Jackson Named Acting Harvard Law School Dean

Jackson will replace Kagan upon her confirmation as U.S. Solicitor General

Unnamed photo
Courtesy John rich

Howell E. Jackson will serve as the acting dean of the Law School if the United States Senate's confirmation of Dean Elena Kagan as U.S. Solicitor General.

Harvard Law School professor Howell E. Jackson will assume the school’s top post upon the United States Senate’s confirmation of Law School Dean Elena Kagan as U.S. Solicitor General, University President Drew G. Faust announced today.

Kagan, who has led the Law School since 2003, was named President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for solicitor general last week. Kagan’s confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Jackson, whose research focuses on financial regulation, has been a member of the Law School’s faculty since 1989 and was associate dean for research and research programs from 2001 to 2003. After Kagan rose to the deanship in 2003, he took over the role of vice dean for budget until 2006. Jackson currently serves as the chair of the Law School’s lateral appointments committee.

“Howell Jackson is a first-rate scholar and teacher who has been a core member of the Law School’s leadership team in recent years,” Faust said in a statement. “We are fortunate to be able to turn to a prospective acting dean who not only is a distinguished academic, but also has deep experience with the School’s administrative and financial matters and a close working knowledge of the ambitious initiatives the School has been pursuing.”

Kagan’s imminent departure from the Law School coincides with an estimated 22 percent decline in the University’s endowment in a four-month period earlier this year. The Law School has not yet made public its budgetary outlook, and it is uncertain whether, as acting dean, Jackson will make an announcement regarding the impact of the shrinking endowment.

“I am honored that President Faust has asked me to be available to serve the Law School and its extraordinary community of faculty, students, and staff during this transitional time,” Jackson said in a statement.

Jackson praised Kagan’s leadership of the Law School in an e-mailed statement, saying that he hoped to maintain the institutional changes for which Kagan has won acclaim from faculty and students alike.

“We have a fantastic faculty and a terrific student body,” he said. “My goal is to continue this momentum over the next few months until a permanent dean can be chosen.”

Jackson has been mentioned as a possible permanent successor to the dean’s office.

Several of Jackson’s colleagues commended his appointment in a time of economic turmoil, citing his experience with the intricacies of Law School finances.

“He’s someone who could have started doing the job yesterday,” said Law School professor Louis E. Kaplow, who also said that Jackson had the potential to be a successful permanent dean if selected.

Calling Jackson a “wonderfully decent human being,” Law School professor Richard H. Fallon said he expected Jackson to share Kagan’s ability to hold the respect of a sometimes-contentious faculty that had given Harvard the moniker of “Beirut on the Charles” at one point.

Jackson attended Brown before receiving a joint degree from Harvard Business School and the Law School in 1982. After graduating, Jackson clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

As an academic, Jackson’s research focuses on financial regulation and budget policy. Jackson has advised the United States Treasury Department and the World Bank, among other government agencies.

—Staff writer Elias J. Groll can be reached at

—Staff writer Athena Y. Jiang can be reached at