We are delighted to welcome the class of 2014 to campus, as well as our newest class of advanced degree students. We hope you and our regular readers enjoy reading this issue of our e-newsletter,which provides a snapshot of life at SLS and beyond.
We also encourage all students and alumni to join us on SLSConnect, the law school's exclusive network for the SLS community. We look forward to working with you all.
Alumnus Is Living His Dream as First Amendment Advocate
Greg Lukianoff, JD’00, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), speaks with conviction when he says he loves his job as a First Amendment advocate. He explains, “I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t feel the need to follow the traditional route [to a judicial clerkship and then a corporate firm.] I enjoyed law school, but I didn’t pursue clerkships because I knew what I wanted to do. I really did the ‘putting-all-my-eggs-in-one-basket’ approach. Frankly, I just wasn’t going to pretend I wanted to do tax law or criminal law. I wanted to do First Amendment law.”
Lukianoff fell in love with First Amendment law in college, when he was a student journalist and did his senior capstone on the Communications Decency Act, for which he interviewed people from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [Marc Rotenberg, the founder & executive director of EPIC is also a SLS graduate] and the ACLU. Thus, he went to law school specifically planning to focus on First Amendment law. While Lukianoff initially found more inspiration outside of the classroom during his 1L year with the great weather, Olympic-sized pool, and wonderful new friends, he found his passion for First Amendment law reignited after taking Constitutional Law II with Kathleen Sullivan, Stanley Morrison Professor Law and former dean.
Lukianoff says the course reminded him why he came to law school and he began to “hyper-specialize” in First Amendment law by crafting his own curriculum. He referred to doing independent research projects with Professors John Barton and Lawrence Friedman, including one project on the history of the prior restraint doctrine in Tudor England. When he shared the news with friends while at CoHo one day, a horrified friend replied, “Who is making you do this?” Lukianoff chuckles, “It was a wonderfully clarifying moment. It’s hard to imagine that everyone else doesn’t love what you love as much as you do.”
Students who have a passion for a fairly specialized area of the law need to be prepared for challenges. Lukianoff explains, “One generalized warning for those with the typical law school personality: we sometime neglect to think like entrepreneurs. We’re a little too susceptible to the notion that there’s only one right way to act after law school. Clerkship, big firm, blah, blah, blah. In a lot of cases you forget that if there is a cause that you care about or a market need not being met, you can go out and start a nonprofit or a related business. It’s easier to do in some cases than people think. It’s by no means easy, but it’s within people’s reach and within their skill set more than they understand. Plus, it can be much more rewarding. I wasn’t the founder of FIRE but I came in on the ground floor and grew it from 5 people to 18.
There is tremendous potential energy released if you decide to do something creative and different.”
Lukianoff’s own path from law school to FIRE has been an interesting one. After graduation, he worked part-time at a patent law firm, wrote a screenplay, and looked for First Amendment jobs. Then Harvey A. Silverglate, a Harvard Law School graduate who co-founded FIRE, reached out to Professor Kathleen Sullivan to recommend someone to hire as FIRE’s first Director of Legal and Public Advocacy. She recommended Lukianoff, a former student in her Constitutional Law II course. Lukianoff notes, “It remains the greatest compliment I have ever received in my life that she recommended me.”
After starting at FIRE in 2001 as its first Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, Lukianoff and FIRE have both thrived over the past ten years. Lukianoff has led the organization’s rapid expansion and established himself and FIRE as respected experts. For those unfamiliar with FIRE, it is dedicated to preserving and enlarging academic freedom, due process, freedom of speech, and freedom of conscience on American college campuses. See www.thefire.org for more information about FIRE’s work.
As an advocacy organization, FIRE operates within the current hyper polarized times which leads to political assumptions. For the record, Lukianoff actually does not identify as a conservative and volunteered with the ACLU while at SLS. He observes, “It’s almost as if people can’t understand reality unless you label something ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative.’ It’s an asinine way of looking at the world. Do Plato, Lao Zhu, Kierkegaard easily fit within a modern American definition of right or left? The rich variety of human thought doesn’t track well with what’s considered liberal or conservative in the U.S. right now. But for some reason we’re obsessed with it.”
He understands that this intense focus on political identity places a challenge on his work and seems dismayed by the change in climate over the past few decades. Lukianoff observes, “Back when speech codes started in the 1980s on campus, outside of academia, Democrats and Republicans on the left and right were pretty united against them. They knew the speech codes were well-intentioned but terrible ideas for universities. Gary Trudeau and Rush Limbaugh understood how wrong they were, and both mocked and opposed campus speech codes. It’s a scandal that campus speech codes haven’t gone away, but now, in a hyper polarized society they get viewed through this partisan lens.”
He shares a story of one incident that demonstrates how perceived political identity has influenced his work. “I was on an NPR show defending the right of an evangelical student to have Bible study sessions in his own room on his own time. He was a [Resident Assistant] expressing religion privately. On NPR they asked me, ‘Is FIRE a religious organization?’ Actually, no, FIRE was founded by two atheists and I’m not religious. So then they actually asked me, ‘So why are you defending these students?’ My answer was because it’s wrong!”
