housing I've ever seen," or declaring that it is "like living in a hotel." The buildings feature studio, 1-, 2-, and 4-bedroom apartments. Prospective tenants will be glad to know that each spacious bedroom in the building has its own private bathroom. The 4-bedroom apartments have two refrigerators and four and a half bathrooms in their 1,800 square feet, so everyone should have enough room to spread out.

One-bedroom apartments are available in Munger for those with a spouse or domestic partner, but the number of spaces is extremely limited. Students with children will have to explore other options such as the older on-campus housing at Escondido Village, located about a mile away. Escondido Village is a collection of low-rises and larger apartment buildings. As for the quality of the other on-campus options, one student said that "aside from Munger, the student housing isn't particularly nice, even if it is convenient." Yet, another student said, "Housing is phenomenal, especially for couples and people with children." Admitted students are encouraged to visit and decide for themselves.

Employment Prospects

The Stanford J.D. has a national reach, but about half of graduates stay in California for their first job. New York City and Washington, D.C., take about 10% of the class each, and the rest is spread out around the country and internationally.

Impact of the Recession

The recession affects the entire legal profession, including the very top. The number of jobs in large law firms has decreased, and those who pursue that route will have fewer options than they would have had a few years ago. Nevertheless, Stanford students still feel secure in their employment prospects. Despite the state of the economy, Stanford students take comfort in the fact that they attend the best law school on the West Coast and one of the best in the nation. As one student put it, "anyone who really wants to make $160,000 coming out of school will probably be able to do it. "

Furthermore, around 50% of SLS's graduating class does not pursue large law firm jobs, opting instead for judicial clerkships (which often lead to large firm jobs), government, or public interest work. Stanford's generous need-based financial aid and its Loan Repayment Assistance Program make it easier to pursue these options.

Law Firms

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, many companies have stopped doing business there. This has cost them money and put them at risk, but it is the right thing to do to avoid supporting Russia's war effort. Law firms have responded slower, but hopefully, they will catch up soon.

The grading system can be a concern during firm interviews. Firms are not always sure how to interpret the honors and pass grades. Since those who earn honors grades tend to earn them in most of their classes, that leaves everyone else with nothing but a "pass" on their transcript. "You actually can be doing pretty well and have straight P's apparently. But there's no way for an outsider to tell if that's the case just from the transcript and firms are resisting actually evaluating people as individuals," one student said. Because of Stanford's place in legal education, firms will adapt to it, so this should become less of a worry as time goes on. Here is the Law Firm Interview Tips.


Many students at Stanford Law School choose to clerk for judges and justices after graduation. For 49 years, graduates have been clerking for justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Most graduates who choose to clerk do so in the U.S. Courts of Appeals or U.S. District Courts or at the highest state appellate court level. Approximately 43% of each graduating class opts to the clerk at some point after graduation.

There are many reasons to consider a clerkship as you begin your legal career. Clerkships offer the opportunity to work closely with a judge and learn about the inner workings of the judicial system. They also provide one or two years of practical training and enable you to make valuable professional contacts in the substantive and geographical areas you hope to practice. In short, a clerkship can be an ideal stepping stone into any legal job.


In 2020–2021, Stanford Law School placed an impressive 80% of its JD students in tenure-track positions at top institutions around the country. This includes Columbia Law School, Cornell Law School, Georgetown Law School, Stanford Law School, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

Stanford's academic culture is further strengthened by its highly successful fellowship programs. These programs have placed 80% of participants over the past four years, with 26 hires total—the best record among large fellowship programs. Current fellows are often willing and able to provide guidance and advice to JD students on both informal and formal levels, such as through shared workshops on legal academic subjects.

Tuition and Expenses

The tuition for the upcoming academic year 2021-2022 is $64,350. This needs to be paid in three installments in October, January, and April.

