The Hon. Robert N. Hunter Jr., a Greensboro native highly respected by attorneys across North Carolina for his service to the state, received Elon Law's 2017 Leadership in the Law Award.
A North Carolina jurist known for his longtime efforts to ensure fairness in the courts and access to legal services for people of all backgrounds received Elon University School of Law’s highest professional honor on Sept. 15, 2017, at an annual leadership event led by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly in partnership with Elon Law.
The Hon. Robert N. “Bob” Hunter Jr. of the North Carolina Court of Appeals received Elon Law’s Leadership in the Law Award during a banquet in Charlotte attended by more than 170 of the state’s top legal leaders, practitioners, scholars, and their families.
“Recipients of our annual award embody several traits: honesty, integrity, and professionally above reproach,” Julee Flood, visiting associate professor of law and director of Elon Law’s Leadership Program, said when introducing Hunter. “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.
“Judge Robert N. ‘Bob’ Hunter is all of the above. 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.”
Hunter’s distinguished legal career was forged over three decades in private practice before he sought to use his knowledge in a leadership role on both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
His contributions to the law are highlighted by:
- Serving as an associate judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from 2009-2015, and since 2016
- Serving on the Supreme Court of North Carolina in 2015, a position to which he was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory
- Serving today as vice chair of the North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System
- Serving from 1985-1989 as chair of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, a vital role in preserving the integrity of our nation’s democratic process
- Contributing to the growth of Greensboro’s legal community in private practice over the span of three decades, most recently with Hunter, Higgins, Miles, Elam & Benjamin, PLLC
In accepting the award, Hunter reflected on the way leadership emerges through the law. Lawyers at their very best are great storytellers, he said, and effectively those stories in court or when seeking judicial relief on behalf of a client is what distinguishes the best lawyer leaders.
“You are a leader if you do that job extremely well, and you lead by individual justice,” Hunter told banquet guests. “What we’re trying to create is a more just society. In your career, there may be a story that comes across your desk that can change the face of this country. Not only for your clients, but also for every person similarly situated. That’s what real leadership in the law is about.”
Hunter has been repeatedly honored for his work to promote justice and ensure fairness in North Carolina’s legal system. He was named the 2011 Outstanding Appellate Judge of the Year by North Carolina Advocates for Justice, and he received the McNeill Smith Award from the North Carolina Bar Association’s Committee on Constitutional Law and Individual Rights, among other awards.
Equally committed to the health of the legal profession, Hunter has offered his counsel and leadership to several organizations as a member of the American Bar Association, the North Carolina Bar Association, the Greensboro Bar Association, the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, and the American Inns of Court. He is a past president of the NCBA’s BarCARES, a confidential intervention program designed to help lawyers and law students with issues that may be causing distress, including family concerns, substance abuse, mental health conditions, and time management.
Born and raised in Greensboro, Hunter is a two-time graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history followed four years later by his law degree. He is also an alumnus of Duke University Law School’s L.L.M. program.
Hunter is married to Susan Awbrey Hunter, and together they have three grown sons: Robert Neal Hunter III, Chris Awbrey Steele, and Alan Baret Steele.
Elon Law’s Leadership in the Law Award was presented during North Carolina Lawyers Weekly’s “Leaders in the Law” program that recognized 30 of the state’s most accomplished attorneys for their own leadership in the profession. Elon Law has partnered with North Carolina Lawyers Weekly since the inaugural program in 2011.
Elon Law’s leadership program has been recognized by the American Bar Association for its mission to prepare future lawyers for professional leadership opportunities. The school established its leadership award to honor lawyers who make outstanding contributions to the law and society.
Previous Leadership in the Law Award recipients
- Patricia Timmons-Goodson (2016), vice chair, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
- Leslie J. Winner (2015), executive director, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
- The Hon. Mark Martin (2014), chief justice, Supreme Court of North Carolina
- Charles L. Becton (2013), attorney/judge/higher education leader in North Carolina
- Fred Lind (2012), Guilford County public defender
- Michael T. Marshall and Karen McKeithen Schaede (2011), Greensboro attorneys and founding Elon Law preceptors
About Elon Law:
Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina, is the preeminent school for engaged and experiential learning in law. It integrates traditional classroom instruction with highly experiential full-time residencies-in-practice in a logically sequenced program of transformational professional preparation. Elon Law’s groundbreaking approach is accomplished in 2.5 years, which provides distinctive value by lowering tuition and permitting graduates early entry into their professional careers.