As Columbia Law’s 15th dean, Gillian Lester has led the faculty in recruiting nearly two dozen full-time professors, establishing six new law clinics, and strengthening and expanding the Law School’s intellectual and scholarly depth.
Through landmark investments in student financial aid and loan repayment assistance—and initiatives such as the Max Berger ’71 Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program—Dean Lester has dramatically expanded access to a Columbia legal education, as well as students’ ability to choose a career in the public interest. Under Dean Lester’s leadership, the Law School created a new Executive LL.M. in Global Business Law degree program and has undergone a transformation of its physical and digital campus infrastructure. In addition, she has spearheaded programs dedicated to lawyer-leadership, organizational character, science and technology policy, and constitutional democracy. Dean Lester has also guided the Law School in its successful five-year campaign to raise $300 million, which she launched in 2017.
Prior to joining Columbia in 2015, Dean Lester served on the faculty of the University of California, first at UCLA and later at Berkeley Law School, where she was interim dean from 2012 to 2014. Her scholarship focuses on income inequality, public finance policy, workplace law, and the design of social insurance laws and regulations. Dean Lester obtained a B.Sc. from the University of British Columbia, an LL.B. from the University of Toronto, and a J.S.D. from Stanford Law School.
Dean Lester is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Law Institute. She served on the executive committee of the Association of American Law Schools from 2017 to 2020 and is a founding board member of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. For her service on the COVID-19 Task Force established by Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger ’71, Dean Lester was recognized in 2022 with Columbia’s Nicholas Murray Butler Gold Medal for distinguished contributions in academic administration.
The Office of the Dean oversees the academic and administrative operations of Columbia Law School, including intellectual life and curricular planning, faculty affairs and support, and internal and external communications.