Francis E. McGovern was a giant in the ADR field, serving as both a court-appointed special master and a mediator, and later as adjunct professor with UC Law San Francisco. He passed away unexpectedly in 2020, and his wife Katy McGovern created The Francis E. McGovern Scholarship for ADR in his honor.

The annual scholarship will support continuing UC Law SF students committed to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) through the Center for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution (CNDR). As a tribute to Professor McGovern’s passion for teaching and resolving even the most intractable conflicts, the scholarship is the sole beneficiary of funds from his Foundation.

As a special master, Professor McGovern shepherded many high-profile cases through years of litigation with patience, persistence, and creativity. Because he knew the value of trust and communication when mediating conflicts, he worked hard to build relationships with the people involved in his cases, and could always be counted on to return a call within a few hours. A natural problem solver and self-proclaimed “settlement guy,” Professor McGovern embraced creative approaches and could always find a solution that served his clients’ interests. He started every day with a pile of newspapers and loved staying in bed until he came up with a new idea for each of his cases – at least on days when he had the luxury of time.

Professor McGovern was beloved by students and faculty alike for being encouraging, gracious, and genuinely interested in others. A tenured Professor at Duke, he also taught at Stanford, and UC Berkeley before Dean David Faigman convinced him to join the teaching faculty at UC Law SF (then Hastings) in 2018. Professor McGovern loved teaching because it was an opportunity to convene and engage with bright young minds. With a goal of advancing the field of ADR, Professor McGovern delighted in being a conduit to students trying to find their way in the legal profession. He enjoyed bringing his cases to life in the classroom and connecting students with the realities of practice.

As a scholar and leader in the field, Professor McGovern published numerous articles in the areas of mass torts, complex litigation, and dispute resolution. With an eye to the future of the profession, he taught a course on Using AI in Legal Practice, long before it was a widely available, everyday tool. Friends for 25 years, Dean Faigman, describes Professor McGovern as a “true Renaissance man,” noting that “as befits a special master who excelled at mediating high-profile controversial cases, Francis was relaxed, easy-going, and quick to smile and joke. He was one of the most erudite people I’ve ever known, in a profession replete with erudition.”

Mrs. Katy McGovern, who started her career in finance, trained as a mediator and considered an ADR career before deciding to live vicariously in the world of mediation through Professor McGovern’s work. She hopes his story and legacy will inspire other students to follow their passions, and that the Scholarship will support students who share Professor McGovern’s dreams for the future of dispute resolution, creative problem-solving skills, and respect for the importance of patiently building relationships that set the foundation for lasting solutions to legal problems.

Read more about Professor McGovern and his impact on ADR

Learn about CNDR student scholarship opportunities


“Francis McGovern was a legend. . .  As one who has been deeply involved in American complex litigation for nearly 40 years, I can say that Francis got there first and made more of a difference than anyone else in the American legal academy. . . [H]e could dig in, get his hands dirty, and make a positive contribution to resolving these impossible-to-resolve cases. That’s certainly why judges will mourn his passing, for he could work magic to untangle the gordian knots they encountered too often.”

-Richard Marcus, Distinguished Professor of Law and Horace O. Coil Chair in Litigation, UC Law SF