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Yale Law School Has Their First Female Dean
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Heather Gerken

Summary: Yale Law School is taking a strong stand by selecting their first female dean, one who is highly qualified to rule the school during this time of change in the nation and legal education.

Yale Law School has selected their new first female dean, Heather Gerken, to assume the role of dean. Yale University President Peter Salovey announced their selection of the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law to take over their law school starting July 1. Gerken is considered one of the leading experts on constitutional and election law in the country.


Gerken will be the 17th Dean of Yale Law School. She is the founder of the “nationalist school” of federalism, focusing on federalism, diversity, and dissent. President Salovey referred to her in his statement as an “acclaimed educator.” The New York Times praises her as an “intellectual guru” that has had work appear in The Atlantic, the Boston Globe, Time, New York Times, and NPR. Her work on election reform led to a proposal for creating a “Democracy Index” in 2013. Pew Charitable Trusts adopted her proposal, creating the first Election Performance Index in the country.

Her experience includes working as an appellate lawyer in Washington D.C. and serving as a senior adviser to the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012. She clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit and Justice David Souter of the United States Supreme Court. She currently runs the country’s most innovative clinic in local government law, the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project. She will continue to run the clinic while serving as dean.

Gerken has won awards at Yale and Harvard for her abilities as a teacher. A book published by the Harvard University Press named her as one of the nation’s “twenty-six best law teachers.” She is succeeding Robert C. Post, the Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor of Law. He took over as dean in 2009.

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Post said, “Yale Law School is very lucky to be able to draw on the energy, brilliance, and leadership of Heather Gerken. This is a time of change in the nation and in legal education, and Heather is perfectly situated to take the helm of this extraordinary place. She has the entire confidence of the School.”

Gerken said of the opportunity, “Yale Law School is a remarkable institution, one that has trained the finest lawyers in the country for generations. It embodies the best in practice and in theory, a rare combination. The Yale Law School community has always drawn strength from its diversity and its deep commitment to the values of the profession. I am thrilled to take on this role and hope to build on that legacy as we train a generation of lawyers and academics to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

She graduated from Princeton University. She received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1994. She joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 2000 and then moved to Yale in 2006.

To learn more about Yale, read these articles:




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