Journal of Leadership and the Law

From the Editor

Jeff Koehler ELon Law  studentHello, and welcome to the first issue of the Elon University School of Law Journal of Leadership and the Law.  At Elon University School of Law, all students are taught critical leadership skills and lessons, with the goal of creating lawyer-leaders among all the school’s graduates.  We, the editorial staff, are pleased to offer a resource that further explores this increasingly important concept:  the idea that leadership, like so many other skills a lawyer needs to possess in order to succeed in the courtroom, the firm, and the community, can be learned.

This issue is the first of what will be two issues each year, fall and spring/summer.  It is entirely student generated and edited, and it will be offered online.  It was originally conceived as a project by the law school’s Leadership Fellows, currently a group of some 25 students from all three classes at Elon Law who are especially interested in the intersection of leadership and the law.

Our leading article this issue is a scholarly piece by Mr. Craig D. Rust, a graduate of George Mason University School of Law who has previously served as a law clerk for the Honorable Samuel G. Wilson, U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Virginia.  Mr. Rust’s article applies deep analysis to the judicial practices of United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens during his time at the Supreme Court, challenging the popular narrative of Justice Stevens transforming from an idiosyncratic jurist to a great unifier during the course of his career.  Mr. Rust shows us how Justice Stevens led by intellectual example, voicing his own opinions in an enormous quantity of dissents and separate opinions throughout his career, to influence the future discussion and analysis of many key issues, all the while maintaining great professional respect for his colleagues and treating others politely and fairly.  Mr. Rust's article, along with other scholarly articles to come, can be located in the "Studies in Leadership" section.

The “Profiles in Leadership” section of the Journal’s first issue contains two excellent question-and-answer sessions with experienced lawyer-leaders who have had a profound impact on the states of North Carolina and South Carolina, respectively.  The Honorable Justice James Exum, former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, spoke with the Journal at length on three important leadership topics:  exercising leadership on the bench to resolve legal issues, working for reform within the legal community, and using one’s position as a lawyer to serve society as a whole.  Mr. J. Gregory Hembree, Solicitor for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of South Carolina, spoke with us about building a strong leadership presence within a law firm, the practices and abilities that are essential for a lawyer-leader, and the leadership skills that he is utilizing in his bid to win his race for the State Senate.

Our “Leadership Speaker Series” section consists of comments made by the wide variety of speakers who visit Elon University School of Law year in and year out to discuss the topic of leadership.  This issue contains excerpts of remarks made by Mr. Harold Ford, Jr., who represented Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District in the House of Representatives and led the Democratic Leadership Council, and Maureen O’Connor, current Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.  Mr. Ford spoke to attendees of the law school’s Joseph M. Bryan Distinguished Leadership Lecture Series about the importance of admitting one’s mistakes, about the value of independent voters, and the importance of bipartisanship in the political process – how America is strong when all segments of its intellectual and philosophical range are strong.  In a talk with the law school’s Leadership Fellows, Ms. O’Connor provided powerful insight on how to demonstrate leadership within a law firm by making the most of opportunities and how to become active as a lawyer-leader in one’s local community by looking for a need in the community and filling it.  She also spoke about how to balance work and family, a critical issue for many lawyers.

Mr. Collin Cooper, a 3L at Elon University School of Law, as well as a Leadership Fellow and Articles Editor for the Law Review, and a member of our editorial board at the Journal of Leadership and the Law, writes in this issue about innovation, social responsibility and communication.  He explains that these three critical facets of lawyer-leadership can augment and enhance knowledge of black-letter law to better serve clients, the community, and society as a whole.  Mr. Cooper's article is located in the "Student Notes" section.

Taken as a whole, all of these articles have some powerful common threads.  The most noticeable of them is the importance of leadership through service – using our skills as lawyer-leaders to benefit not just ourselves, or our firms or our clients, but our communities and our societies as a whole.  In his interview, Justice Exum sums this point up precisely:  “Lawyers, because of the privilege we have, I’ve thought, have an obligation to give something back…  I think we need to think of it as an opportunity.”

It is my hope that readers of this material will find key lessons to assimilate into their own practices and behaviors, so that they can gain new insight into how lawyers can exhibit leadership in their firms, their practices, their communities and their personal lives.  This Journal is intended to be a source for a wide variety of material that will leave every reader with new lessons, new skills to demonstrate and new insights into the ways in which all of us can lead, inside and outside the courtroom.  Especially since this journal is new, we welcome your comments and ideas for future issues.  You can contact us at


Jeffrey Koehler
Editor in Chief