RALEIGH – Campbell Law School formally launched the Richardson Family Education Equity Clinic with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 23, at the law school in downtown Raleigh.
Billy Richardson ‘80, a Fayetteville attorney who served in the North Carolina Legislature for more than a decade, and Barbara Richardson, who holds a master’s degree in special education, have given the law school a substantial gift to support the addition of a sixth pro bono clinic focusing on protection of the educational rights of children with disabilities.
“It is a real honor to be a part of this clinic,” Billy Richardson told the group of some 60 invitees gathered in the law school’s Pope Foyer. “Special education has meant so much to our family. This clinic enables us to be part of something bigger than ourselves.”
The Richardsons’ daughter Caroline McGann, is an occupational therapist, and their sons, Matt ‘09 and Zack ‘17, are also Campbell Law alumni, making support of the clinic a true family affair.
Billy Richardson also had some advice for current law students, saying they are about to embark on a career where they get to impact so many lives. “Seize the day. Passionately care for your clients. And be the best lawyer you can be.”
Dean J. Rich Leonard said, “When I took this job almost 11 years ago, after the brilliant Dean Melissa Essary moved the law school to Raleigh, my job was to embed the law in the legal culture of Raleigh in every way possible. One of the ways we have done that is the dramatic expansion of our clinical programs. As we stand here today to open our sixth legal clinic, I could not be prouder of where we have come.”
Leonard is a huge proponent of experiential education for three reasons, he explained. “First, it is the most pedagogically effective way in which we teach our students to be lawyers. Second, because all of our services are income-based, it provides critical services to our fellow citizens who have no ability to hire a lawyer. And perhaps most importantly to me personally, and to our mission as a school, it comports with our stated identity. As the Good Book teaches us, faith without works is dead. And these are our works.”
That said, Leonard added that clinical education is expensive. “A clinical professor can teach eight to 10 students a semester at most, a doctrinal professor can teach upwards of 100. So I’ve had to rely on the generous support of benefactors like the Richardson Family, who believe in us, to make this project a reality.”
Professor Lisa Lukasik is the inaugural director of the clinic, which provides free legal representation to low-income, at-risk children with disabilities who are seeking to restore and protect their educational rights in public schools.
“We believe this work is important,” she said. “We believe that we can provide good service and support for the families that we serve. And we are inspired by the legacy of the Richardson family to do good service in the public interest. We also hope to provide meaningful and impactful opportunities for students to get legal skills but also to develop habits of pro bono service.”
Lukasik describes her current students as brillant, compassionate and committed. “In just a couple short weeks, they have already leveraged the opportunity to feel the human kindness and humanity in groups of clients to conduct intakes, counsel clients, provide strategic legal advice, research difficult problems, draft petitions, engage in negotiation through mediation, and much more,” she said. “This has been an incredible opportunity for all of us. And we’re grateful to get started. To potential employers in the room, our students are ready to hit the ground running. So keep that in mind as you look forward to the next year or two down the road.”
One of the clinic students, Madelyn Fogelman ‘24, said in a perfect world, children requiring accommodations in public schools would have access without having to fight for it.
“But unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world,” she explained. “Education is one of the most important aspects of life in and out of the classroom and children are continuously learning. This access to education can be limited for general education and special education students of all ages. With the help of the Richardson Family Education Equity Clinic, families in North Carolina can breathe a little easier by providing that legal help to families who might not otherwise be able to afford it. The clinic is helping fuel the guarantee of education, not just a bare minimum, but a quality education. I’m speaking from personal experience, I was blessed to have the first mediation of the clinic. After almost 40 hours of preparation, with the help of the entire clinic, traveling 2½ hours to Camp LeJeune and spending almost nine hours straight in mediation … my co-counsel and I got to meet our child, and truly understood what professors have been sharing since my 1L year here: the practice of law is not for ourselves, but for our clients. What has been taught in the clinic so far is something that cannot be found in a classroom setting. And I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this clinic. And I could not think of a better way to spend my final semester of law school, I truly have saved the best for last.”
Leonard added, “As was forecast, the need for this clinic is enormous. We’re already being besieged by folks needing our help. And let me say in closing, we’re moving in the direction of needing to offer more experiential legal education. Currently, we’re required to provide six hours of experiential education for all of our students. Current proposals before our accrediting body would take that as high as 15. So stay tuned. We cannot stop here. If you have an idea, and it comes with a wallet, come see me.”
ABOUT CAMPBELL LAW
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 4,800 alumni, who make their home in nearly all 50 states and beyond. In 2024, Campbell Law is celebrating 45 years of graduating legal leaders and a 15 years of being located in a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of North Carolina’s Capital City.