Campbell Law Dean J. Rich Leonard named Fulbright Specialist Scholar

Photo of Campbell Law Dean Rich Leonard standing at a podium

RALEIGH — Campbell University’s Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law Dean J. Rich Leonard has been awarded the prestigious designation of a Fulbright Specialist Scholar for a three-year period.

On the heels of a long and storied career on the bench, Leonard officially began serving as dean of Campbell Law School on July 15, 2013. A former United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, the seven years he has served as dean makes him the longest-tenured law school dean among North Carolina’s six law schools. His recognition as a Fulbright Specialist Scholar is the culmination of his extensive legal and academic experience. 

“I was delighted to learn that I have been selected as a Fulbright Specialist Scholar and will be added to the roster whenever the U.S. State Department lifts the suspension of the Fulbright program (due to the COVID-19 pandemic),” Leonard explained. “Unlike the regular Fulbright program that requires you to teach abroad for a semester or year, the Specialists are a small group that responds to specific requests for short-term consultations from academic and other institutions, for stints of from two to six weeks. Once on the roster, you stay for three years. I am hopeful I can find some projects that will let me involve law students and perhaps even take some with me.”

Distinguished Professor of the Practice Peter Romary stated, “As one with a lot of experience in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, I cannot stress how prestigious this honor is — those selected are chosen based on incredibly rigorous standards and are, essentially, Ambassadors-at-Large for U.S. education. They represent the preeminent academic and professional representatives who can enhance education and professional development globally.”

The Fulbright Specialist Program, part of the larger Fulbright Program, was established in 2001 by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The program pairs highly qualified U.S. academics and professionals with host institutions abroad to share their expertise, strengthen institutional linkages, hone their skills, gain international experience, and learn about other cultures while building capacity at their overseas host institutions.

Specialists, who represent a wide range of professional and academic disciplines, are competitively selected to join the Fulbright Specialist Roster based on their knowledge, skill sets, and ability to make a significant contribution to projects overseas. Those individuals that have been approved to join the Fulbright Specialist Roster are then eligible to be matched with approved projects designed by foreign host institutions from more than 150 countries and other areas. Once abroad, Specialists partner with their host institution to conduct project activities in support of the host institution’s priorities and goals.  

The Fulbright Specialist Program aims to provide a short-term, on-demand resource to international host institutions, giving them greater flexibility in how they participate with Fulbright. Specialists are strongly encouraged to continue to work with host institutions in the years following their initial exchange, creating opportunities for ongoing cooperation and consultancies. Upon returning to the U.S., program participants are able to contribute their newly gained knowledge and intercultural competencies to their home institution or organization. Program participants will also become part of a network of thousands of accomplished Fulbright alumni, opening the door to additional grant possibilities, enhanced career development, and alumni networking and leadership opportunities, according to the website.

Initiatives and Accomplishments

Since he began serving as dean of Campbell Law, Leonard has initiated a plethora of beneficial and impactful programs. Under his guidance, the law school vastly 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 program student teams, and began exploring the expansion of clinical programs to five, including the recently established Innovate Capital Business Law Clinic. Campbell Law has also added its unique Campbell Flex admission program, Campbell Law Connections mentorship program, Certificate in Patent Law, and two advanced international certificates with the University of Reading under Leonard’s direction as well as a number of dual degrees with area universities as well as 3+3 programs. Internationally, Leonard has partnered with the University of Nottingham to offer LL.M degrees to not only current Campbell Law students but practicing judges and attorneys in North Carolina. And in 2019, he led the first group of Campbell Law students on a three-week study abroad program to sub-Saharan Africa, where students participated in a unique cultural, educational and professional experience in partnership with the University of Cape Coast School of Law.

In 2019, when Campbell Law took over as the official law school sponsor of Craven-Everett American Inn of Court, Leonard was selected to serve as its new president. The Inn formally switched its affiliation from Duke Law School to Campbell Law School last year.

Leonard’s work on the bench and at Campbell Law was publicly recognized in September 2014 when North Carolina Lawyers Weekly named Leonard 2014 Lawyer of the Year at the Leaders in the Law awards banquet. He was the recipient of the 2018 McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award from the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) and the same year, he was elected to serve as chair-elect of the UNC General Alumni Association. Following his one-year term as chair-elect, Leonard served as chair beginning in May 2019.

Most recently, he was selected as the only current dean of a law school to be named among the 2020 LawDragon 500 Leading U.S. Bankruptcy & Restructing Lawyers.

A native of Davidson County, Leonard is a 1971 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead Scholar. He earned a master’s degree in education from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1973, and then earned a law degree from Yale Law School in 1976.

He has served as a United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina since 1992 acting as Chief Judge from 1999 through 2006. Prior to that time, he was a United States Magistrate Judge (1981-92) and Clerk of Court of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (1979-92). For more than a decade 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.

Leonard’s professional associations include appointments to the Board of Governors for the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges (2008-11); Fellow at the American College of Bankruptcy (2005–present); and leadership roles with the Wake County Bar Association and North Carolina Bar Association, among other legal organizations.

His judicial work and expertise have earned him both state and national recognition. In 2011, the American Bar Association awarded Leonard with the Robert B. Yegge Award for Outstanding Contribution to Judicial Administration. He is the 1992 recipient of the Director’s Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Federal Judiciary. In 2011, he was selected as the editor-in-chief of the American Bankruptcy Law Journal.

Leonard has also been active in the classroom. He has worked as an adjunct professor for North Carolina Central University School of Law (1985-86; 1995-98); UNC School of Law (1994-95); and, most recently, Campbell Law (2009-13) prior to becoming dean. In 2012, Campbell Law’s Delta Theta Phi Fraternity presented Leonard with the Judge Robinson O. Everett Award for Legal Excellence.

For more information about the Fulbright Specialist Program visit this link


Since its founding in 1976, Campbell Law has developed lawyers who possess moral conviction, social compassion, and professional competence, and who view the law as a calling to serve others. Among its accolades, the school has been recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) as having the nation’s top Professionalism Program and by the American Academy of Trial Lawyers for having the nation’s best Trial Advocacy Program. Campbell Law boasts more than 4,200 alumni, who make their home in nearly all 50 states and beyond. Throughout 2019, Campbell Law celebrated 40 years of graduating legal leaders and 10 years of being located in a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of North Carolina’s Capital City.