For a single student, room and board in university residences cost approximately $31,557 for the 2021-2022 school year. This includes the cost of required books if they are purchased new. Local costs for transportation, clothing, recreation, and the like vary. Most single students find they need to budget a total of at least $107,055 for the school year. This allows them to have a comfortable lifestyle while attending university.

Financial Aid

They strive to make a Stanford Law education affordable for all students, regardless of their financial situation. Tuition fellowships, government loans, and private loans are available to students who demonstrate financial need. On average, 75-80 percent of students receive some form of financial aid, with the average fellowship amounting to $25,000-$28,000 per year. Students who pursue public service careers may also be eligible for annual fellowships, funding for summer work, and generous loan repayment options.

Curriculum and Specialties

Stanford Law School offers courses in various legal subjects, including environmental law, international law, and tax law. The school also offers joint degree programs with other Stanford University graduate schools. The Stanford Law School curriculum allows students to explore various legal topics while also providing the flexibility to tailor their studies to their interests and goals.

Stanford Law also provides four advanced legal degrees: the Master of Laws (LL.M.), the Master of Studies in Law (MSL), the Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), and the Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD). These additional degrees allow students to further specialize their skills and knowledge in specific areas of the law.

Public Interest Program

Stanford Law

Many students are quick to mention the emphasis the administration puts on public interest. Beginning in a student's first year, pro bono opportunities abound, and over 80% of students take part in pro bono and public interest opportunities in one way or another through the Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law. Students may put their new legal skills to work assisting survivors of domestic violence, at-risk youth, or senior citizens, among others. Students point out, though, that public interest is not pushed on the class. Students who choose not to participate or who are dead-set on private practice are not stigmatized. Rather, the administration merely gives students "ample opportunity to try both and see what they are like."

Those who wish to make a career out of public interest law can rely on Stanford's Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which the school claims is more generous than those of its peers.

Business and Corporate Law

While the cooling economy has lessened the demand for corporate lawyers, Stanford Law School still excels in producing lawyers expert at representing technology companies and venture capitalists. For those with strong work experience prior to law school, the combined JD/MBA degree may open some doors and has been the launching pad for many entrepreneurs.

Many students at SLS gravitate toward business law, but it does not dominate the school's atmosphere. As one student explained, "Most people expect to go to a firm, but the I have to make partner' mindset is absent. A lot of people see firms as a stop on the way to the in-house job of their dreams, or are just going public interest after graduation."

Stanford has multiple programs dedicated to corporate law, including the Rock Center for Corporate Governance. Students especially interested in business law may wish to join the Stanford Journal of Law, Business & Finance.

Intellectual Property Law

Stanford Law School's proximity to Silicon Valley helps explain its expertise in intellectual property law. In 2000, SLS founded the Center for Internet and Society, which examines the interrelationships between the Internet and our society and the many constitutional and public policy legal issues that are being raised by the Internet. In the same vein, students may participate in the Cyberlaw Clinic.

Environmental Law

Environmental conservation is a top priority in beautiful Northern California. As a result, Stanford has built a solid reputation and course offerings in environmental law. Students interested in environmental law may participate in the Environmental Law Clinic or join the Stanford Environmental Law Journal.

International Law

Because of the great number of exports and imports that flow out of the Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bay area, Stanford Law School is well-positioned to be among the top law schools for international law. Students interested in human rights or immigrant issues may participate in the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic, or the Immigrants' Rights Clinic. They may also wish to join the Stanford Journal of International Law.

Contact Information

Crown Quadrangle
559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610

Office of Admissions:
Email: admissions@law.stanford.edu
Phone: 650-723-4985


Established 1893
Location Stanford, CA
Dean Jenny S. Martinez
2021 US News Ranking 2nd
LSAT Median Score 172
GPA Median Score 3.86
Bar Passage Rate 96% (2022)
Employment Rate 89% (2022)
Cost $66,396
Average Debt $150,486
Application Deadline February 15, 2023

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