Criminal Attorney Oklahoma Defense Lawyer Adam R. Banner OKLAHOMA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AT LAW

The Oklahoma Legal Group Blog

The Law Deans: J. Rich Leonard, Campbell University School of Law

Adam Banner - Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University is the only law school in Raleigh, North Carolina, the state's capital city and one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. Campbell Law School boasts the highest bar passage rate among North Carolina law schools and has for a quarter of a century. The school also implemented a voluntary bar success program which resulted in a 94.53 percent bar exam passage rate in July 2012 and an astounding 100 percent passage rate just six months later.

Since July 2013, J. Rich Leonard has led Campbell Law as dean.

Dean Leonard's distinguished legal career includes service as United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina since 1992, acting as Chief Judge from 1999 through 2006. He has also been United States Magistrate Judge (1981-92) and Clerk of Court of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (1979-92) and served as consultant to the United States Department of State.

Prior to becoming dean in 2013, he was a Campbell law professor, teaching at the university since 2009, and he also taught as an adjunct professor at North Carolina Central University School of Law and the University of North Carolina law school for several years prior to coming to Campbell.

While serving as law school dean at Campbell, Dean Leonard has implemented a number of programs to enhance educational and professional opportunities for law students. These increasing the school's scholarship program, performing a thorough curriculum review, identifying nine specific practice areas, partnering with local law firms to sponsor competitive advocacy program student teams, and exploring the expansion of clinical programs, including the recently established Stubbs Bankruptcy Clinic. Under the leadership of Dean Leonard, Campbell Law announced a Campbell Flex admission program, Campbell Law Connections mentorship program, Certificate in Patent Law, and two advanced international certificates with the University of Reading. 

Oklahoma Legal Group thanks Dean Leonard, for taking the time to address our questions about legal education and the changing face of the legal field.

What is the biggest challenge facing new law students?

The biggest challenge has not changed. Law school, particularly in the first year, is difficult and rigorous, the most intense academic experience most of our students have ever faced. The method of teaching is relentless and intimidating, and the time commitment is enormous. But there are some new challenges. The job market has morphed in many ways, and the traditional paths do not insure success as they once did. Students have to be much more adept at networking, making contacts, and finding their own path. Adding to the anxiety is the debt load that many carry, particularly our students who arrived here with substantial undergraduate debt. With all of these negatives, my job is to be a cheerleader for the profession, to persuade students that this is still a fulfilling, important and lucrative career.

What is the single biggest challenge that you face as Dean?

Since I became dean less than three years ago, the applicant pool has been at its lowest level since the 1970s. Seating a class that allows us to remain a vibrant institution while holding our credentials takes enormous creativity and time. I spend a great deal of time talking to prospective applicants and their families, and strategizing with my Admissions committee and staff about our approach. And there is some tension in being in the middle between a faculty that wants things to be the way they were, and a main campus focused on the bottom line.

Which areas of the law do you think will experience the biggest growth over the next few years?

Virtually every area of enterprise is being subjected to more and more regulation, so in a word, compliance. In the financial sector, in the health sector, in virtually every area of business, institutions are looking to lawyers to help navigate a baffling array of local, state and national ordinances, statutes, and regulations. In a state growing as fast as North Carolina, there are also increased opportunities in more traditional fields, like prosecution and criminal defense.

Is teaching law now different compared to when you were a law student?

In the first year, there is still enough Socratic dialogue to satisfy even Professor Kingsfield. But it is no longer the sole method. Faculty vary their teaching methodologies to include group work, problem solving, student presentations, and flipped classrooms. And so much more of law school is experiential now, with clinics, externships, and simulation classes in advocacy, negotiation and mediation.

How do you think technology will impact criminal defense?

Obviously, the biggest impact is the increasing ability to tie physical evidence to a crime, through DNA and other biometric markers. One of the unexpected side effects, though, is that even in cases where the evidence in indisputable, jurors still expect a level of investigation only possible on CSI, and are skeptical when it was not done.

What do you think are the biggest legal challenges facing the Supreme Court?

There seems to be a great deal of confusion currently in the applicable principles by which the legitimacy of gerrymandering of Congressional districts is measured, both for politically partisan reasons and racial reasons. In my state of North Carolina, in the last sixty days, the North Carolina Supreme Court has upheld our recent redistricting by a 4-3 vote, and a three-judge federal court has thrown out the same maps by a 2-1 vote.

Are there any aspects of practicing law you miss due to being in education?

I was a federal judge before coming to the deanship, not involved in the practice of law per se. What I miss most about that job was the ability to close myself in a room with a hard problem and good lawyers, and focus only on that until I arrived at a solution. The dean’s job is endlessly staccato, jumping from place to place and issue to issue at a dizzying pace.

If you could invite any three legal or governmental identities (living, dead, real, or fictitious) to a meal, whom would you invite?

I have always been a fan of interesting women as dinner companions. I’d invite Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Justice Sotomayor.

What is your favorite legal movie?

I don’t see how it can be anything but To Kill a Mockingbird. “Stand up, Scout, your daddy is passing,” is the ultimate tribute to excellence in lawyering.

Trackback Link
Post has no trackbacks.