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Law school to launch $50 million campaign during alumni weekend

STANFORD -- Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Stephen Breyer will discuss the U.S. judicial system as part of a series of events planned for Stanford Law School alumni and donors Friday and Saturday, Oct. 13 and 14.

At a Friday luncheon, the law school will launch its first comprehensive fundraising campaign, with a goal of raising a minimum of $50 million over five years.

O'Connor, who graduated from the law school in 1952, and Breyer, who received a Stanford bachelor's degree in '59, will be joined for the 10 a.m. discussion on Saturday in Memorial Auditorium by three constitutional law experts: University President Gerhard Casper, and Professors Gerald Gunther and Kathleen Sullivan. An estimated 800 law school alumni are expected to attend this event or other panels to be held during the university's homecoming weekend, which also features a Saturday football game against the University of Washington.

In Friday's informal classes, prominent panelists from business, academia and law will discuss current issues ranging from free speech on college campuses to crisis management and legal aspects of the sports world.

The Law School's fundraising campaign will be chaired by James C. Gaither, a senior partner in the law firm of Cooley, Godward, Castro, Huddleson & Tatum of Palo Alto and a former president of the Stanford University Board of Trustees. Donors already have pledged more than $21 million toward the $50 million campaign goal, the first comprehensive campaign in the professional school's century-long history. Earlier, from 1968 to 1971, the school raised $11 million to build Crown Quadrangle, the modern complex that now houses the school.

Approved by the university's board of trustees at its June meeting, the campaign seeks support for faculty, students and curriculum.

"Stanford will now join other leading U.S. law schools in conducting a campaign at this level and is the first of the major West Coast law schools to do so," said Susan S. Bell, associate dean for development at the school

During a recent review of the Law School's long-range plan, Paul Brest, dean of the school, said that future lawyers will need preparation for expanded roles in society. "While the traditional core of doctrine, legal analysis and communication will remain essential, the best lawyers must also possess problem-solving skills to equip them to manage problems in conditions of uncertainty," he said.

To provide that training and retain its low student-to-faculty ratio, the school's reviewers said it will need to restore faculty positions lost in recent years to budget cuts and become more competitive on faculty merit salary increases, as well as provide more support for students and the law library.

The campaign seeks:

  • $25 million to attract and retain faculty members;
  • $10 million to help students finance the cost of their legal education;
  • $5 million to maintain the law library's traditional collections of books and journals and to expand its reach and depth through more use of electronic information resources;
  • $10 million in unrestricted support, through the school's ongoing annual fund, which provides operating and discretionary funds.

The school currently has 40 faculty members, down from a high of 45, and hopes to increase the total number to 46.

"It is a great faculty that makes a great institution and attracts the very best students," Brest said. "However, the salaries of professors at Stanford Law School have fallen to as much as 30 percent below those at peer law schools."

Because legal education is becoming increasingly expensive, Brest said that the school also needs to increase support to students. This will allow it to continue to enroll the best applicants, regardless of their family income, and to maintain for students the option of careers in public service.

Currently the school tuition is $22,350, which, together with room and board, puts the yearly cost to a student without dependents at $32,900. About 75 percent of law students receive financial aid, according to Frank Brucato, associate dean for administration, and the accumulated debt of such graduates in the class of 1995 averaged more than $55,000, with some as high as $100,000. Without additional funding during the campaign, the average could rise to $80,000 in five years, he said.

Out of concern that high education debts might preclude some students and graduates from pursuing any but high-paid careers, Stanford in 1985 established a Loan Repayment Assistance Program. It allows graduates who take low-paying public interest or government jobs to receive a loan from the Law School to pay for a portion of their education debt. Once the student ceases to be eligible for the assistance, he or she may apply to have some of the debt to the program forgiven. A total of 73 graduates had qualified for the loans as of commencement 1995 by working in positions ranging from federal and local government to nonprofit foundations, small community law firms and advocacy groups.

As part of a longer term plan to permanently raise the level of annual giving by alumni, the school is seeking $10 million in unrestricted support during the campaign period, Bell said. "Historically, only about 30 percent of our alumni have contributed to the Law Fund, while some of our peer schools have 45 to 55 percent participation." This past year, she said, the Law School raised its participation rate by 3 percentage points to 31 percent. The goal is to raise participation to over 40 percent of the school's 6,800 living alumni, giving a total of more than $2 million annually.



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