By Bitsou in The Stanford experience on Sep 15, 2006

Hi everyone,

 Some may already know me, some may not. I have been a frequent participant to the llm-guide website since two years, i.e. before, during and now after my LLM. In April 2005, I was lucky enough to have the possibility to choose between several prestigious law schools, and finally made up my mind for Stanford. I won't discuss the reasons of my choice now, but rather relate my experience now that I have finished the program.

1. The program: Stanford consists of three different programs. Two LLM's focusing for the one on IP and for the other on corporate law (about 10 students per program) and the SPILS Program (about 12 students). Yes, Stanford is small and, in my opinion, the very small ratio student/professor is a big advantage as your professors know you by your name and some classes have no more than 4 students (the largest one I attended was trademark with about 25 students).

 Now, let's face the truth, Stanford has some amazing professors, and some amazingly disappointing. For people coming from countries who have a good legal education level (such as but not exclusively Germany, Switzerland, Belgium or France), you shouldn't expect to suddenly discover another world no matter where you go....after all, this is a University with students that are usually younger than you are and without any professional experience. In other words, this is still the same world, not a different one.

The SPILS Program I attended made it compulsory to attend 4 classes; 2 of them were, in my opinion, a waste of time and unfortunately prevented me from taking other classes due to the credit restrictions. However, good news for you, they probably realized their mistakes and the participants will now only have 2 mandatory classes (the good ones), which will leave more space for choices. For the big fans of Larry Lessig, the man is truly brilliant, but unfortunately too busy for his classes to which he comes hardly prepared according to some students.

This was the negative part. Now the positive. The SPILS Program is very particular and learns scholars to pursue empirical studies focusing on different analytical tools (interviews, surveys, statistics). At first, I was fairly skeptical. However, after having experienced it for a year, I have to admit that this experience proved extremely useful as a scholar as I now have plenty of ideas for empirical research to be carried on. This surely is a great added value to give more depth for any future research. In other words, the goal of the program was fulfilled as far as I'm concerned and I have to admit that, without even realizing it, Stanford changed my way of thinking.

This change is also true of classes in general. You don't really care about the law itself, but about the policy of the law (this is true in other so-called elite law schools, particularly in Yale), which makes you look at things and think differently.

 Now, having been a lawyer for a couple of years, I have to say that I never thought that I was completely overwhelmed with work. This however differs for each student, and some were working more than 12 hours per day. As far as I'm concerned, I really had time to enjoy myself while doing all my readings.

2. The atmosphere: that surely is the great asset of Stanford. Stanford is just a paradise and a huge park surrounded by trees (like a Club Med for the ones who know the concept...). You sit down under the shade of palm trees or lying next to one of the two olympic pools (always heated at 28 degrees) before going to play tennis with some friends of yours. After a day of work, you may take the benefit of the athletic facilities or free DVD rentals if you'd rather rest at your place. For families, Stanford surely is a dream with a lot of playgrounds next to your housing (of a very good quality though quite expensive) and plenty of kids from anywhere around the world. During the week-end, you may go and support the Stanford teams.

I also took several classes in other departments, which I can only encourage you to do as there are so many amazing classes in whatever field you're interested in.

One amazing thing. I hardly found anyone stupid...while the level of Professors is not that different from the one we have, the students are all very clever, which makes it a privilege to be in such a community.

The only bad point about the campus life is the food...not great at all I have to say and too expensive for the quality for sure. Prices are indeed a weak point in the bay area. Everything is very costly and, yes, it's quite convenient if you have a car at Stanford so as to go out of your ivory tower from time to time (this being said, lots of students cannot afford to have a used car and live on campus without any problem. It just makes things much easier to have one).

3. In short, Stanford is a great place to be on half-vacation for one year while enjoying the benefit of the classes that, in the end, still manage to influence your way of thinking without your realizing it...and this is no doubt a huge benefit.


Niki, Apr 13, 2011 05:52

Hi, I am interested in applying to SPILS. I am looking at a career in academia and I am really excited about SPILS. Can I please email you offline about the application process? Thanks

Paco, Jan 22, 2009 22:38

Hi Bitsou! Your words really make me wanna go to SLS. I have applied for the 2009-2010 LLM in Corporate Governance and Practice. My other choices are Columbia and Harvard. I am drone to SLS because of the program and the atmosphere. SLS is among the best Law Schools in the U.S. and definitively has the best climate. I plan to go with my wife and my 1 year old kid and neither NY or Boston seem to fit what I want for them. However, one of the main reasons I wanna study a LLM in the U.S. is to have the chance to work in a U.S. Law Firm. There is were SLS doesn\\\'t convince me. First, it is in the west coast and the work opportunities are normally in the east coast. Second, its curriculum seams more academic than practic. What do you think about this? I\\\'m wrong?

