It was no surprise to the Stanford Law School community when the university recently announced it had renewed Dean Elizabeth Magill’s contract for another five years.
Magill hired 17 faculty in four years at Stanford to help bolster its ranks in the face of a coming wave of retirements that many schools are facing. She established an innovative Law and Policy Lab, a set of classes allowing students to better understand policymaking by tackling real-life policy challenges for actual clients. Since the lab began in 2013, the school has offered more than 20 policy practicums each year where students work closely with faculty on issues such as international security, crime and policing, and net neutrality, among others.
Another curricular innovation, the Global Initiative, established a foundational course, Going Global: Advising Clients in a Global Economy, along with classes that have an overseas component, taking students and faculty to China, Latin America, India and Europe. The program also increased coverage of transnational legal issues in existing courses through the use of case studies and by hosting visiting professors from other countries.
Magill, a scholar in administrative law and constitutional structure, received her undergraduate degree in history from Yale University, then worked as a senior legislative assistant for energy and natural resources for U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, who represented her home state of North Dakota. She left Capitol Hill to go to law school at UVA, where she was an articles development editor of the Virginia Law Review and received several awards. After graduating in 1995, Magill clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III ’72 of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and then for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
As a faculty member at Virginia, Magill was the vice dean from 2009-12, the Joseph Weintraub–Bank of America Distinguished Professor of Law, and the Elizabeth D. and Richard A. Merrill Professor. She joined Stanford in 2012.
An Exemplary Law School Dean and University Leader
by George Triantis LL.M.’86, Charles J. Meyers Professor of Law, Stanford Law School
It has been my great fortune to have been a colleague and friend of Liz Magill over the past two decades, beginning at Virginia in the 1990s and now at Stanford. She has been an extraordinarily successful dean at Stanford, guiding the law school to exceptional progress on many fronts, in challenging and transformational times for both university campuses and the legal profession. Her style of leadership is exemplary: She uniquely combines efficient and effective decision-making with a genuine personal touch that inspires admiration, loyalty and affection among her faculty, staff, students and alumni.
While the thematic objectives of law schools are fairly uniform across our peers — building a diverse and inclusive community, promoting multidisciplinary and policy-relevant research and study, and increasing the global dimension in legal education — Liz has been responsible for the singularly concrete advances that Stanford has achieved since she became dean in 2012. She identified and focused on goals that were both ambitious and realizable, assembled the financial and human resources needed to succeed, and inspired teams of faculty and staff to design, test and improve on prototypes. As a result, Stanford Law now has a wide variety of best-in-class policy practicums that bring together students from law and other disciplines, an innovative and foundational cross-border law course called Going Global, rigorous overseas study offerings and a range of programmatic initiatives focusing on the urgent issues of policing and race (to name just a few).
Liz is a very highly respected and key player in university governance at Stanford. She understands and is committed to realizing the potential contributions that the law school can make in the university. This makes her perfectly suited to the Stanford way of cross-disciplinary partnerships. To Liz, the challenges and opportunities of the law school are those of the university, and vice-versa. The law school has only been strengthened by this perspective in her leadership.
The vibrancy and remarkably strong morale at the law school are also due to Liz’s phenomenal record of recruitment of new faculty. A quarter of our faculty has been hired over the past four-and-a-half years that Liz has been dean. In most of these cases, the new faculty were highly sought after by Stanford’s peers among the very top law schools. They are individuals who are drawn by the energy of the law school and university and who, in turn, have vitalized the intellectual and collegial life of the school.
People are Liz’s top priority; not only because they constitute the core asset of the law school, but also because she truly cares about the welfare and professional growth of each of her faculty and staff. Liz devotes much time to in-person contact with students, and they know that they have direct access to her if they need it. Liz instinctively and genuinely attributes the law school’s successes to all her team — faculty, staff, students and alumni — just as we all know that Liz’s leadership is key to the law school’s continued prosperity.
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