The spring 2012 semester marked the last for Campbell Law School Dean Melissa Essary, who after six years of running Raleigh’s only school of law stepped down to join the faculty.
Succeeding Essary was Keith Faulkner, who after six years as assistant dean and eight years total with Campbell Law, took over as interim dean on July 1. Faulkner will hold the interim title through the spring semester as the University continues its search for a permanent replacement.
Essary’s announcement marked the end of an era of big change for Campbell Law. When she arrived in 2006 from Baylor University, the law school was still housed on the main campus of Campbell University in Buies Creek.
A study had begun about the potential for a move before Essary’s hire, but by no means was the move a pressing issue at the time. But before long, Essary became part of a team led by Campbell University Provost Dr. Dwaine Greene charged with conducting a feasibility study and creating a list of pros and cons.
“We found a building — 225 Hillsborough … just a block and a half from the Capitol — that ironically had housed a law firm,” Essary said. “The location is par excellence. ’ve never seen a law school this close to the state capitol and literally within walking distance to an array of learning opportunities in law. Students don’t even have to re-park their cars for externships at the legislature or at law firms, the Department of Justice, local courts or nonprofits.”
That externship program has expanded by 400 percent since the move from Buies Creek, Essary said. And now, roughly half of Campbell’s law students have two or more of them.
The move has also led to a rise in enrollment at a time when most law schools are struggling to attract students.
Before she stepped down, Essary said she was confident Faulkner would have no troubles leading Campbell Law into 2013.
“From the beginning, I recognized how talented he was and what a hard worker he was,” she said. “He occupied a key leadership role during my deanship. And our relationship was more of a partnership rather than me being his boss. I’m very comfortable putting the law school under his leadership.”
Faulkner said he views Essary as both a friend and a mentor.
“She led by example with her work ethic and with her desire to communicate and hear all sides of a debate before making a decision,” he said. “Hopefully I can carry what I learned from her into my year as interim.”
Raising the bar
You can’t mention Campbell Law in a “year in review” story without mentioning the big news from August.
Over the summer, the school learned its Class of 2012 graduates outperformed all other North Carolina law schools on the July exam, leading the state in both first-time bar passage and overall bar passage.
“I’m so thrilled for the Campbell Law Class of 2012, an extraordinarily closely-knit and hard-working class,” said Essary after learning the news. “Their work ethic, sense of community and Campbell Law’s outstanding program of legal education combined to put them at the top. The Campbell Law Class of 2012 was my last graduating class as dean, and they have my heartiest congratulations.”
Photo by Bennett Scarborough