October 23, 2023

Law School Dean to Step Down August 2024

Dean Jennifer Johnson, serving as Dean of Lewis & Clark Law School since 2014, has announced she will step down at the end of August 2024.

pictured: Dean Johnson at the launch event for the Advocacy Center and Bergman Courtroom October 2023

Lewis & Clark Law School Dean Jennifer Johnson announced that she will be stepping down as dean at the end of August 2024. Dean Johnson’s ten-year tenure has ensured that Lewis & Clark Law School is strong, resilient, and ready to take on future challenges.

“Lewis & Clark Law School has been transformed by Dean Johnson’s leadership and vision,” said Lewis & Clark College President Robin Holmes-Sullivan. “During her time as dean, Jennifer has strengthened the law school financially as well as academically. We are so grateful for her decade of service as dean and on the College Executive Council, as well as her decades of service in her roles as faculty member and administrator. Thankfully, she has agreed to remain engaged with Lewis & Clark, assisting in the transition to a new dean during a much deserved sabbatical year, starting Sept 1, 2024.”

Dean Jennifer Johnson noted that “it has been an absolute honor to have served as Dean of our law school during these past 10 years. I am very proud of the achievements of our faculty, students and staff. During the next 10 months, I look forward to meeting with alumni, raising funds for student scholarships and strategic initiatives, preparing for the 2025 visit by the American Bar Association, and working with faculty and staff on law school priorities. We have much to do to keep up the momentum as we design and implement our new strategic plan.”

Dean Johnson took the helm in 2014, when the law school was struggling to come out of a recession. Working hand in hand with law faculty, she stabilized the budget with strategic frugality, while at the same time ensuring that law students received an outstanding legal education. Within a few years, the school was back on a strong financial footing that continues to support its robust program today.

Since 2014, she has actively connected with alumni and law friends to encourage their philanthropic support of the school. Under her leadership, the law school has raised over $57 million, increasing the law school endowment by 52.7%, and providing 64 new scholarships for incoming and upper-division law students.

Dean Johnson transformed the physical campus, renovating law classrooms, the Gantenbein building, and Boley Law Library to meet the needs of an evolving digital community, as well as adding a welcoming entrance plaza.

She recently announced the addition of a new Advocacy Center at the law school, as well as a teaching courtroom, the Bergman Courtroom. Both are the result of years of effort to bring more experiential learning opportunities to law students. The Center and courtroom were made possible through generous gifts from individuals who were inspired by Jennifer’s vision.

Jennifer successfully shepherded the law school through the difficult days of Covid, working to safely conduct 1L classes in person to maintain the essential first year experience, while at the same time, ensuring that upper division students were able to meaningfully interact online as well as in person. Even as other area schools were completely online, Lewis & Clark was one of the few law schools that kept many classes in person – and at the same time, kept Covid levels at low rates. She believes that the 1L in-person classes in 2020 contributed to the outstanding bar pass rates for the class of 2023, several percentage points above the state-wide average.

Today, Lewis & Clark Law School is a national leader in public service employment. Its environmental law program is consistently ranked one of the top in the nation and it has the most robust animal law program in the world. The law school’s innovative business law programs connect with businesses headquartered in Oregon, such as Nike and Intel, to bring real life experience for students. Its entrepreneurial clinics engage in cutting edge work with environmental, natural resources and energy law cases, wildlife and farmed animal protection, criminal justice reform, small business transactions and tax issues for low-income individuals. Lewis & Clark’s highly ranked foundational programs give students practical training in lawyering skills starting on their very first day. Incoming classes hold high LSAT and GPA scores, graduates are enjoying high bar pass rates and graduate employment statistics are over 90%.

Johnson will be taking a sabbatical year beginning September 2024, but intends to “remain part of the Lewis & Clark community and to stay in touch with alumni and friends.”

President Robin Holmes-Sullivan announced the creation of a search committee and a national search effort to find the next leader for the law school, noting that “Jennifer has provided a springboard for the next dean to take the law school to a new level.”

Johnson earned her JD from Yale Law School, and after graduation, clerked for Judge Alfred Goodwin, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. She was in private practice with a Portland law firm, specializing in real estate finance and land use, before joining Lewis & Clark in 1980 as a member of the business law faculty.

Johnson has received both the Leo Levenson and Burlington Northern Foundation awards for excellence in teaching. In 2008, Dean Johnson was named Jeffrey Bain Faculty Scholar in recognition of her exemplary teaching and scholarship in business law; and was installed as the Erskine Wood Sr. Professor of Law in 2011. In 2008, Johnson was elected to the American Law Institute.

In 1989-90, Johnson stepped in as Acting Vice President of Academic Affairs for Lewis & Clark College, serving as provost for the undergraduate college.

Johnson is active in the American Association of Law Schools, serving on many committees including as chair of the law dean’s planning committee.