Lukianoff notes, “Liberals make judgments about conservatives and vice versa. Libertarians make judgments about everyone. It’s really sad that we’ve divided ourselves that much. At the same time, I think I ran into some amount of skepticism when I first started as head of FIRE because some of the religious people who we sometimes defended were writing in asking, ‘How is this ACLU radical going to protect religious people? Can we trust this liberal to defend us?’ [My view is] civil liberties should unite not divide people across party lines. You must be committed to your causes. If you are trying to do trans-partisan work, you have to prove you are committed to it regardless of the defendant. As I often say ‘When I am defending opinions I agree with, I feel like I’m cheating.’ Sometimes people get into First Amendment law
and think they want to do it, but they only want to defend people they agree with. This means you don’t get it. There’s a larger principle. Hearing opinions that you hate or totally disagree with is good for you. It helps you understand why you believe what you believe in the first place. It may even cause you to think more critically about why you believe what you believe. In our hyper-polarized society, we have sadly lost sight of this in a lot of ways.”
As president of an advocacy organization and frequent contributor to on-line, print, and television media, Lukianoff has mastered the art of communicating to a lay audience. It can be challenging for lawyers to make that transition from the legal world to the mainstream world. He explains, “The problem is if you ‘write like a lawyer’ you can fall into bad habits. It can destroy your ability to write for a popular audience. It’s something I see time and time again. I’ve watched law school destroy people’s ability to write like a normal human being.”
This is a skill he thinks that SLS could focus on to better prepare our students for public interest careers. He explains, “A class on writing about the law for a popular audience would be really useful. It’s not just because of blogging or the need to explain stuff to a popular audience. Beyond that, lawyers don’t always understand that if you can’t say something simply and clearly, you probably don’t understand it as well as you think you do.”
Lukianoff adds that a public speaking class focused on persuasive speaking could also be immensely useful. He observes, “This may surprise many of my friends, but I always used to test via MBTI as an introvert. When I did TV appearances or live speeches, I would leave those things completely drained, completely exhausted, and desperately needing a martini and a nap. I had to find professional public speaking training. If you are going to be an advocate, it requires a lot of being good on TV, good in live speeches, and comfortable in those environments. [Learning to be a more effective public speaker] helps clear up your mind so you can focus on the important questions ‘Can I explain this in a way that will connect with an audience? Can I explain it in a way that is both legally accurate and clear? Can I find the right word so that it is legally bulletproof but not
Other advice that he has for law students includes dispelling the myth that one must frequently jump from job to job to stay fresh and move up the proverbial ladder. Lukianoff notes, “I think that sometimes law students get it into their heads that they won’t have a meaningful career unless they do 25-40 different jobs in their career. I went into this job with an inkling that I would do two years and then get out of it and do something else so I can continue to have impressive things added to my resume. One of my best friends from law school refers to himself as a credential junkie. It’s great that he’s aware of that, but he’s still a junkie. The thing I’ve enjoyed about my career is that it’s good for my organization that I write for popular audiences and that I write for law reviews. It’s good that I wrote a book. Thinking in terms of
being in one job doesn’t mean you’re settled. You want to keep taking your job to the next level and you don’t necessarily have to switch jobs to do that. Being at FIRE for ten years has had tremendous benefits. My work and my life have gotten deeper, richer, and more rewarding. It’s nice to actually become an expert at something, particularly if you’re an expert in something you really, really love.”
Lukianoff recalls a conversation he had with classmate Thomas Bollyky, JD ’00, during their 3L year while driving back to San Francisco one day. The two were talking about their post-graduation plans and both were on the same page, as they wanted to hyper specialize in things they loved. Lukianoff notes, “You want someone in a boardroom somewhere saying, for example, we need someone who is an expert in the intersection of the First Amendment, academic freedom, college, and employment law. There isn’t anyone who really does that. But if there is that one guy, you want to be that one guy.”
He also adds, “If policy is really your passion, you will always be better at it than someone who doesn’t have that passion. Your superpower is that you would study this even if no one was paying you.”
One final tip Lukianoff wishes to impart to SLS students is about showing commitment and not being hesitant to take unpopular positions in support of your principles. He advises, “When it comes to working for a cause, showing you have principles, commitment, and integrity is incredibly important. I have seen a lot of talks from people who give advice on what to do and how to advance your career. Some things are not just about the structure of how you advance your career. Years back, at a Shaking the Foundations panel, the panelist (who will remain nameless) who went before Professor Pam Karlan talked about how when working in DC, you don’t want to make any waves because you might have to work with that person the next time. The point was, don’t make anyone angry. It was a very strange presentation that seemed to say, ‘Don’t stand for anything too
much.’ Pam followed with, ‘You shouldn’t spend your whole life worried about your Senate Confirmation hearing.’ That is absolutely true.”
