Law Professor Melissa Essary to present at 2020 Vision for Leadership Conference

Photo of Melissa Essary

RALEIGH — Campbell Law Dean Emerita and Professor Melissa A. Essary is among the scheduled presenters at the 2020 Vision for Leadership Conference co-sponsored in mid-September by Baylor Law School and the American Association of Law Schools Section on Leadership. The all-virtual conference will present best practices for leadership development and allow viewers to hear from industry leaders on leadership development training opportunities in law schools. As the only law professor on the panel, Essary will analyze her role of leadership in the legal education today.

Essary, who is part of a Women Leaders Panel that will be presenting on Sept. 15, will be accompanied by:

  • Justice Eva Guzman – Supreme Court of Texas
  • Jerry Clements (Moderator) – Chair Emeritus, Locke Lord LLP
  • Caren Lock – Regional Vice President and Associate General Counsel, TIAA
  • Judy Perry Martinez – Immediate-Past President, American Bar Association

The Women Leaders Panel will discuss their experiences and how leadership can make a positive difference in the legal profession, according to organizers. Alongside co-sponsor Baylor Law Women’s Legal Society, the panel seeks to empower and encourage women through mentorship, education and philanthropy.

Essary has taught employment courses since 1990, after practicing law for five years. She graduated with highest honors from the University of Texas, then earned her law degree from Baylor Law School, finishing second in her class.

She taught law at Baylor Law School for 16 years throughout which she won awards for teaching and scholarship. In 2006, she moved cross-country from her native Texas to become the first female dean at Campbell Law School. She led the school to its new home in Raleigh in 2009.  She returned to full-time teaching at Campbell in 2012. Essary has been involved in the North Carolina Bar Association in various leadership roles since 2006. She currently serves at the national level as a site reaccreditation team member for the American Bar Association, ensuring that law schools meet ABA accreditation standards. She has served on site teams six times, chairing the last three of those teams.

The Law School Admissions Council’s (LSAC) appointed her in 2019 to serve as a member of its new Emerging Markets and Innovation Committee. For the past four years, she served on the LSAC’s Finance and Legal Affairs Committee.  She serves on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Justice Center, a leading research and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring the economic security of every household in the state.  Most recently, the Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court appointed her to serve as a member of the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission, a unique state commission that hears claims of actual innocence.

Since joining Campbell Law, Essary has been honored as a Woman of Justice by N.C. Lawyer’s Weekly. N.C. Business Leader media honored her several times for her work and leadership in the Raleigh region, including recognition as a Triangle Area Woman Extraordinaire, Business Impact Leader and Education Impact Leader. And she has received the Women of Achievement Award from the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of North Carolina in recognition of her professional and community work and serving as a role model for future generations.

Essary speaks regularly on the topics of leadership and employment law. She enjoys teaching Sunday School at Trinity Baptist Church in Raleigh, and she and her husband have two grown daughters and two dogs.


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.