General Counsel Diane Lopez to Retire
Stepping down after 30 years of University service
Harvard’s vice president and general counsel Diane Lopez will retire at the end of February, the University announced today. She has served in the role since 2019—a tenure that has encompassed a high-profile admissions lawsuit, an investigation into Jeffrey Epstein’s ties to the University, and an action to prevent a Trump administration attempt to prohibit international students from remaining in the country while taking online-only courses during the pandemic.
“Diane has served as general counsel at a particularly active time,” Provost Alan M. Garber said in a University announcement. “With the superb team of legal professionals and staff she leads, she has helped Harvard remain true to its values and mission.” President Claudine Gay said that a search for a successor will begin soon, and that Eileen Finan, a University attorney since 1997, will serve as interim general counsel beginning March.
Lopez has served as a lawyer for the University for 30 years, having first joined Harvard as an attorney in 1994. She served in that role from 1994 to 2011, when she became deputy general counsel. In 2019, then-President Lawrence S. Bacow tapped her to lead the Office of the General Counsel, calling her “an outstanding lawyer and colleague, admired across Harvard for her collaborative judgment.” In addition to the legal challenges that she maneuvered during her time as general counsel, Lopez has also helped Harvard to grow and direct its research enterprise. Her practice has included work on the protection of human and animal research subjects and the navigation of legal restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research.
In the news announcement, Gay thanked Lopez for her leadership and dedication. “Diane Lopez has been a wise counselor, an outstanding legal strategist, a humane colleague, and a passionate advocate for the mission and values of Harvard University,” she said. “Since joining the Office of the General Counsel in 1994, she has expertly handled an exceptional variety of legal matters and has helped guide Harvard through innumerable challenges with an incisive mind and steady hand.”
Before joining Harvard, Lopez worked for eight years at the law firm O’Melveny & Myers, concentrating on commercial litigation and pro bono work. She has also continued her work beyond the University during her tenure here, serving on the Council of the Boston Bar Association and the BBA Women of Color Attorneys Leadership Forum. But Lopez said that her work at Harvard has been unique in the far-reaching impact she’s been able to make. “I am grateful to all of you and to the institution for providing me with a legal career that is unparalleled for the many and varied challenges we have tackled together, often in the spotlight of public attention,” she said. “In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined a legal career more purpose-driven than the one I’ve been afforded by Harvard.”