Zachary Kramer named dean of Elon University School of Law

The accomplished law school administrator, currently serving as interim dean at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, praises Elon University’s distinct approach to experiential learning, mentoring and innovation.

A longtime administrator and legal scholar with a leadership philosophy described as “collaborative, inclusive and driven to give students the best possible legal education” has been named the next dean of Elon University School of Law following a national search.

Zachary Kramer, interim dean and the Jonathan & Wendy Rose Professor of Law at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, will formally join the Elon Law community in June.

Kramer has served the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law over the past decade in several leadership roles: twice as interim dean, and at various points as executive associate dean, associate dean of faculty, and associate dean for intellectual life.

At the same time, Kramer has been a prolific scholar, regularly authoring articles on civil rights law in a number of leading law reviews and presenting on the same topics at conferences and symposia across the United States. He has mentored students and colleagues alike as an advisor to student organizations and a member of multiple college committees and working groups.

“Zak Kramer’s proven leadership, his embrace of innovative ideas and his demonstrated commitment to inclusive excellence reflect Elon Law’s values and its mission to educate attorneys who will advocate for clients while pursuing the common good,” said Elon University President Connie Ledoux Book. “I look forward to welcoming Zak to our community. His extensive record of supporting students will help him build relationships and identify opportunities that will keep Elon Law at the forefront of American legal education.”

Impressed by Elon Law’s highly experiential approach to teaching today’s law students, Kramer describes his new role as that of an “ambassador” who will help further elevate the law school’s national recognition for practical training. He also sees prospects for deepening institutional connections, notably among Elon Law alumni and within the broader legal profession.

“I’m humbled to be joining such a special community,” Kramer said. “Everyone at Elon Law, in every position on the staff and faculty, is completely focused on giving students the best possible education. The entire community is deeply committed to the school’s mission of providing a practical and affordable education that prepares our students for the jobs of their dreams.”

Kramer said he is excited to continue the progress achieved by the Elon Law community in recent years: since adopting its 2.5-year, seven-trimester curriculum in 2014, the number of annual applications for admissions has increased 50%, and average student loan debt at graduation has declined by nearly a third.

“Universities are engines of opportunity, and I want to serve an institution that is committed to transforming students’ lives,” he said. “Elon Law is the most innovative law school for experiential education and practical training. I’m excited to help lead the community in its next phase of growth.”

Inclusive excellence is another top priority of the new dean. Law schools “must be significant drivers of change” in breaking down barriers in both the legal profession and society, he said, with educators working to form partnerships with law firms and other employers, engage alumni, and listen carefully to students to cultivate a sense of belonging.

Kramer’s legal scholarship has focused on issues of equality in employment and family life. He is the author of “Outsiders: Why Difference is the Future of Civil Rights,” which was published by Oxford University Press in 2019. His articles have appeared in the Duke Law Journal, the Northwestern University Law Review, the California Law Review, and the Washington University Law Review, among other journals.

Kramer’s scholarship has been honored with the Dukeminier Award through the Williams Institute and UCLA School of Law, in the Southeastern Association of Law Schools’ Call for Papers Competition, with the Pride Award at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and with the Larry Travis Bushong Scholarship Award at the University of Illinois College of Law.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts with distinction from the University of Wisconsin, Kramer attended the University of Illinois College of Law where he served as the editor-in-chief of the University of Illinois Law Review before graduating magna cum laude. Kramer began his academic career as the inaugural Charles R. Williams Teaching Fellow at UCLA School of Law. He then taught at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law and Penn State Law, before joining the faculty at Arizona State in 2010.

“Since its inception two decades ago, the School of Law at Elon University has aspired to become a law school with a difference,” said David Gergen, chair of the Elon Law Advisory Board and a former advisor to four United States presidents, a professor of public service and founding director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. “In its fresh thinking about curriculum, its emphasis upon experiential learning, its commitment to justice and equality and its stress upon leadership development, Elon Law has come a long way in building strong foundations.

“Now the School of Law has reached out to recruit a highly respected, innovative member of the legal academy to lift it to a whole new level,” Gergen added. “Every member of the Elon Law community who interviewed him came away impressed and enthusiastic, and I can already see how members of the Elon Law Advisory Board are eager to work with Zak Kramer in the years ahead.”

Kramer will meet this spring with students, staff, and faculty, and will visit Greensboro in April for Elon Law’s final Distinguished Leadership Lecture of the 2022-23 academic year, featuring Shannon Bream of FOX News. He also will work with law school administrators to coordinate virtual events that will be open to all alumni who wish to meet him and ask questions about his new role.

Kramer encourages members of the community to contact him by email ([email protected]) with questions or reflections they may have before he begins his official responsibilities. He succeeds Dean Emeritus Luke Bierman, who returned to the faculty in 2022 after concluding a seven-year deanship, and Interim Dean Alan Woodlief, who has led Elon Law over the past year and who Book has lauded for “exemplary leadership” during the transition.

Kramer and his wife, Rhiannon, have two children: Izaak, 19, and Gittel, 9. Their family will relocate to Greensboro in the early summer.