Photo: Lee Pellegrini


Odette Lienau

The new Boston College Law School dean on training lawyers to serve others and protect the rule of law. 

Just about every challenge we face in society today—from racial injustice to the fallout of the pandemic to climate change—is shaped by the law in some way. That puts the law, and therefore lawyers, at the center of these challenges, which in turn makes the way lawyers conceive of themselves in the world, and what they consider their ethical obligation to others to be, critically important. And that’s what makes BC Law School so unique—its ethic of service to others. It’s incredibly exciting for me to join an institution that has this commitment deeply built into its educational mission. You feel it here from the faculty, from the students, from the alumni. There’s a sense of community that is really palpable and really valuable to me, especially in this world that seems more unmoored than one would wish.

We don’t usually think of the U.S. as a country in which the rule of law is under threat, but recent events highlight the ways that the rule of law is dynamic: It’s always potentially strengthening and always potentially weakening. We cannot take for granted that it is a stable thing. Instead, it’s something that we have to always be vigilant about. But we also need to think about what we mean by “the rule of law.” In other countries—even in this country, potentially—people will use the idea of rule of law in a way that’s antithetical to the underlying principles of democracy and broader ethics. I grew up in Indonesia, which was an authoritarian regime. Authoritarian figures made the law, so the rule of law there meant something else entirely. And that just emphasizes how important this BC Law tradition of ethical lawyering really is.

My family and I are so happy to be joining this great institution. My husband, Aziz Rana, will join me in moving from Cornell to BC, to teach in both the law school and the political science department. We have been committed to building something together, and to moving where it works for both of us. That’s something I hope our students see and welcome: the importance of staying open to opportunities, and of embedding the meaning of a career within the meaning of a life, and possibly within a family, if that’s what they choose. That has been central to us, and we are thrilled to be at an institution that values this as well. 

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