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Elon Law established its annual Leadership in the Law Award to recognize individuals who make outstanding contributions to the legal profession and to society. The Leadership in the Law Award reflects Elon Law’s ethos of service and its belief that lawyers have an obligation to be problem solvers and leaders in their profession, their communities, and their country.

In the words of the Hon. James G. Exum Jr., a retired chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and founding member of the Elon University School of Law Board of Advisors:

“The most important attributes of a lawyer’s professionalism are honesty and integrity. A lawyer’s job is to represent and advocate for others. To do this effectively, the lawyer must professionally be above any reproach. If the lawyer cannot be trusted, neither can his advocacy, and without effective advocacy, the client’s cause is compromised, if not lost itself. The best weapon any advocate can have is a reputation for scrupulous honesty in all professional dealings and representations. That alone will carry you a long way to success.”

Recipients of Elon Law’s Leadership in the Law Award embody these traits: honesty, integrity, and professionally above reproach. Award nominations are solicited from students, faculty, staff and alumni. The dean of Elon University School of Law selects a recipient from among those nominations. Since 2011, the law school has presented its award at the annual Leaders in the Law ceremony hosted by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly in partnership with Elon Law.

Examples of leadership may include the following:

  • Practicing law in a way that positively reflects the role of lawyers in maintaining civic order, giving voice to underserved populations, or promoting the overall public good
  • Serving in a judicial role to provide impartial justice and ensure fair representation to all those before the courts
  • Serving in an elected or appointed government position to effect change
  • Serving in a leadership role for organizations that advance the legal profession or legal education
  • Serving in the military
  • Serving nonprofit organizations to address cultural, political or legal obstacles that hinder their missions to underserved populations

Award Recipients


The Honorable Henry E. Frye (2018)

Retired Chief Justice, Supreme Court of North Carolina

“Chief Justice Henry Frye is a worthy recipient of Elon Law’s Leadership in Law Award simply for the titles that he has held and the doors that he has opened. We know these facts and we know that the United States of America, North Carolina, and we as individuals are better for Henry’s leadership in breaking down doors. Henry Frye is one of a kind, a leader who would be the first to declaim that nomenclature. Yet, we who know his contributions to nation, state and community, who know his commitments to family and friends, who know his character and temperament, know that Henry Frye has led us to being better about ourselves. That is unique and special and a mark of true leadership.”

– Elon Law Dean Luke Bieman, presenting the 2018 Leadership in the Law Award to the Hon. Henry E. Frye, Oct. 17, 2018

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Chief Justice (Ret.) Henry E. Frye, Supreme Court of North Carolina


The Honorable Robert N. Hunter, Jr. (2017)

Judge, North Carolina Court of Appeals

“Recipients of our annual award embody several traits: honesty, integrity, and professionally above reproach. They reflect Elon Law’s ethos of service and belief that lawyers have an obligation to be problem solvers and leaders in their profession, their communities, and their country. As we celebrate our state’s best legal leaders, Elon Law takes great pride in recognizing a man of incredible talent, a man of tremendous integrity, and a man of unwavering grace, compassion and mirth. He is a true model of all that is right with our profession.”

– Elon Law Visiting Associate Professor Julee Flood, presenting the 2017 Leadership in the Law Award to the Hon. Robert N. Hunter, Jr., Sept. 15, 2017

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Robert N. Hunter Jr. of the North Carolina Court of Appeals


The Honorable Patricia Timmons-Goodson (2016)

Vice Chair, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Associate Justice (Ret.), North Carolina Supreme Court

“The Hon. Patricia Timmons-Goodson embodies everything we value at Elon Law. As a distinguished jurist who served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the North Carolina Supreme Court, she has provided leadership in addressing the most pressing social justice issues of our time. Her work today remains paramount as we continue to struggle with questions of voting rights, immigration, criminal justice and equal employment opportunities.”

– Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman, presenting the 2016 Leadership in the Law Award to the Hon. Patricia Timmons-Goodson, Sept. 23, 2016

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Leslie J. Winner


Leslie J. Winner (2015)

Executive Director, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation

“Leslie Winner’s contributions to our state are legion and legendary. From civil rights to public service to education to philanthropy, there is nary a place in North Carolina that does not bear the imprint of some good work that she has undertaken. Leslie’s commitment to fairness and equality with excellence and integrity commands our attention emblematic of a lawyer leader."

– Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman, presenting the 2015 Leadership in the Law Award to Leslie J. Winner, Sept. 25, 2015

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Leslie J. Winner


The Honorable Mark Martin (2014)

Chief Justice, Supreme Court of North Carolina

“Chief Justice Mark Martin's lifetime of legal and judicial service to North Carolina at the highest levels of state government embodies the kind of leadership we expect of members of the Elon Law community. Chief Justice Martin is a great public servant, distinguished lawyer and jurist, and exemplar of leadership in our profession. It is only fitting then for Chief Justice Martin to be recognized by Elon Law with the Leadership in Law Award.”

– Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman, presenting the 2014 Leadership in the Law Award to the Honorable Mark Martin, Sept. 19, 2014

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NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin


Charles L. Becton (2013)

Attorney, Judge and Higher Education Leader, North Carolina

“To emerge as one of North Carolina’s true leaders from the challenging times of the American civil rights era and to exhibit an unerring focus on the well-being of others throughout his career is a supreme testament to his leadership. We at Elon admire Judge Becton’s trailblazing leadership, his devotion to rooting out injustice, his consistent service to the betterment of the legal profession, his role as a teacher of law and his focus on the expansion and improvement of educational opportunities for young people across the state and nation.”

– Elon Law Professor George R. Johnson, Jr., presenting the 2013 Leadership in the Law Award to the Honorable Charles L. Becton, Sept. 18, 2013

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The Honorable Charles L. Becton


Fred Lind (2012)

Guilford County Public Defender

“For showing us what true dedication to building and sustaining a fair judicial system looks like, for showing so much care in mentoring emerging lawyers in our community, for exemplifying the determination, consistency and professionalism that defines great public defenders, and for modeling for us the life of a lawyer-leader, I am honored to present Frederick G. Lind with Elon University School of Law’s 2012 Leadership in the Law Award.”

– Elon Law Professor George R. Johnson, Jr., Sept. 19, 2012

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Guilford County Public Defender Fred Lind


Michael T. Marshall and Karen McKeithen Schaede (2011)

Greensboro attorneys and founding Elon Law attorney mentors (preceptors)

“Mike Marshall and Karen McKeithen Schaede are setting a standard of excellence for the role of lawyers as mentors and advisers to Elon law students. We are extremely fortunate to have the benefit of Mike and Karen’s wisdom, support, and involvement.”

– Elon Law Professor George R. Johnson, Jr., Oct. 14, 2011

“Karen was just what I needed to make the adjustment to law school. Not only was she was there for me when I had questions about classes or law school in general, but she was great at inquiring about my career goals and giving suggestions on how to meet those goals.”

– Alumnus Samantha J. Gilman ’11

“Mike has always been a great source of wisdom and his eagerness to share his experience is invaluable to those students he has mentored.”

– Alumnus Robert J. Webster ’13

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Elon 2011 leadership award recipients Mike Marshall and Karen McKeithen Schaede