Dahlia Umunna

Meet the First Nigerian to be Appointed Professor in Harvard School of Law


A 43-year-old Igbo woman, Dahlia Umunna, has become the first Nigerian to be appointed Professor in Harvard School of Law.

According to reports, Dehlia Umunna was appointed Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. She has been a lecturer at HLS since 2007, and is the Deputy Director and Clinical Instructor at the institution’s Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), where she supervises third-year law students in their representation of adult and juvenile clients in criminal and juvenile proceedings and arguments before Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals court.

Before going to Harvard Law School, Umunna was a trial attorney with the D.C. Public Defender Service and an adjunct professor of law and Practitioner-in-Residence at the Washington College of Law, American University.

She currently serves as a faculty member for Gideon’s Promise, and is a frequent presenter at Public Defender trainings across the country. She was a board member of the District of Columbia Law Students in Court Clinic and was a guest lecturer for several years at the George Washington University Law School.

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“Dehlia’s students revere her; her colleagues at HLS and nationally look to her as an exemplary advocate, teacher, and mentor,” said Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School. “From her unprecedented win record in criminal defense trials, her deft leadership of the Criminal Justice Institute day-to-day, and her superb coaching of student moot court teams, her published scholarship, to her numerous awards in recognition of her outstanding work as a criminal defense attorney, advisor, and teacher, Dehlia is simply extraordinary, an inspiration to her students and her clients in every way. It is a true privilege to be her colleague.”

Reacting to the elevation, Umunna had this to say: “I am blessed and honored to join Harvard Law School’s remarkable faculty. I relish this extraordinary opportunity to continue work that I am truly passionate about, and I am grateful for the deep interest and commitment of the school to issues of criminal justice, mass incarceration, indigent defense and social justice.”

Umunna received her law degree from the George Washington University Law Center. She also holds a Master’s in Public Administration (MC) from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a B.A. in Communications from California State University, San Bernardino.