Regional leaders reflect on impact of Elon Law

"Elon Law in Greensboro: Past, Present, & Future" featured insights from civic, business, and higher education leaders who shared how the law school has played a role in transforming downtown into a robust nexus of learning and living.

From left: Tom Ross, Nancy Vaughan, George R. Johnson Jr., Jim Melvin, and Jeb Brooks.
Since Elon University School of Law first opened its doors, there have been a variety of benefits to downtown Greensboro, North Carolina – some obvious, others subtle, and all applauded by civic and business leaders.

Four of those leaders were quick to highlight the many ways Greensboro has grown because of Elon Law at an April 2 program that commemorated the 10th reunion year of the law school’s charter class.

Moderated by George R. Johnson Jr., dean emeritus and professor of law, “Elon Law in Greensboro: Past, Present, & Future” welcomed to the law school:

  • Jeb Brooks, President & CEO, The Brooks Group
  • Jim Melvin, President & CEO, Joseph M. Bryan Foundation
  • Tom Ross, President Emeritus, University of North Carolina System
  • Nancy Vaughan, Mayor of Greensboro

“It’s a more vibrant downtown because of this law school,” Ross said. “The intellectual capacity that it’s brought to this community is a big plus. Greensboro already has been a college and university town, but there had been no law school. When Elon came here, for those of us who were lawyers, we immediately saw the opportunity it could bring.”

The evening event coincided with the spring meeting of Elon Law’s Board of Advisors. It also offered discussion points for Elon Law and Elon University faculty and staff now working on strategic plans to guide growth over the next decade.

“One of the characteristics of our law school is the relationships that form not only among students – that happens everywhere – but within the community,” said Brooks, a member of Elon Law’s Class of 2010. “That’s critically important and unique here.”

From left: Tom Ross, Nancy Vaughan, Jim Melvin, Jeb Brooks, and George R. Johnson Jr.
Vaughan pointed to another dimension of Elon Law’s presence in downtown Greensboro: an expansion of access to legal information, notably for those city residents unable to afford legal services. Elon Law offers clinics in small businesses and entrepreneurship, immigration, wills drafting, guardian ad litem appellate advocacy, and constitutional law appellate advocacy.

Law faculty also are involved in the community, she said

“When somebody calls me and they need help from a legal perspective but they can’t necessarily afford a lawyer, they can go to a law school and get that help,” Vaughan said. “I can send them to Elon Law for premier information where I know really good legal minds are helping them.”

Guests watched a short video message from real estate developer and Elon Law parent Roy Carroll. Carroll listed Elon Law, the forthcoming Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, and the First National Bank Ballpark as the three cornerstones of downtown Greensboro that have led The Carroll Companies to invest heavily in the city with hotel and apartment complexes.

“My office sits on the corner of Elm and Friendly, and every day when school is in, I have the privilege of watching young people energize our downtown by walking up and down the sidewalks, with their discussions in our coffee shops and restaurants,” Carroll said. “This is exciting for our downtown.”

More than 50 people attended the panel conversation and subsequent dinner in the Elon Law Library, including Elon University administrators, members of the Greensboro legal community, members of the Elon Law Board of Advisors, Elon Law students, and guests.

All were reminded from the panelists that Elon Law has lived up to its promise to be a “law school with a difference.” Melvin recounted his words of encouragement to the legal community more than a decade ago when he would hear attorneys question the need for a sixth North Carolina law school, despite the vast need for legal services across the state.

“‘The last thing we need is a mediocre law school,’” Melvin recalls hearing from local lawyers before Elon University finalized plans for its downtown Greensboro law school. “And I had a great response to that and it’s still true. ‘Everything Elon does is great. They don’t accept the word ‘mediocre.’”

About Elon Law:

Elon University School of Law in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, is the preeminent school for engaged and experiential learning in law. With a focus on learning by doing, it integrates traditional classroom instruction with course-connected, full-time residencies-in-practice in a logically sequenced program of transformational professional preparation. Elon Law’s innovative approach is accomplished in 2.5 years, which provides distinctive value by lowering tuition and permitting graduates early entry into their legal careers.