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Jay Mitchell is going from denim blue to cardinal and gold. He says he likes the jeans business, but after 15 years as chief corporate counsel for Levi Strauss & Co., he is taking the helm of Stanford Law School’s first transactional clinic. Opening to students next spring, the Nonprofit and General Counsel Clinic will serve up opportunities to form new businesses, draft and negotiate contracts, assist with the funding and financing of projects and to advise on everything from governance to compliance. Mitchell, who takes the post of clinic director in August, says his task is simple: to encourage students to think like the client. And he knows his client inside out. Since 1992, Mitchell has been a member of the legal and finance senior management teams for the $4.1 billion Levi company. In addition to corporate governance, financial disclosure and product sourcing, he has also handled trademark licensing and technical product innovation, among other matters. Before Levi Strauss, Mitchell was a partner at Heller Ehrman in San Francisco. “Having been in private practice at Heller Ehrman and being in-house … is really good preparation for this position,” Mitchell said. “What I hope to be able to do is help students see both the big picture and the little picture, to view things more from the business perspective, because that’s more helpful for the client.” But first, he has to create the curriculum and select the most suitable clients. The challenge, Mitchell says, will be to choose the right mix of nonprofits and small businesses. He said he would like the work to be both manageable in the span of a semester — so that students can see projects through from beginning to end — and varied. Mitchell arrives at the Palo Alto campus at a time when the law school is reshaping its curriculum to offer more interdisciplinary and hands-on courses. Earlier this month, the law school announced it will offer joint J.D. and masters degrees, allowing students to combine their legal education with a specialty in another field, such as business or sociology. Professor Larry Marshall, who oversees Stanford Law School’s entire clinical program, said that Mitchell’s transition from the private sector will drive home the fact that there need not be this “great divide” between a transactional lawyer and a public interest lawyer. “We’re trying to model for our students that a career doesn’t have to be one or the other.” Mitchell said building a program from the ground up is as attractive as the chance to switch gears from the corporate environment. “It’s an opportunity to do public-service work, which to me is very appealing and motivating,” he said. His final project at Levi Strauss will be filing the company’s 10-Q at the end of July.

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