Ramanathan named executive director of HLS’s Program on the Legal Profession

Erik D. Ramanathan ’96

Erik D. Ramanathan ’96

Erik D. Ramanathan ’96 was named executive director of the Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession and its Center on Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry. Professor David Wilkins, faculty director of the program since 1991, was recently appointed by Dean Martha Minow as the new vice dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession.

“Erik’s unique blend of general counsel experience and entrepreneurial leadership in the nonprofit and law firm sectors make him an ideal champion of our efforts to find new ways of understanding and navigating the diverse challenges of modern legal practice,” said Wilkins, who remains faculty director of the program.  “His rich perspective and passion for advancing our research and teaching agendas will be instrumental to building communities of practitioners and scholars who can together adapt and reinvent key aspects of our professional lives.”

The center was launched in 2004 to conduct empirical research on legal practice and the delivery of other professional services. Ramanathan’s research focuses on the role, structure and practice dynamics of in-house legal departments; the relationship between in-house attorneys and law firm counsel; and the evolution of private sector pro bono commitments and diversity initiatives. He is investigating the globalization of public and private sector law practice as well as the economic factors that drive the evolution of the legal profession. He is particularly focused on involving current and future legal practitioners in proactively shaping and reinventing their profession.

Before joining HLS, Ramanathan was senior vice president, general counsel, secretary and chief compliance officer of ImClone Systems. As general counsel of this $6 billion biotechnology firm researching and commercializing novel oncology therapeutics, Ramanathan dealt with a myriad of high profile legal, governance and reputational challenges at the highly successful yet often troubled company.

Previously, he was an attorney at Proskauer Rose in New York where he counseled academic medical centers and the healthcare industry. Ramanathan also chairs the board of Immigration Equality, a nonprofit organization providing legal services and advocacy on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and HIV-affected immigrants and asylum seekers in the U.S.

“In this time of great change, we need to critically examine and respond to the dynamic forces reshaping the legal profession. As part of this effort, it is important to capture fully the significant changes in the role of inside counsel. It is also important to analyze the career development of underrepresented professionals,” said Ben Heineman, former chief legal officer of General Electric and senior distinguished practitioner fellow at the program. “In Erik, we are  fortunate to have found a credible and accomplished advocate for both tasks.”

Ramanathan consults for both for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises on law department management and legal crisis control, and he writes and speaks on matters of legal ethics, public health and civil rights.

In addition to his J.D. from Harvard, Ramanathan earned a bachelor’s degree in behavioral biology from The Johns Hopkins University in 1991.

On Friday, Nov. 13, Ramanathan will present a talk “Martha Stewart Sent Me—My Journey back to HLS.” The event, which is open to faculty and students, will be held at Harvard Law School’s Hauser Hall, Room 102, at noon. Please send RSVP to Kimberly Lyle, klyle@law.harvard.edu.