He shares a story that illustrates this point. “I remember when somebody who is a social conservative decided to publicly depart from other social conservatives who were much older and much more famous than him. He was probably 22 years old and publicly disagreeing with power brokers in the Republican Party over gay marriage. This was 10 years ago when there wasn’t nearly as much conservative acceptance. I remember him writing a very forceful and strong and moral email to a lot of people who, under normal circumstances he would feel compelled to suck up to, saying their position on this was wrong. Afterward, he wrote me with a sense of resignation, ‘I think I just ruined my career, but there are worse reasons to do that.’ I wrote him back, ‘You may not know it, but you may have just made your career. People respect integrity.’”
This ten year journey so far has been a thrilling journey for Lukianoff. He notes, “Everybody has their complaints about their job. Yet it’s hard for me to think of a job that suits me better than this or that I’d enjoy better than this. Sometimes I think about teaching this subject eventually, but I have no plans on changing jobs for the distant future. I love being a First Amendment advocate. Working on college campuses is interesting and really lively. I like being head of a group that brings together people who are politically diverse. There may be other political differences within the office but when it comes to defending freedom of speech and due process, that’s never debated. It’s something they all share and a nice thing to see in such a polarized society.”
Lukianoff’s concludes, “Other than being granted superpowers and taking on a career as a superhero, I can’t imagine a better job than this.”
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Levin Center Names New Assistant Director to Focus on Research and Career Counseling
We are delighted to announce that Negar Katirai will be our new Assistant Director. She will help Associate Dean Diane Chin with two major new research initiatives focused on civil legal services in California, as well as help expand our career counseling capacity.
Immediately prior to joining the Levin Center, Negar served as a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, where she represented clients in domestic violence, child custody, and child support matters. Negar has also served as a staff attorney at Break the Cycle (a national nonprofit organization addressing teen dating violence), an associate at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, and a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.
She will be in room 208. Please drop by to say hello!
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Meet our Public Interest Fellows
Each year, Stanford Law School names as Public Interest Fellows those third-year students who have a history of public service, provide leadership within the law school, and are committed to beginning their careers as lawyers in the public service. Fellows serve a variety of roles within the law school—they mentor first-year students, provide policy direction for the Levin Center and the law school, have direct access to the law school administration regarding myriad issues related to public interest, and engage in direct programming with the assistance of the Levin Center staff. The Fellows also serve an advisory body to the Levin Center.
Read more about the 2011-2012 Public Interest Fellows here.
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SLS Funds Students to Make a Difference Around the World
We funded 120 students this summer through the SLS Summer Public Interest Funding Program. Alumni may remember that SPILF used to fund this program but it is now funded mostly by the Law School with a small portion provided through the Federal Work-Study program. First-year students and JSD students received $5,000 and second-year students received $7,500.
Students worked for governmental agencies at the local, state, and federal level in civil and criminal matters; nonprofit organizations ranging from direct services agencies like Texas RioGrande Legal Aid to think-tanks like the Cato institute; and international entities like the Office of the Prosecutor for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the Asia Foundation in Timor-Leste.
Twenty six of our students worked internationally this summer, including Kelly Rosencras, JD '13, who was in Bhutan where she worked for the legal counsel at Druk Holding & Investments (DHI). DHI is a state-owned public interest corporation created when Bhutan democratized in 2007, in order to manage and direct the government's investments in a way that will benefit Bhutan's citizens and the environment. Kelly explains, "I researched opportunities for DHI to invest in carbon offset projects in Bhutan through new progressive financial mechanisms that are not yet part of Kyoto. I also researched the Cape Town Convention, an international treaty which standardizes contract terms for aircraft purchases. I was able to present my findings regarding the benefits of Bhutan's accession to the treaty to executives at my office, to the Bhutanese airlines, to the Office of the Attorney
General, and to the Director General of Bhutan's Department of Civil Aviation. Cape Town is now formally being reviewed by the government, and is in the pipeline for Parliament approval during the Winter 2011 session."
She adds, "Outside of work, I trekked in the mountains behind Thimphu, visited monasteries and dzongs (fortresses), attended religious festivals, watched traditional dancing, and even played soccer with the office team! It was a life-changing and inspiring experience. I can't wait to return to Bhutan with my team members on the Bhutan Law & Policy Project to address legal education issues." Kelly is pictured at right in traditional Bhutanese dress.
Loren Crary, JD '12, spent her summer with the Millenium Challenge Corporation in Senegal. She states, "What I have learned and experienced will have a serious effect on guiding my career choices next spring. I am very impressed with MCC's unique approach and goals, and the way the organization is run, and have had the opportunity to meet an array of people working for other organizations as well and learned about their experiences, all informing the choices I will make next. I am also getting to do substantive, interesting work that I feel will make an impact. I am very grateful that the Levin Center made this summer possible; I could not have gotten here without the support."
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Save the date! Fall Public Service Awards on Wed., Oct. 19
Our annual Fall Public Service Awards dinner will be on Wed., October 19 at Paul Brest Hall in the Munger Graduate Residence. We will honor two outstanding public interest attorneys. More information on the awards are available here.
Faculty, students, alumni and staff receive complimentary admission. All guests must RSVP. We hope you can join us!
Pictured are the 2010 recipients, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative and Lynne Echenberg of the Next Generation Center with Dean Larry Kramer.
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