Harvard Law School (HLS) Dean Martha Minow announced today that she will step down from that post at the end of this academic year. A legal scholar and human rights expert, Minow has led the diversification of the School’s faculty, staff, and student body, and has overseen significant growth in clinics and research programs, along with record fundraising. She will remain on the faculty and return to active participation in public dialogue and legal policy.
Minow, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law, took over in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis. She steered the School through the resulting economic challenges to a period of program and faculty growth, strengthened commitment to public service, and campus renewal, with construction of the Wasserstein Hall, Caspersen Student Center and Clinical Wing Building (WCC), and creation of the campus courtyard. She has continued to teach, write, and advise students throughout her tenure as dean.
“I have had the remarkable fortune to ‘grow up’ in the law over the past 36 years since joining the School as an assistant professor in 1981, and yet not until I became dean did I come fully to understand the scope, depth, and constant creativity of this wondrous place,” Minow said in a letter to the Law School community.
“Committed to rigorous analysis, open discussion, building knowledge, and advancing justice, Harvard Law School supports phenomenal students en route to lives of leadership across private and public institutions of law, business, government, non-profits and NGOs, and the arts. Coming to the deanship at a time of significant challenge and change in the global economy, the legal profession, and the world, I have been privileged to work with so many of you to move forward on all fronts nonetheless — transforming our campus, launching new clinics and expanding our public service commitments, developing new research programs, and recruiting and supporting incredibly strong faculty, staff, and students who are more diverse on many dimensions than in any time in our history.”
“Throughout her long and distinguished career, and especially during the past eight years as dean, Martha Minow has devoted herself to making Harvard Law School stronger and better, more inclusive and more intently focused on the quest for fairness, equality, opportunity, and respect for the rule of law,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “She has embraced her life’s work with a generative mind and a generous heart, personifying the power of legal education, scholarship, and practice to bend the arc toward justice.
“She has affirmed Harvard Law School as an institution and a community firm in its dedication to free inquiry and reasoned debate, open to people remarkably diverse in their backgrounds and points of view, but joined in recognizing the centrality of law to free and just societies,” Faust added. “Her impact reaches across the University as a whole, through an animating curiosity and a powerful intellect that point all of us toward new connections and possibilities.”
Faust said she will soon launch a search for Minow’s successor and will welcome advice from across the Law School community.
Under Minow’s leadership, the Law School further developed and strengthened one of the most wide-ranging, interdisciplinary, and innovative teaching programs in legal education. Pursuing stronger connections and envisioning new synergies with other parts of the University and with the broader profession, she increased the number and scope of University-wide affiliated and joint appointments and cross-disciplinary seminars and workshops, and created opportunities to better prepare law students to understand the perspectives and needs of their clients and communities around the world, with special attention to improving access to justice and to entrepreneurial enterprise.
Minow supported new clinics and educational programs in such areas as criminal law and policy, immigration, and the needs of military veterans, and expanded business-related offerings with a focus on experiential learning, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. She has embraced and encouraged new pedagogical opportunities presented by technology and online platforms, supporting innovative online courses in copyright, contract, and legal history to be made available to people worldwide as part of HarvardX, as well as digitization of the Harvard Law Library’s collection, with public access to it. In addition, she has promoted law students’ close involvement with the Harvard Innovation Lab.
In tandem with curricular and clinical program development, Minow has overseen the development of a wide range of research and academic programs, many of them cross-disciplinary, to address aspects of law and policy, legal theory, and emergent social issues. Among them have been initiatives in national security, criminal law and policy, Islamic law, Jewish law, animal law, food law, private law theory, and cities and technology.
Minow is credited with recruiting an increasingly diverse array of world-class faculty and staff. She has also overseen admission of an outstanding and diverse student body drawn from around the world under need-blind standards. Under her leadership, the LL.M. entering class has grown, and the number of LL.M. students from Africa and other underrepresented regions has notably increased. The current first-year J.D. class now includes record numbers of students of color and international students. Women constitute half the class.
With a devotion to public service and a close eye on emerging changes in the legal profession, Minow increased financial aid, dramatically expanded the loan repayment program for students seeking lower-paying public service jobs, and established fellowship programs such as the innovative Public Service Venture Fund, which provides seed capital or salary support to graduating students who aim to pursue public service careers in start-up ventures, in government, or in the nonprofit sector.
During her deanship, Minow has continued her broader service to the legal academy and the profession while focusing attention on the delivery of legal services nationally and internationally. She has served as vice chair of the board of the government-sponsored Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which provides and promotes civil legal aid for people who cannot otherwise afford counsel, and as chair of the LSC’s Pro Bono Task Force. She also served as the inaugural chair of the Deans’ Steering Committee of the Association of American Schools and as a member of the American Bar Association’s Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission.
Minow has engaged alumni in a broad range of activities, including their expanded mentoring for students and numerous events bringing alumni to campus to share their experience, ideas, and advice. Under her leadership, the Law School has set records for its annual fund and its total yearly fundraising, completing its most successful year in 2015-16 and surpassing the School’s initial goal in the University’s ongoing capital campaign, as HLS looks ahead to its coming bicentennial celebration.
“Working with President Faust, Provost [Alan] Garber, and fellow Harvard deans has been a gift; working with exceptional colleagues across the School has been a daily joy,” Minow said. “With the rest of this community, I will welcome with delight our upcoming bicentennial year as a time for celebration and also a time to envision anew the commitments and opportunities of law, justice, scholarship, and legal education in and beyond Harvard Law School.”