Ellen P. Chapnick is the former Dean for Social Justice Initiatives and a lecturer in law.
As dean, her responsibilities included development and oversight of professional development to inspire and prepare Law School students and graduates to be leaders in public interest, government, human rights, and pro bono work. She also created and implements the Law School’s externship program and teaches the Pro Bono Scholars Program externship. Prior to Columbia, she was a federal litigator at Wolf Popper Ross Wolf & Jones, where—among other matters—she represented class plaintiffs in In re Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Litigation, for which she and her co-counsel shared TLPJ's 1995 Trial Lawyer of the Year award.
She also had been a staff attorney at the Puerto Rican Institute for Civil Rights in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and at various labor unions. She currently directs CIALE’s project to help educate practicing Cuban lawyers about aspects of U.S. law relevant to their representation of Cuban interests in commercial and other activities in the U.S. Chapnick’s pro bono work includes serving as president of legal services for New York-Bronx; chair of the Association of American Law Schools’ section on pro bono and public service opportunities; and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Of her many awards, Chapnick has received the Association of American Law Schools’ Father Robert F. Drinan award; Sanctuary for Families’ Abely Pro Bono Achievement award; The Legal Aid Society of New York's award for outstanding pro bono publico service; and the Pro Bono Students America award for best law school public interest program.
Chapnick is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and Cornell University.