Top N.C. jurists offer counsel and wisdom to Class of 2018

Three former chief justices of the North Carolina Supreme Court - today members of the Elon University School of Law Board of Advisors - shared personal and career stories to new students enrolled in an August legal leadership class.

From left: James G. Exum Jr., Rhoda Bryan Billings, and Henry E. Frye
Here’s something that not every law student gets to do in his or her first month of class: glean wisdom from three distinguished legal leaders who once served as chief justices of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Unless you’re in Elon Law’s Class of 2018.

Students in Elon Law’s newest class attended a panel discussion on Aug. 31, 2016, as part of “Lawyering, Leadership & Professionalism,” a course that introduces students to the professional norms and expectations of the legal profession.

Ready to share wisdom that afternoon were Rhoda Bryan Billings, James G. Exum Jr. and Henry E. Frye. The three former justices – all of who serve today on the Elon Law Board of Advisors and for whom Elon Law’s national moot competition is named – addressed questions that ranged from the power of mentors to the professional criticism they’ve received to the way personal beliefs might have factored into court decisions.

Moderated by Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman, the discussion was followed by an afternoon reception where the Class of 2018 met with attorney mentors, part of a four-person student success team guaranteed to each new student.

Billings served four years as a state District Court judge, from 1968 to 1972, before beginning service on the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1985. She was appointed Chief Justice in 1986, the second woman to head the Court. Billings also served as President of the North Carolina Bar Association from 1991 to 1992.

In addition to his role on the Board of Advisors, Exum is Distinguished Professor of the Judicial Process at Elon Law. He served on the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1974 to 1994, and was Chief Justice from 1986 to 1994. Exum had previously been elected to the state House of Representatives in 1967, and his career includes service as Resident Superior Court Judge of Guilford County.

Frye served over 24 years in private law practice, 14 years in the North Carolina General Assembly, 10 years as president of a bank, two years as an assistant U.S. attorney, two years as a law professor, and over 17 years on the North Carolina Supreme Court. In 1983, Frye became the first African-American to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court. He was appointed Chief Justice of the Court in 1999.