Dean J. Rich Leonard, a former federal bankruptcy judge, is celebrating his 10th anniversary as the dean of Campbell Law School. Since taking the helm, he has accomplished a number of achievements and continues to work as the longest-serving dean of a law school in North Carolina.
One of the biggest milestones Leonard has achieved in the past decade is the opening of the Gailor Family Law Litigation Clinic in 2021. The need for access to family law was recently identified by the North Carolina Supreme Court as one of the most pressing needs for the state’s residents.
Family law is often regarded as one of the most difficult practices for lawyers. It can be very time consuming and emotional, as the complexities of divorce, custody battles and other legal issues become drawn out. Since its founding, 242 case files have been opened, clinic students have gone to court more than 200 times and have conducted 102 contested trials and hearings in District Court. The clinic is currently seeking to hire another attorney to keep up with the growing demand for services.
Another example of the work that has been done under Leonard is through the Blanchard Community Law Clinic (BCLC), which assists low-income individuals with legal issues. For example, there are more than a million people in North Carolina whose driver’s licenses have been suspended for failing to pay fines, in mainly rural areas.
These fines can begin to add up as those without a driver’s license continue working and taking care of daily necessities illegally. That’s because there is little to no public transportation so the ability to avoid new fines while driving on a suspended license becomes increasingly difficult.
The BCLC, where law students under the supervision of a licensed attorney, work with local DMVs and district attorneys to help residents get their driver’s licenses restored. This gives law students experience in drafting motions and consulting with clients one-on-one.
Over the past 40 years, Leonard has also been working to help communities across the globe. He has visited Africa at least 75 times. There he has helped develop and modernize their legal systems. Since 2019, he has taken two groups of law students to the country of Ghana, where the students could gain valuable experience learning first hand about foreign justice systems. During the trip, students and professors collaborated together on how they could provide legal solutions and help implement it in the country. Leonard recently published a book about his work in Africa titled “From Welcome to Windhoek: a Judge’s Journey”.
Currently, Leonard is in the country of Bhutan, where he is teaching an international comparative bankruptcy course to law students in the region. He is focusing on bankruptcy laws in the United States, European Union, India and China while using real case examples on cross border insolvency laws in each jurisdiction.