As the acting dean of Berkeley Law, Gillian Lester experienced first-hand what it takes to run a Top 10 law school. Now, she’s taking those lessons east, after being named the dean of the Columbia Law School (April 23).
Lester succeeds David Schizer, who will remain with the school after serving as dean since 2004. Professor Robert Scott will act as interim dean until Lester assumes her role on January 1, 2015.
Lester steps into one the best situations in education. Columbia Law is currently ranked #4 by U.S. News and World Report, a position it has held for over five years. U.S. News data also shows that Columbia Law achieved a 97 percent placement rate for 2013 grads. According to Forbes, Columbia Law grads earn the highest starting salaries at $146,900. And the National Law Journal reports that Columbia Law ranks #1 in sending the highest percentage of its graduates (65.45%) to big law firms.
In his announcement, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger touted Lester’s wide ranging background. “Professor Lester brings accomplished scholarship, admired teaching and first-hand academic leadership experience at a great peer institution to her new role at Columbia. I believe this is a great appointment for the School, and promises over the coming decade to help Columbia Law School flourish at a time of both challenge and opportunity in the field of legal education.”
Lester herself is honored by her appointment. “I’m looking forward to working with [Columbia Law’s] distinguished faculty, talented students and accomplished alumni. Indeed, I’m looking forward to joining the broader Columbia community and ensuring that the law school continues to play an essential role in this truly great university.”
Lester joins Columbia Law from the University of California-Berkeley, where she has worked as acting dean since August 2013. Before taking on her leadership role, Lester was the Associate Dean for J.D. Program and Curricular Planning and Co-Director of the Berkeley Center for Health, Economic and Family Security. As the Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law, Lester also taught courses in contracts and employment law.
As a scholar, Lester has authored three books covering employment law, social safety nets, and students with disabilities. She has also written chapters in various law texts and papers for journals like the UCLA Law Review, Stanford Law Review, and Tax Law Review.
Before joining Boalt Hall in 2006, Lester taught at the UCLA School of Law. She also earned appointments as a visiting professor at Harvard Law, the Georgetown University Law Center, the USC Gould School of Law, and the University of Chicago Law School. She earned her LL.B. from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law in 1990 and her J.S.D. from Stanford Law School in 1998.
Lester has big shoes to fill. Her predecessor, David Schizer, was among the youngest law school deans when he was appointed a decade ago at 35. A prolific fund-raiser, Schizer has added 39 faculty members during his tenure. At the same time, he launched numerous centers and programs in areas like transaction studies, national security, intellectual property, law and politics, and climate change. He also partnered with the business school to establish an accelerated joint J.D. and M.B.A. program, along with the Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy. In addition, Schizer forged alliances with fellow universities and government agencies to provide study and internship opportunities for Columbia Law students.
Gillian Lester Speaks on Psychology and Market Frameworks: