Letter From the Dean

Leadership at Yale Law School: Building on a Legacy and Changing for the Future


Heather Gerken

A Yale Law School education has long served as an all-purpose leadership degree. Our educational model relies on a simple formula. Choose the best minds. Train them to think in rigorously analytic, institutional, and ethical terms. And encourage them to question everything.

The results are unparalleled.

Our graduates effect change across every sector of society. They’re entrepreneurs, nonprofit founders, litigators, CEOs, and public servants. They’re cabinet officers and city council members; environmentalists and inventors; Hollywood agents and U.S. attorneys; poets and coders. We train lawyers’ lawyers and lawyers writ large.

It’s a remarkable legacy. But Yale Law School is an institution that has always been imbued with a restless spirit, and change is part of our institutional DNA. That is why I am thrilled to announce the launch of The Joseph C. Tsai Leadership Program at Yale Law School — an initiative that builds upon our storied history while helping us create a curriculum for the next century. Its core aim is straightforward — to train every student for their last job, not just their first. To do this, we must ensure that all of our graduates are broad-gauged thinkers prepared for the practical and moral decisions they will face no matter what career path they choose.

The Tsai Leadership Program enables us to preserve our core model while broadening and modernizing our curriculum, infusing the Law School with training opportunities, and harnessing the support of our extraordinary alumni community. The program is buttressed by the creation of the Carol and Gene Ludwig Program in Public Sector Leadership and the Michael S. and Alexa B. Chae Initiative in Private Sector Leadership, which support students pursuing nontraditional careers and leadership roles in the public and private sectors. By lighting up the many career paths available to our students and connecting them to our incredible alumni community, we will help ensure a level playing field for every member of our extraordinarily diverse student body, meeting all of our students where they are, and getting them to where they want to be.

I am deeply grateful to Joe Tsai ’90 and Clara Wu Tsai, Michael Chae ’97 and Alexa Chae ’97, Gene Ludwig ’73 and Carol Ludwig, and all of our dedicated program founders — a remarkable group who banded together to bring this transformative program to life. Each exemplifies what it means to be a leader today, and they have chosen to make a bold investment in the leaders of tomorrow. The impact of their vision and generosity will be felt for generations to come as our students go out into the world and use their skills for the greater good.

In this moment — with so many vitally important issues like racial inequality and climate change demanding urgent action — our educational mission has never been more critical. Now more than ever, we need the intellectually curious, rigorously analytic, and deeply ethical leaders that this Law School has always aimed to train. The launch of The Tsai Leadership Program will help Yale Law School answer that call. I hope you will explore the website, watch our launch video, and join us as we empower a new generation of talented, mission-driven leaders to leave their mark on the world.

Heather K. Gerken
Dean and Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor of Law