Harvard Law Appoints First Female Dean

Harvard University announced last Thursday that Elena Kagan would become the next Dean of Harvard Law School (HLS), making her the first female dean at the 186-year-old school. “Her appointment is certainly a statement in our progress… Not only are women a dominant force on the faculty now, but they are leading the faculty,” HLS Professor Martha Minnow told The Harvard Crimson . Women were first accepted to Harvard Law School in 1951.

Professor Kagan graduated from the law school in 1986 and worked as a clerk, professor, and then as the deputy director of the Domestic Policy Counsel in the Clinton Administration before returning to teach at Harvard Law in 1999, according to the Crimson. “She is a really bold and inspiring choice,” said Professor of Law Charles Ogletree, according to the Crimson. “Her progressive perspective, as well as her experience working in diverse settings, enables her to unify people with different ideological viewpoints.”

Students at Harvard Law School had a meeting last month voicing their concerns to Harvard President Lawrence Summers about campus diversity and class size, according to the New York Times. When Kagan was announced as the next dean, students who attended the crowded meeting began to cheer, the Boston Globe reported. “She is going to be the best dean ever; she is a visionary… She’s just what Harvard Law Schools needs–someone at the helm who will listen to the voices of women here,” said HLS third-year student Rebecca Onie, according to the Crimson.

Women make up only 10 percent of law school deans and general counsels, according to the American Bar Association Commission on Women. Daniel Coquillette, who is writing a history of Harvard Law, called Kagan’s selection “a turning point for this ancient law school. Historically, it’s an extraordinary thing,” the Globe reports.


Boston Globe 4/4/03; The New York Times 4/4/03; The Harvard Crimson 4/4/03; American Bar Association Commission on Women 2001

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