By Andrew Cohen
Gillian Lester, Berkeley Law’s acting dean and a professor at the school since 2006, has accepted an offer to become the next dean of Columbia Law School.
“Professor Lester brings accomplished scholarship, admired teaching, and first-hand academic leadership experience at great peer institutions to her new role at Columbia,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger in a statement. “I believe this is a great appointment … and promises over the coming decade to help Columbia Law School flourish at a time of both challenge and opportunity in the field of legal education.”
Lester will begin her new position on January 1, 2015. She will complete her term as Berkeley Law’s acting dean this summer and remain in-residence at the school until the end of the calendar year.
In an email to faculty, staff, and students, Lester wrote that her time at Berkeley Law “enabled me to grow in directions I once would have thought unimaginable. Berkeley has enriched me enormously as a scholar and teacher. Serving as acting dean this past year has been a privilege beyond words.… The values—and the heart—of this institution have touched and inspired me deeply.”
Berkeley Law Professor Eric Talley, Lester’s husband, will join the Columbia Law faculty in the summer of 2015. Talley is the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Professor of Law and the faculty co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Business. He will remain on the faculty at Berkeley Law through the spring of 2015, and then move to New York with the couple’s two children.
Lester began her teaching career in 1994 at the UCLA School of Law, where she became a full professor in 1999. She joined Berkeley Law’s faculty in 2006, and was named the Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law and the Werner and Mimi Wolfen Research Professor in 2013.
Lester served as co-director of the Berkeley Center for Health, Economic and Family Security, now part of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, and associate dean for the JD program and curricular planning from 2010 to 2013. She was appointed acting dean from December 2012 to June 2013, when Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. was on sabbatical, and returned to the role in August 2013 when Edley announced his decision to step down at the end of the year.
“I owe Chris Edley particular thanks for having confidence in me and for teaching me so much.” Lester said. “I also owe thanks to so many others among the staff, faculty, and students.”
A leading authority on employment law and policy, Lester’s research has explored distributive justice and the welfare state, workplace intellectual property, paid family leave, and the design of social insurance programs. She is the author of numerous books and articles and is co-author of one of the leading casebooks on employment law, Employment Law Cases and Materials. She also serves as an advisor to the American Law Institute Restatement of Employment Law.
Lester has held external appointments as the Sidley Austin Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, the Sloan Fellow and Visiting Professor at Georgetown University Law Center, and as a visiting professor at USC Gould School of Law, University of Chicago Law School, and Radzyner School of Law Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel.
After graduating from the University of British Columbia, she earned degrees from Stanford Law School and the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, where she served as editor-in-chief of the law review.
“I’m honored to take on the leadership of Columbia Law School at this pivotal time,” Lester said in statement released by Columbia. “I’m looking forward to working with its distinguished faculty, talented students, and accomplished alumni.”
UC Berkeley is continuing its search for a permanent law school dean.