Leary Davis, one of North Carolina's most experienced and respected legal educators, is the founding dean of the Elon University School of Law. His appointment was made in March 2005 by Elon President Leo M. Lambert.
"Our national search for a founding dean has led us to an esteemed and talented North Carolina leader who will lay a firm foundation for what will become an excellent school," Lambert says. "Leary Davis has earned respect and admiration during his long career as founding dean and professor of law at Campbell University. He has incredible vision and a strong passion for creating an innovative law school - one that builds on Elon's strengths in engaged learning, leadership and civic responsibility. His strong values and high standards are a perfect match for our aspirations for the Elon University School of Law."
Davis, who has spent 30 years leading efforts to improve legal education, will be advised by a distinguished board of judges, attorneys and business leaders in launching the school at Greensboro, N.C. Charter advisory members include Alfred P. Carlton Jr., former president of the American Bar Association (ABA); former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justices Jim Exum and Henry Frye; North Carolina Resident Superior Court Judge Jack Spencer Jr.; attorneys Noel Allen, Raleigh, Bill McNairy, Greensboro, and Pat Maroney, Charleston, W.Va.; leadership consultant David DeVries, Greensboro; and business leader Bobby Long, Greensboro.
Carlton says the choice of Davis as founding dean is a strong signal to attorneys in North Carolina and across the nation about Elon's commitment to high standards of excellence in developing a law program that emphasizes professionalism and leadership. "With Leary Davis, Elon Law is getting a respected and recognized leader, not only in legal education, but in the law profession. He is the right person to lead the law school in its formative stages and beyond," Carlton says.
Exum says Davis stands for excellence. "He will ensure that we start a law school that will achieve a needed niche in legal education - a law school that will attract the finest students and faculty from around the country," Exum says. "Leary understands the need for training lawyers who have high ethical standards, who care about and respect others - lawyers who will be leaders in the profession, in their communities and in civic and political life. That's the goal we set for this law school. He is more capable by virtue of his experience, energy and dedication than anyone I know of achieving that goal."
Davis says building a new law school from the ground up is a tremendous opportunity and a perfect match for his goals in furthering the quality of legal education. He served as consultant for Elon's School of Law Feasibility Study Committee beginning in 2002 and conducted extensive research, writing the report on the committee's findings. Davis has conceived a school that will develop a new paradigm based on traditional legal knowledge and skills along with an added focus on helping students utilize what they've learned to become effective legal practitioners and civic leaders.
"The Elon University School of Law will keep students actively engaged throughout their three years of law school," Davis says. "We will provide them with a solid foundation of legal knowledge and skill and offer constant constructive feedback that will help them move to a high level of competence. They will become leaders in their profession and in their communities.
"Our creative approach will include outstanding faculty members who will work in partnership with students and a group of working attorneys and leadership consultants who will serve as mentors and coaches, both challenging and supporting students," Davis says.
Davis says the location of Elon's law school in downtown Greensboro offers an "enormous advantage," and says law students will not only enjoy outstanding clinical practice opportunities in the courts and law firms that are concentrated there, but will also help create the dynamic downtown environment being developed by Action Greensboro and its partners.
Davis helped found the Campbell University School of Law in 1975 and served as dean until 1986. Courses he developed and taught won numerous awards, and Campbell graduates enjoyed a high passage rate on North Carolina's bar exam.
Davis has been actively involved throughout his career in the American Bar Association, North Carolina Bar Association, the North Carolina State Bar and in community and statewide civic projects. He was a member of the Governor's Commission on the Future of North Carolina and is a board member of BarCARES of North Carolina and the Raleigh Business and Technology Center. He is currently a member of the North Carolina Chief Justice's Commission on Professionalism Judicial Response Committee.
Davis founded and is president of the National Institute to Enhance Leadership and Law Practice (LAWLEAD/NIELLP), a non-profit organization that has attracted national attention through research on trends in the legal profession and the elements of lawyer competence. He is chair of The Davis Consulting Group and director of the Institute to Study the Practice of Law and Socioeconomic Development, for which he organized a national conference for law professors on planning and management competence.
Prior to his career in legal education, Davis practiced law in Zebulon and Raleigh, N.C. for nine years and was Assistant Prosecutor for Wake County (N.C.) District Court (1968-69) and Town Attorney for the Town of Zebulon (1969-76). He was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve and North Carolina National Guard for seven years, serving as a helicopter pilot and Officer Candidate School tactical officer.
Davis received North Carolina's Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award while in law practice and in 2003 received the American Bar Association's E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award on behalf of the Professionalism Development Program he developed at Campbell.
Davis has bachelor's and law degrees from Wake Forest University and an LL.M., the master of laws degree, from Columbia University, where he was a Dayton Hudson Fellow.