Initiatives and Awards

  • 2014 Kutak Award

John O'Brien, dean of New England | Boston, is the 2014 Kutak Award recipient.

John F. O’Brien, dean and professor of Law at New England Law| Boston, is the 2014 Robert J. Kutak Award Recipient. The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and the Kutak Rock national law firm established the Robert J. Kutak Award in 1984. The award is given annually to an individual who has contributed significantly toward increased cooperation among legal education, the practicing bar, and the judiciary. Most recipients have been members of the Section and active participants in its work.


John O’Brien has been dean of New England Law | Boston since 1988 and has the longest continuous service at a single institution of any law school dean in the country. In 2012, he was named one of the most influential people in legal education in a nationwide survey conducted by the National Jurist.


A native of Staten Island, New York, Dean O’Brien received a B.A. in 1973 from Manhattan College; a J.D. in 1977 from New England Law | Boston, where he graduated first in his class; and an LL.M. in taxation in 1980 from Boston University School of Law. From 1977 to 1985, he was a senior attorney in the Office of the Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service, heading the northeast region’s tax shelter program. He joined the faculty of New England Law | Boston in 1985, teaching constitutional law and federal income taxation, and served as associate dean for two years before being named dean. Currently, he teaches personal income tax and in the past has also taught taxation of business entities and legal research and writing. Under Dean O’Brien’s leadership, the law school achieved membership in the Association of American Law Schools.


Dean O’Brien has fostered collaboration among the bench, bar, and legal academy in many ways. His law school is recognized nationally for attracting a broad range of distinguished visitors, including Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr., and Associate Justices Harry Blackmun, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas; Dr. Hans Blix; Attorney General Janet Reno; and United States Senator John F. Kerry. Several of the justices have taught classes at New England Law | Boston.


Under the leadership of Dean O’Brien, New England Law | Boston established and operates three centers that allow students to work with faculty to provide public service and collaborate with local bar associations and agencies. To promote connections between the bar and the academy, New England Law | Boston also sponsors memberships for its students in the Boston Bar Association. New England Law | Boston was founded in 1908 to provide opportunities in law to women who were largely excluded from the profession at the time. Under Dean O’Brien’s leadership, the school has expanded its historic mission of providing opportunities to diverse populations and collaborates closely with the Boston Lawyers Group, which is dedicated to identifying, recruiting, and advancing attorneys of color.  


Dean O’Brien served as chair of the Section’s Council from 2011to 2012, during which time he led the Section through turbulent times for legal education. Dean O’Brien has also served as chair of the Accreditation Committee and been actively involved in the accreditation process, serving as special fact-finder and as both member and chair of law school evaluation teams. He has also served as chair of the Section’s Independent Law Schools Forum.


Dean O’Brien served for three years as president of the Consortium for Innovative Legal Education, Inc., a group of four law schools that offers joint study abroad programs and visit-in policies for students. He is a former member of Boston’s civilian police review board, formally known as the Community Ombudsman Oversight Program, which was established in 2007 by Mayor Thomas M. Menino to review accusations of serious misconduct against Boston police officers.


Dean O’Brien is admitted to practice in Massachusetts, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the United States Tax Court, and the United States Supreme Court. He has received honorary doctor of laws degrees from New England Law | Boston (1998) and from his undergraduate alma mater, Manhattan College (2006).


Dean O’Brien will be honored at a special reception on Friday, August 8, 2014, from 6:30 pm to 8:00 p.m., at the Hilton Boston Back Bay in Boston during the ABA Annual Meeting.
  • Robert J. Kutak Award

  • Kutak Award Committee