J. Rich Leonard, former United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, assumed the role of dean at Campbell University’s Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law on July 15, 2013. Dean Leonard serves as Campbell Law’s fifth dean, following Dean Melissa Essary (2006-12) and Interim Dean B. Keith Faulkner (2012-13).
As leader of Campbell Law School, Dean Leonard has initiated myriad beneficial and impactful programs over the past eight years. The law school has increased its already generous scholarship program, performed a top-to-bottom review of its curriculum, identified nine specific practice areas, partnered with leading local law firms to sponsor competitive advocacy student teams, and expanded its clinical programs to six, including the recently established Shipman and Wright Sports Law Clinic, and started the Campbell Law Innovation Institute.
Under Dean Leonard’s direction, Campbell Law added its unique FLEX JD program, the Connections mentorship program, and a Certificate in Patent Law as well as a number of dual degrees and 3+3 programs with area colleges and universities. Internationally, Leonard has partnered with the University of Nottingham to offer LL.M. degrees to not only current law students but practicing judges and attorneys in North Carolina; the University of Reading to offer two advanced international certificates; and the University of Cape Coast School of Law to offer a summer study abroad program in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dean Leonard’s work on the bench and at Campbell Law was publicly recognized when North Carolina Lawyers Weekly named him the 2014 Lawyer of the Year. Most recently he was recognized among the top CEOs by the Triangle Business Journal in 2021 and he was named Bankruptcy Law Lawyer of the Year by Global 100 magazine. He also received the 2018 McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award from the North Carolina Bar Association and the same year, he was elected to serve as chair-elect of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s General Alumni Association. He then served as chair from May 2019 to May 2020.
In 2020, Dean Leonard was awarded the prestigious designation as a Fulbright Specialist Scholar for a three-year period (to begin once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted). He was also selected as the only current dean of a law school to be named among the 2020 LawDragon 500 Leading U.S. Bankruptcy & Restructuring Lawyers. In 2019, Leonard was selected to serve as the first president of the new Craven- Everett American Inn of Court when it moved its affiliation from Duke Law School to Campbell Law.
Dean Leonard has served as a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina since 1992 acting as Chief Judge from 1999 through 2006. He served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge from 1981-92 and as Clerk of Court of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina from 1979-92. For more than two decades, Dean Leonard also acted as a consultant to the U.S. Department of State, working with judiciaries in many developing countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Dean Leonard’s professional appointments include the Board of Governors for the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges (2008-11); the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (1996-2002); the Judicial Council of the Fourth Circuit (2002-04); and Fellow at the American College of Bankruptcy (2005–present); as well as leadership roles with the Wake County Bar Association and North Carolina Bar Association, among others. His judicial work and expertise have earned him both state and national recognition.
In 2011, the American Bar Association awarded Dean Leonard the Robert B. Yegge Award for Outstanding Contribution to Judicial Administration and he was selected as editor-in-chief of the American Bankruptcy Law Journal. In 1992, he received the Director’s Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Federal Judiciary Dean Leonard has worked as an adjunct professor for North Carolina Central University School of Law; UNC School of Law; and Campbell Law prior to becoming dean. In 2012, Campbell Law’s Delta Theta Phi Fraternity presented Dean Leonard with the Judge Robinson O. Everett Award for Legal Excellence.
A native of Davidson County, Leonard is a 1971 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead Scholar and also earned a master’s degree in education in 1973. He earned a law degree from Yale Law School in 1976.
Dean Leonard is married to Dr. Whitney Jenkins Cain. He is the proud father of three sons and two daughters.