Ms. Kagan Goes to Washington

There may not be a bigger story in the law school world this year than the departure of Dean Elena Kagan from Harvard Law School.

Kagan, the former Chicago and Harvard law professor responsible for Harvard’s dramatic overhaul from a stagnant giant into a student-friendly haven and a magnet for powerhouse academics, is heading off to the nation’s capital as Barack Obama’s nomination for the position of solicitor general.

Seen as a stepping stone to an eventual seat on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court, Kagan likely had no choice but to accept the offer, particularly in light of the fact that she was passed over for the presidency of Harvard University almost two years ago. Nevertheless, this is a major setback for the law school, as Kagan appeared to be a miracle worker during her tenure as dean. And the great irony of this development is that Kagan was such an agent of change during her time in Cambridge, but is now leaving to join forces with arguably the most revered change agent in recent American history.

Of course, Harvard – and education in general – won’t be the only place where defections occur as people go to serve under the Obama administration. In fact, the mobilization of public servants to D.C. may wind up being the most remarkable development in a history election.

None of that will likely make Harvard feel any better, but they can rest easy in the knowledge that Kagan had a nearly unrivaled tenure during her time as dean of the law school.