Campbell Law School

A new home at Campbell Law

New Campbell Law students partnered with upperclassmen, faculty, and staff to perform community service at six locations in Raleigh – including Prevent Child Abuse N.C. – during fall orientation.

Story by Joanna D’Ancona and Brandon Yopp

Campbell Law Assistant Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid Dexter Smith and his team are charged with the same task each and every year --- seat a new class of first-year students. When the 2014-15 recruitment cycle began, Smith set a goal of enrolling 135.

He ended up with significantly more.

“It is a class that has far exceeded our expectations,” said Smith. “Without sacrificing the credentials of the class, we’ve assembled a very talented and poised group. They will surpass whatever we think they are capable of.”

When the 2014-15 academic year officially kicked off, 185 first-year students began the strenuous journey towards a career in the legal profession. The second-largest incoming group in school history, Campbell Law’s new class is an outlier compared to the majority of the country. Fighting against a seemingly endless avalanche of negative press surrounding law school statistics, student debt, and employment issues, law schools nationwide are seeing dramatically reduced numbers of applicants compared to recruiting cycles a handful of years ago.

So exactly how did this class come together?

First and foremost, Campbell Law has more than a few things going for itself. At a time in which prospective students have access to more information than ever before, law school applicants are paying attention to statistics that matter. One such statistic is bar passage. For the past 25 years, Campbell Law graduates taking the July North Carolina Bar Exam for the first time have passed at a 90.89-percent clip, tops of the seven law schools in the state. For the past four years, Campbell Law is the only law school in N.C. to rank in the top two for first-time test takers on the July exam.

“I chose Campbell Law because of the great academia at this law school, especially in regards to N.C. bar passage and being prepared as a lawyer in three years,” said first-year student James Porter.

One of the key ingredients in preparing students is the environment within which they learn and grow. Campbell Law’s convenient downtown Raleigh campus just happens to be nestled in the state’s legal, legislative, and cultural heart. Within blocks of campus, students have access to a wealth of opportunities to interact with judges, attorneys, and policy makers as a plethora of federal, state, and local courts, government offices and agencies, and law firms are a quick walk away.

“What I love the most is our location, right here in the middle of downtown Raleigh,” said first-year student Johnathon Naylor. “It’s just such a convenient spot to have a law school.”

Raleigh’s rise in notoriety and national prominence is no doubt an attraction as well. One of the fastest-growing cities in the country, Raleigh is consistently ranked as a top destination by a number of publications, including No. 2 Best Cities for Young Professionals (Forbes, August 2014) and No. 5 Top Cities for African American Professionals (Urban Views Weekly, February 2014)

The Raleigh location has also allowed Campbell Law Dean J. Rich Leonard to explore new programming in an effort to address community interests. One new initiative, Campbell Flex, provides a platform for students to earn a law degree by taking fewer hours each semester than required by the traditional program.

“In our vibrant community, I’ve come across any number of successful professionals that have always had the desire to attend law school but, for whatever reason, the timing was never right for them,” said Leonard. “That is now possible with our flexible enrollment option.”

First-year student Cosmo Zinkow was exactly the type of student Leonard had in mind when formulating the idea behind Campbell Flex. Upon graduating from high school in 2002, Zinkow enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving for seven years including a deployment to Iraq. In 2009, he left the service and completed his undergraduate degree. While working as a paralegal, Zinkow decided he wanted to take the next step and further his career.

“It’s just like boot camp all over again, but with more reading and less yelling,” said Zinkow.

Aside from the accolades, some might say the atmosphere is just different at Campbell Law. There’s a positive vibe hanging in the air. As is the case with Campbell University’s main campus in nearby Buies Creek, the sense of community at 225 Hillsborough Street is genuine.

“As an undergraduate student at Campbell, I thoroughly enjoyed the family atmosphere around campus and in the classroom,” said first-year student Casey Elliot. “I knew that Campbell Law would be no different.”

Like all communities, Campbell Law is crafted from a smorgasbord of varied backgrounds and life experiences. Each of the 185 new students brings something unique and different to this first-year class.

“You see so much from our new students,” said Smith. “You see the eagerness, intelligence, and the diversity of their backgrounds. So many of our students have done spectacular things.”

And to think, the first-year class is just getting started.