2022 Annual Report

Dear Alumni & Friends,

As I reflect on the 2021–2022 fiscal year, I feel immense pride, satisfaction, and gratitude for how our community reinvigorated itself after more than a year of pandemic restrictions.

We reunited for classes and intellectual collaborations, as well as for milestones like orientation, graduation, and reunion. Uplifting us all was a renewed appreciation for being together in person—by serendipity or design—to discuss and seek solutions to the urgent issues of our time. 

In August 2021, more than 470 members of the J.D. Class of 2024—selected from the greatest number of applicants in the history of the Law School—arrived on campus for orientation. And we welcomed a record number of LL.M. students in the Class of 2022, coming to us from 58 countries. It was exhilarating to see them meet their classmates and faculty in person—their broad smiles apparent even behind masks.

After two years of remote ceremonies, we gathered in May beneath massive tents on the South Lawn of the Morningside campus to mark the graduation of more than 900 J.D., LL.M., J.S.D., and E.LL.M. candidates in the Class of 2022. A few days later, in a long-awaited moment, more than 325 members of the Classes of 2020 and 2021 returned to campus to hear their names read and cross a ceremonial stage. 

Uplifting us all was a renewed appreciation for being together in person—by serendipity or design—to discuss and seek solutions to the urgent issues of our time. 

While the Law School continues to send a greater percentage of graduates to the nation’s 100 largest law firms than any of our peer schools, we are also rapidly expanding programs for career development beyond the private sector. Our new Academic Scholars Program offers support for J.D. candidates with strong potential and ambition to become law professors. For students who plan to pursue careers in public interest, human rights, or government, the Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program has been permanently endowed by a gift from Max Berger ’71 through the foundation he created with his wife, Dale. Another significant commitment, from Brad Smith ’84 and Kathy Surace-Smith ’84, provides sustainable funding for the Human Rights Clinic, which has been named in their honor. And a gift from Albert E. Cinelli ’55 established the Albert and Lois Cinelli Business Law Fund, which supports scholarships, learning opportunities, and faculty research in the area of business law.

Providing students with modern spaces to collaborate, study, and learn remains a priority. In January, we took full occupancy of William and June Warren Hall, which we used to share with Columbia Business School. The additional space includes eight new classrooms, 12 group study rooms, more than 100 study seats, and a multipurpose events space. We also reignited our ambitious plans to renovate the Law Library and are grateful to those who have pledged their support toward this project, including Alia Tutor ’00, whose transformative lead gift will help propel it forward.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is working with our appointments committees to recruit new faculty colleagues—both entry-level and mid-career scholars—who are as passionate about teaching as they are about research, writing, and advocacy. In fiscal year 2022, we hired six new professors (seven more—and counting—started in fiscal year 2023). These hires allowed us to introduce two new law clinics: the Criminal Defense Clinic and the Science, Health, and Information Clinic. 

Providing a range of opportunities for our students and faculty to respond to current events is essential to the Law School’s mission. Among several new programs, we created—with support from Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger ’71—the Constitutional Democracy Initiative, which organized the “Democracy’s Future” seminars, and “Beyond the Casebook,” a new lunchtime series for faculty and 1Ls to discuss timely, relevant issues outside of the classroom setting. And the International Claims and Reparations Project will advise the government of Ukraine as it develops international law frameworks for the management of claims and reparations.

Our commitment to anti-racism within the Law School community and beyond continues apace. To support the work and help hold ourselves accountable for progress, we established the Anti-Racism Coordinating Committee (ARCC), which meets regularly and includes faculty, students, and senior administrators. The ARCC was instrumental in supporting the Columbia Clerkships Diversity Initiative and developing a framework for helping students of color overcome barriers to entering public interest careers. In addition, we selected a new cohort of Racial and Social Justice Fellows and awarded the first round of anti-racism grants, which provide financial and non-financial assistance to members of the Law School community who are pursuing projects that combat structural racism.

All of these innovations and initiatives bolster Columbia Law School’s preeminence as a place of scholarly excellence and inspired pedagogy. The generous support we receive every year from our alumni and friends is crucial and enables us to fortify our mission to foster excellence in research and teaching, to test new ideas, and to mentor a new generation of leaders. On behalf of our students and faculty, I thank you for your unwavering loyalty and faith in the future of the Law School. With your steadfast support and engagement, we will forever be a force in the world. 

Best regards,

Gillian Lester signature




Gillian Lester
Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law