Janet Ward Black, a former past president of the North Carolina Bar Association and the North Carolina Association of Trial Lawyers, received Elon Law’s 2019 Leadership in the Law Award on Friday at an evening awards gala hosted by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly.
A former president of the North Carolina Bar Association and principal owner of one of the largest woman-owned law firms in the state has been honored by Elon University School of Law with the school’s top professional award for leadership.
Janet Ward Black of Ward Black Law accepted Elon Law’s 2019 Leadership in the Law Award during a Friday evening awards gala celebrating top lawyer leaders across the state hosted by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly.
“We must all be each other’s keepers, and with grace and compassion and even a touch of humor from time to time, we know that Janet Ward is always a friend to those in need, and a leader in the truest sense of the word,” Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman said when presenting the award. “Her work makes us a better community. A better state. A better nation. It should inspire us all.”
Black’s contributions to the law include:
- Third woman president of the North Carolina Association of Trial Lawyers (today the North Carolina Advocates for Justice) and fourth woman president of the North Carolina Bar Association
- As NCBA president, established “4 ALL,” an annual day of service for North Carolina attorneys to provide free legal information to residents across the state. Over 100,000 North Carolinians have talked to a lawyer for free as a result.
- Commits 10% of her firm’s gross income to philanthropy, including for opioid-overdose prevention, overseas micro-lending programs, and first-responder training, among other causes
Since 1992, Black’s firm in Greensboro has represented plaintiffs in personal injury, workers’ compensation, defective products, family law, and veterans’ disability. Perhaps best known as a daunting litigator in asbestos civil actions, Black and her firm have secured more than $100 million in client settlements in recent years, bringing a small measure of justice to those with no other recourse for harm endured.
Black’s contributions to the legal profession and to the city of Greensboro have led to multiple recognitions, including the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the Ebbie Award by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, the Woman of Justice Award from North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, and the News & Record’s “Woman of the Year” in 2018. Black has been a supporter of Elon University School of Law, delivering Elon Law’s 2016 Convocation address and welcoming Elon Law alumni into her practice.
Born and raised in Kannapolis, North Carolina, Black graduated with honors from Davidson College and from Duke University School of Law. She also served as Miss North Carolina 1980 and received a Grand Talent award at the 1980 Miss America pageant. Black was featured in an Amazon top-selling book “A Cup of Coffee with 10 of the Top Personal Injury Attorneys in the United States.”
Black thanked Elon Law and North Carolina Lawyers Weekly for the award, adding that she sometimes feels awkward for being recognized for work she loves to do. She also thanked her legal and administrative staff at Ward Black Law for helping her dedicate time for pro bono and service work that doesn’t generate revenue yet strengthens the community.
“I love lawyers. I love collaborating with them. I love to be around them. I love to advocate with them,” Black said in her acceptance remarks. “And I think we all know the world needs lawyers. They need us to right wrongs, to protect rights, to be a voice for the voiceless, and to peacefully resolve conflict.”
Elon Law’s Leadership in the Law Award was presented during North Carolina Lawyers Weekly’s “Leaders in the Law” program that recognized 29 of the state’s most accomplished attorneys for their own leadership in the profession. The program included contributions from Elon Law Leadership Fellows who introduced Lawyers Weekly’s own honorees and presented them with the newspaper’s award plaques. Elon Law has partnered with North Carolina Lawyers Weekly since the inaugural program in 2011.
Elon Law established its annual Leadership in the Law Award to recognize individuals who make outstanding contributions to the legal profession and to society. It 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.
The law school’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.
“Leadership matters,” Bierman said in his banquet remarks. “Leadership in the legal profession matters. what you do to advance the rule of law, to ensure access to justice, to protect our system of self-governance that is being challenged today from many directions… that matters.”
Previous Leadership in the Law Award recipients
- The Hon. Henry E. Frye Jr., retired chief justice, Supreme Court of North Carolina (2018)
- The Hon. Robert N. “Bob” Hunter Jr., associate justice, North Carolina Court of Appeals (2017)
- 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.