Sophia Z. Lee named Dean of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Lee is currently a professor of law with a secondary appointment in history, and has been a member of the Penn Carey Law faculty since 2009.

Person with arms crossed stands outside Law School
Sophia Z. Lee (Image: Penn Carey Law)

Sophia Z. Lee has been named dean of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, effective July 1, 2023. Lee, currently a professor of law with a secondary appointment in history, has been a member of the Penn Carey Law faculty since 2009. The announcement was made today by Penn President Liz Magill.

Sophia Lee is a proven leader and a consensus builder,” said Magill. “A superb scholar and teacher of constitutional and administrative law, she is deeply dedicated to Penn Carey Law and to the people—faculty, staff, students, and alumni—who are central to its work. She embodies Penn Carey Law’s core values. Sophia Lee is the right leader at the right time to elevate Penn Carey Law’s status to even greater heights.”

Lee joined the Penn Carey Law faculty in 2009 as an Assistant Professor of Law. She has held a variety of leadership and service roles at both the school and University level. She was the law school’s Deputy Dean from 2015 to 2017, serving a full two-year term under Dean Theodore W. Ruger.

“I am thrilled for this opportunity to serve the faculty, staff, students, and alumni who have given me so much during my time at Penn Carey Law,” said Lee. “I look forward to working together to build on the law school’s defining strengths, ensure that we remain at the forefront of scholarly excellence, and prepare our graduates for fulfilling lives of practice, leadership, scholarship, and service at the highest levels.”

An experienced and admired leader, Lee as Deputy Dean oversaw a restructuring of the Legal Practice Skills program and advanced the school’s commitment to diversity and belonging in both hiring and in enhancing the student experience. Lee chaired the law school’s Tenure and Promotions Committee from 2020 to 2021. Among numerous University service roles, she has been a member of the Social Responsibility Advisory Committee, the Committee on Honorary Degrees, and the Presidential Professorships Advisory Committee.

“Sophia Lee exemplifies what it means to be a good Penn citizen,” said Provost-designate John L. Jackson, Jr., the Walter H. Annenberg Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication. “A beloved member of the Penn and Penn Carey Law communities, she is widely admired not only for her own ideas but for her commitment to cultivating the ideas of others. Everyone who knows Sophia is impressed by her ability to bring people together in the pursuit of common goals. Penn and Penn Carey Law will benefit tremendously from her leadership.”

Lee’s scholarly work is rooted in cross-disciplinary collaboration. She helped pioneer the study of administrative agencies’ role in shaping constitutional law and has written about civil rights and labor advocates’ challenges to workplace discrimination as well as conservative legal movements in the post-New Deal era. Her 2015 book, “The Workplace Constitution from the New Deal to the New Right,” interweaves the histories of the civil rights and right-to-work movements. Lee’s work has been published in the Yale Law JournalVirginia Law ReviewLaw and History Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, among other leading law reviews, and she has won several awards for her scholarly contributions.

She has held leadership roles with the American Society for Legal History and the Labor and Working-Class History Association.

Lee earned her B.A. and M.S.W. from the University of California at Berkeley and her J.D. and Ph.D. in history from Yale. Prior to joining the Penn Carey Law faculty in 2009, she clerked for the Honorable Kimba M. Wood of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“Sophia Lee has a distinguished track record as an innovative scholar, dedicated teacher, and accomplished administrator,” said Interim Provost Beth A. Winkelstein. “She is well-prepared not only to build off of and strengthen the law school’s foundations but also to lead Penn Carey Law in shaping the future of legal education and the legal profession.”

Lee succeeds Dean Theodore W. Ruger, who will return to the Penn Carey Law faculty after an eight-year term as dean.

“We are grateful to Dean Ruger for his distinguished service,” said Magill. “We are fortunate that he will continue to contribute to Penn Carey Law’s progress as a member of the faculty.”

In making the announcement of Lee’s appointment, Magill also thanked Erika H. James, dean of the Wharton School, who chaired the Consultative Committee for the Penn Carey Law dean search, as well as the members of the committee: “I am grateful to Dean James and the Consultative Committee for their unfailing commitment to helping us find an exceptional leader for Penn Carey Law.”