Dean of the Law School

Martin H. Brinkley is dean of UNC School of Law and William Rand Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina.

A native North Carolinian, Brinkley received the A.B. degree summa cum laude in Classics from Harvard University and did graduate study in papyrology at the University of Cologne before attending UNC School of Law, where he was Executive Articles Editor of the North Carolina Law Review. He clerked for Chief Judge Sam J. Ervin, III of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and worked in private law practice for 22 years. He became the 14th dean of Carolina Law in July 2015, the first person to lead the law school directly from practice in its 175-year history. During his deanship, the school’s rising US News & World Report rankings have placed it among the top eight public university law schools in the United States. UNC School of Law is on track to complete a successful $75 million capital campaign by the end of 2022.

Before his appointment by Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz in 2021 to one of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s 25 William Rand Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professorships, Brinkley held the law school’s Arch T. Allen Distinguished Professorship. He was reappointed to a second term as dean effective July 1, 2021. Brinkley has taught an advanced course in mergers & acquisitions since becoming dean. In the spring of 2022 he will begin teaching the law school’s upper-level Business Associations course. His primary research and writing interests are the role played by law and lawyers in the development of institutions, particularly educational and religious ones; the influence of ancient Greek and Roman law and legal institutions on American law, legal traditions and structures; and the development of healthy professional and personal identity in younger lawyers.

Dean Brinkley has a deep commitment to the legal profession, to his church, and to the civic life of his native state. He has served on the boards of and acted as pro bono legal counsel to many nonprofit institutions, such as the North Caroliniana Society (Secretary-Treasurer, 2006-2021) and the North Carolina Symphony. He is currently serving as Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, in which role he acts as the principal legal adviser to the Right Reverend Samuel Sewall Rodman III, XII Bishop of North Carolina, and to various diocesan institutions. He has served at various times as Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Clerk and a member of the Vestry of his home parish, Christ Church, Raleigh. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute and a Master of the Bench of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple.

In 2011-12, Dean Brinkley was President of the 17,000-member North Carolina Bar Association. In 2017, he received the Association’s H. Brent McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award, which recognizes “those North Carolina attorneys whose trustworthiness, respectful and courteous treatment of all people, enthusiasm for intellectual achievement and commitment to excellence in work, and service to the profession and community during a multi-faceted, accomplished life, inspire others.”

Dean Brinkley is a passionate musician, performing both as a pianist and on all three members of the oboe family of woodwind instruments (oboe, oboe d’amore and English horn). He is a student of Keisuke Wakao, Assistant Principal Oboe of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Principal Oboe of the Boston Pops. He previously studied with Joseph Robinson, Principal Oboe of the New York Philharmonic (1977-2005). Among his piano teachers have been Mimi Solomon of the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, the renowned Peruvian-American pianist Myriam Savalos Teie, and his beloved teacher of more than 35 years, Tom Mann of Raleigh.

Leadership History

As Professor of Law

  • William Horn Battle, professor of law, 1845-1868 and 1877-1879
  • Kemp Plummer Battle, professor of law, 1879-1881
  • John Hall Manning, 1881-1899

As Dean of UNC School of Law

  • James Cameron MacRae, 1899-1909
  • Thomas Ruffin, acting dean, 1909
  • Lucius Polk McGehee, 1910-1923
  • Atwell Campbell McIntosh, acting dean, 1923-1924
  • Merton Leroy Ferson, 1924-1926
  • Atwell Campbell McIntosh, acting dean, 1926-1927
  • Abner Leon Green, 1926-1927 (absent on leave)
  • Charles Tilford McCormick, 1927-1931
  • Maurice Taylor Van Hecke, 1931-1941
  • Robert Hasley Wettach, 1941-1949
  • Henry Brandis Jr., 1949-1964
  • James Dickson Phillips Jr., 1964-1974
  • Robert Gray Byrd, 1974-1979
  • Kenneth S. Broun, 1979-1987
  • Ronald C. Link, acting dean, 1988-1989
  • Judith Welch Wegner, 1989-1999
  • Gene Nichol, 1999-2005
  • Gail Agrawal, interim dean, 2005-2006
  • Charles Daye, interim dean, 2006
  • John Charles Boger, 2006-2015
  • Martin H. Brinkley, 2015-present