2021 Annual Report

Dear Alumni & Friends,

If the 2020 fiscal year was one of sudden disruption and adaptation by necessity, 2021 required perseverance and an indefatigable community spirit.

Throughout a year spent teaching and learning mostly remotely, our professors continued to publish cutting-edge scholarship and innovate in their classrooms. Students’ intellectually rigorous instruction was buoyed by their work editing journals, representing clients in our clinics, taking on pro bono projects, participating in moot courts, and leading student organizations. They formed lasting bonds with one another through their participation in affinity groups and community-building programs. And our alumni remained connected with the Law School through webinars, book talks, reunions, and other virtual events, sustaining the relationships that have connected us for decades.

Beyond the vicissitudes of the pandemic, our global order faced unpredictable and pervasive disruptions affecting every aspect of life—from extreme weather events to hardening ideological polarization and eroding democratic norms. All Columbians, no matter their field, are being summoned to confront new challenges, redress old wrongs, and guide our society forward.

Indeed, the call to public service has drawn many Columbians to Washington, D.C. Several members of the faculty are serving in the Biden administration: Suzanne Goldberg is deputy assistant secretary for Strategic Operations and Outreach in the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, Lina Khan is chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Gillian Metzger ’96 is senior counselor at the Department of Justice, and Tim Wu is special assistant to the president for technology and competition. More than a dozen alumni have also assumed upper-echelon positions in the administration. Among them: Antony Blinken ’86, secretary of state; Kristen Clarke ’00, assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Department of Justice; Brenda Mallory ’83, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; and Julissa Reynoso ’01, assistant to President Biden, chief of staff for the first lady, and co-chair (with Jennifer Klein ’90) of the White House Gender Policy Council. Reynoso was recently nominated to be ambassador to Spain. 

Educating the next generation of proactive, fearless lawyers to serve society has never been more important. To achieve this mission, we provide students with holistic support to launch their careers and fulfill their aspirations through generous scholarships, comprehensive academic advising, and one-on-one career counseling beginning when they are 1Ls. The numbers help demonstrate our success: 97.4% of the Class of 2020 secured jobs within 10 months of graduation and, for the eighth year in a row, Law.com ranked Columbia Law first on the list of Go-to Law Schools for sending the highest percentage of graduates to the largest 100 firms.

One of the most essential and far-reaching initiatives of this past year was the establishment of an Anti-Racism Steering Committee. Our community has taken up the collective responsibility to identify and understand structural racism, and combat it through concrete policies and actions. This includes introducing grantmaking and fellowship programs to support students and faculty pursuing racial justice goals, launching a project to increase diversity in clerkship placements, providing faculty training on addressing structural racism in the classroom, and creating more learning and service opportunities in the neighborhoods surrounding campus.

Since becoming dean, one of my top priorities has been recruiting world-class faculty. Attracting and nurturing a broadly diverse faculty across subject expertise, life experience, and methodology ensures that the Law School attracts the most-qualified students, offers them a future-focused curriculum, and amplifies Columbia Law’s impact on society at large. In Fiscal Year 2021, we hired four new professors (one of whom is an alumna) whose fields of study include antitrust, criminal law and procedure, comparative law, and intellectual property.

Of course, our ambitions and commitment to excellence need support. Thanks to gifts from more than 12,000 alumni, faculty, and friends, our five-year Campaign for Columbia Law is on track to reach our $300 million goal in 2022. The campaign has enabled us to create 12 new endowed professorships, establish 85 new student scholarships, and grow the Annual Fund so we can remain inventive and poised to seize opportunities as they arise.

In the pages to follow, we are pleased to share with you some of the people and events that made Fiscal Year 2021 memorable. The generosity and engagement of our alumni and friends sustains the Law School’s vitality and advances our mission. Thank you for your continued support. I hope to see many of you in person before you receive next year’s Annual Report!

Best regards,

Gillian Lester signature




Gillian Lester
Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law