Current and Former Directors

Professor Norman Dorsen became Director in March 1961 when he joined the NYU School of Law faculty. Professor Sylvia A. Law, Hays Fellow in 1967–1968, became Associate Director of the Program in 1977 and Co-Director in 1978. Professor Helen Hershkoff became a Co-Director in 2000.

Professor Dorsen served as Co-Director of the Hays Program until his retirement from the Law School at the end of the 2016–2017 academic year. He died on July 1, 2017. 

Founding Directors

Professor Donald H. Wollett (1958–1959) and Professor Paul Oberst (1959–early 1961) served as the first directors of the Hays Program, each for about a year.  Professor Wollett later served on the faculties of the University of California at Davis and McGeorge Law Schools, and Professor Oberst spent his career at Kentucky Law School.

Former Acting Directors

Michael Wishnie, who joined the faculty in 1998, became an Acting Director in 2002 and a Director in 2003. Professor Wishnie left NYU to join the Yale Law School faculty in 2006. Professor Adam Cox became an Acting Director in 2011 and served until 2016.

During the periods when one of the Directors has been on sabbatical leave, Professor Martin Guggenheim, Hays Fellow in 1970–1971 (in spring semester, 1984), and Professor Stephen Gillers, Hays Fellow in 1967–1968 (in 1988–1989), served as Acting Directors, as did Visiting Professor David Cole of Georgetown Law Center (in spring semester, 1996), and NYU Professor Holly Maguigan (in 1999–2000). Sriram Panchu, a Fellow in NYU's Global Law School Program from India, participated in the Hays seminars in 1998–1999, and Professor Guggenheim participated in the Hays seminars in the fall of 2006 while Professor Law was on sabbatical leave. Finally, Professor Robert Pitofsky, then of NYU Law School, supervised the Project on Social Welfare Law in 1968 when Professor Dorsen was on sabbatical leave.


Norman Dorsen was a graduate of Columbia University and the Harvard Law School. After military service in the office of the Secretary of the Army, where he assisted in fighting McCarthyism during the 1954 Army-McCarthy Hearings, Dorsen studied at the London School of Economics. He subsequently served as law clerk to Calvert Magruder, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and to Justice John Marshall Harlan of the United States Supreme Court.

While general counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union, Norman Dorsen argued several cases before the US Supreme Court, including those that won the right to due process for juveniles in delinquency hearings, upheld constitutional rights of nonmarital children and advanced abortion rights. He also participated in the Gideon case, the Pentagon Papers case, Roe v. Wade and the Nixon Tapes case. He is the author or editor of 16 books, including Frontiers of Civil Liberties and The Rights of Americans. Professor Dorsen was the first president of the Society of American Law Teachers and was president of the ACLU from 1976 to 1991. He also served as chairman of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and was the founding president of the US Association of Constitutional Law. Professor Dorsen taught constitutional law and statutory interpretation, and was founding director in 1994 of the school’s Hauser Global Law School Program.

Read more about Norman Dorsen here.


Sylvia A. Law is a graduate of Antioch College and NYU School of Law, where she was a Hays Fellow. As a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer at the Columbia University Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law, she engaged in test case litigation asserting rights of the poor, including Goldberg v. Kelly, which established due process rights for welfare recipients. In 1969–1970 she was lecturer in law at the London School of Economics and in 1970–1973 served as staff director of the Health Law Project at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1973 Professor Law joined the NYU faculty and now teaches constitutional law, health law, and family law. She has been an active litigator on civil liberties issues, especially reproductive freedom. She is the author of many articles and several books, including Law and the American Health Care System, Blue Cross: What Went Wrong, and Pain and Profit: The Politics of Malpractice (with Steven Polan, Hays Fellow 1975–1976). In 1983 she was selected as a MacArthur Prize Fellow, the first lawyer in the United States to be so honored. In 1992 and 1993 she served as president of the Society of American Law Teachers.


Helen Hershkoff is a graduate of Harvard-Radcliffe College and Harvard Law School, and she has a master’s degree in history from Oxford University, where she was a Marshall Scholar. After five years in private practice, Professor Hershkoff spent more than a decade as a public interest lawyer with The Legal Aid Society of New York and as an Associate Legal Director of the ACLU.

Professor Hershkoff joined the NYU faculty in 1995. She has co-authored a book, The Rights of the Poor, written major articles on the role of state courts in enforcing social and economic rights, and has done consultancies for the Ford Foundation and the World Bank on the role of courts in securing social change. She is a co-author of a leading civil procedure casebook and also a co-editor and co-author of Civil Procedure in Comparative Context. For many years, Professor Hershkoff served on the Board of the Food Research and Action Center in Washington, DC and she currently is a member of the Board of the Urban Justice Center and Brennan Center for Justice in New York City. She teaches civil procedure and federal courts.