Laura, Jul 12, 2007 03:04

Could you please give me some advice on the books for preparing the LLM study before I starte my abroad travel?
Thank you very much. : )

Marketa, Apr 03, 2007 02:55

Hi Bitsou,

Hope you are having good spring! For everyone's info:

Alumni: Send us some info for the webpage about what you are doing now!


hamish2000, Mar 19, 2007 14:26


Can I email you off line? Ive been admitted to Stanford SPILS and would liek to ask you a few questions.

Sando, Mar 15, 2007 08:29

Hi Bitsou,
I hope this not too late to write to you about SPILS experience. I have been admitted to the SPILS program 2007. Since I am from India, I will have to totally depend on financial support from SLS. Would you mind throwing some light on such unique financial circumstances. Do you think that in the past admiited candidates have been unable to join due to financial reasons?

Really appreciate!

black, Nov 21, 2006 01:47

I am currently a SPILS fellow at Stanford. I encourage all to apply to live that dream. The experience is for-ever memorable. Individual care from professors guaranteed. Incredible campus. Smart smart crown around, so very motivating. But be ready to be focused: the program is highly demanding and people do not party much.
ps: I have been practicing several years before getting admitting and I will return to practice, so not all students in this program intend to teach primarily in their career.

mww0909, Oct 25, 2006 00:05

Hi Bitsou,

I am thinking about applying to the SPILS programme. My aim is to become an academic, working on some of less-travelled and interdisciplinary topics in international and comparative law. The mix of legal courses and empirical tools sounds fascinating, my doubt is whether in my case this combination would add much value. In addition to my law degree, I have a postgraduate degree in economics, which emphasized analytics and empirical research strategies. Do you think that in my case the SPILS programme would n onetheless be a good fit?



e2abhijit, Oct 21, 2006 22:00

i am applying dis yr 2 stanford..
which recos do dey really prfer?

Paladin, Oct 07, 2006 13:46

Hi, Bitsou. Nice to see you still active on the site even after you've lived the dream of a Stanford education! I still remember you from the old Stanford LLM and SPILS threads generously giving advice to other applicants.

I wanted to ask you something. Do you think Stanford's SPILS is a desirable option for someone who wants to study public international law, with a view towards developing a PIL practice?

Rene, Sep 29, 2006 18:26

Thank you very much Bitsou!!

Bitsou, Sep 23, 2006 00:28

Hi Rene,

I wouldn't say that the training in analytical tool is extremely deep. The program gives you a good overview of several analytical tools to enhance your purely scholarly work and conduct empirical research so as to have a multi-disciplinary approach, sth which is very trendy in the US. In other words, you learn how to conduct basic quantitative analysis (through surveys mainly, how to design a valid sample etc.) and qualitative analysis (through interviews, which is what I did as most of my colleagues). You however don't really learn more sophisticated tools such as how to conduct a regression analysis and use statistical tools. We did have a public policy class (not good in my opinion) that gave us some information on how to critically assess statistics, but surely not enough to be able to conduct your own regression analysis unless you already knew before coming (which was the case of one student).

In other words, the program is a good mixture of legal classes and introduction to tools used by political scientists to conduct public policy analysis using empirical evidence. At least for me, that is far enough as I don't claim to be a political scientist but a lawyer conducting interdisciplinary research. However, if you really want to focus on analytical tools and get a very deep knowledge of them, a master in political science would probably be more useful. An alternative would be to apply to the SPILS and take classes in other departments, which is feasible even though I heard that political science department is quite reluctant to have students from other departments.

Just let me know if I can be of any help.

Rene, Sep 20, 2006 18:18

Hi Bitsou,

Thanks for the information posted, it's really useful. I wanted to ask you a couple of things because I am planning to apply to SPILS the next year.

I was wondering how deep was the training in analytical tools. Is it really worthy for a lawyer who wants to do research or would it be more useful to go for a program in public policy?


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