Jennifer O’Connor appointed vice president and general counsel

Jennifer O’Connor, whose career includes service as legal and strategic counsel inside the White House and with several federal agencies, will become the University’s new vice president and general counsel on July 29, interim President Alan M. Garber announced on Wednesday.

O’Connor, a 1987 graduate of Harvard College who was born in Cambridge, is currently Northrop Grumman’s vice president of technology and information law and policy, a group she helped create within the company. In this role, she leads and advises on complex legal issues related to AI, cybersecurity, emerging technologies, data access and protection, and more.

“Widely admired among her colleagues for her collaborative style, strategic insight, and dedication to public service, [O’Connor] brings with her an abiding commitment to Harvard and its mission,” Garber said in a message to the Harvard community announcing the appointment. “I am confident that her unique combination of talent and experience will serve the University well at a pivotal moment for higher education.”

As vice president and general counsel, O’Connor will lead the Office of General Counsel, which provides support to the University’s Schools, divisions, and departments on an extensive array of legal matters.

“Widely admired among her colleagues for her collaborative style, strategic insight, and dedication to public service, [O’Connor] brings with her an abiding commitment to Harvard and its mission.”

interim President Alan M. Garber

“I am thrilled to be returning to Harvard, a place that has had such a profound influence on my life since I arrived as an undergraduate,” O’Connor said. “I am grateful to [interim] President Garber for his confidence and to have this opportunity, along with the amazing team in the Office of General Counsel, to support and advance the vital mission of this University and the groundbreaking work being done by students, faculty, and researchers across so many areas that will have a meaningful impact in our world today and long into the future.”

O’Connor has held legal and strategic counsel roles in various federal government offices and agencies. In 2016, she was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate as general counsel for the Department of Defense. She held that post through the end of the administration. Before joining the Defense Department, she served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy White House counsel. In that role she managed litigation strategy and congressional investigations and risk management. Her work also included a focus on national security, immigration, and foreign policy.

Prior to joining the White House staff, she served as special counsel at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, managing investigations focused on the launch of She worked previously as counselor to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, where she provided strategic advice to the commissioner during a period of critical challenges and transitions.

In the private sector, O’Connor was a partner from 2006 to 2013 at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where she was also an associate from 2002 to 2006. Prior to this position, she served as a litigation associate at Miller Cassidy Larroca & Lewin and Baker Botts, and was a law clerk for the Honorable Judith Rogers in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

O’Connor served in various appointed positions in the federal government before joining the private sector, including as deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Labor and in the White House as special assistant to the president in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff and Office of Cabinet Affairs. She also served as a deputy director in the Office of Management and Administration.

O’Connor received her A.B. from Harvard College in 1987 and an M.P.A from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs in 1993. In 1997, she earned her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where she was on the editorial board of the American Criminal Law Review and served as a teaching fellow in legal writing. She is a member of the Law and National Security Advisory Committee for the American Bar Association, a member of the Department of Defense Advisory Committee on the Investigation, Prosecution and Defense of Sexual Assaults in the Armed Forces, and is part of the board of directors for Blue Star Families.

In announcing O’Connor’s appointment, Garber expressed his appreciation to Eileen Finan for her work as interim general counsel since March 1. “I am immensely grateful for Eileen’s counsel, dedication, and wisdom over these past months, which we will continue to benefit from as she resumes her role as a University attorney.”

O’Connor is succeeding Diane Lopez, who retired at the end of February after serving as vice president and general counsel since 2019 and completing 30 years of overall service to the University.

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