UNC School of Law Dean Martin H. Brinkley ’92 Reappointed

March 10, 2021

Dean Brinkley was reappointed for another five years after returning Carolina Law to the top ranks of America’s law schools.

Dean Brinkley Headshot
Martin H. Brinkley ’92

The UNC School of Law Dean Martin H. Brinkley ’92, the Arch T. Allen Distinguished Professor of Law, has been reappointed to another five-year term as dean, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert A. Blouin announced in a campus message on March 9.

“Brinkley’s reappointment comes as a result of his impressive and successful efforts to return Carolina to the top ranks of America’s law schools,” wrote Blouin.

Brinkley came to the deanship in July 2015 directly from practice, the first person to do so in the modern history of the law school, which was founded in 1845. He is a Carolina alumnus, having earned his Juris Doctor from the UNC School of Law in 1992. After leaving Chapel Hill he served as a law clerk to Chief Judge Sam J. Ervin III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and practiced law for 22 years. He served as president of the 17,000-member North Carolina Bar Association in 2011-12. Brinkley is an elected member of the American Law Institute, the leading independent organization in the United States producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize and otherwise improve the law. He has participated in ALI’s Member Consultative Groups for Principles of the Law of Nonprofit Organizations; Restatement of the Law (Third), Trusts; and Restatement of the Law (Third), Restitution and Unjust Enrichment.

In 2017 the North Carolina Bar Association presented Dean Brinkley with its H. Brent McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award, which recognizes “[a]n attorney who through his/her accomplishments and multi-faceted life, serves as an example by inspiring others to re-new their commitments to professionalism, integrity, intellectual achievement, civility, and service in the practice of law; an attorney who possesses personal integrity; an attorney who pursues excellence in legal work, and respects judicial officers, other lawyers, and members of the public; and an attorney who provides pro bono services to those in need of such services.”

In addition to his work as dean, Brinkley has chaired searches for the deanship of the Adams School of Dentistry, the vice chancellor and general counsel of the University, the vice chancellor for institutional integrity and risk management and, most recently, the vice chancellor for finance and operations. He is a member of the Provost’s Advisory Committee for Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good, which monitors implementation of the University’s strategic plan, and serves on the National Advisory Board of the UNC Bryson Center for Judicial Science Education based at the UNC School of Medicine. He has appeared on PBS North Carolina (formerly UNC TV) as a commentator on legal matters.

The feedback from Dean Brinkley’s review, led by the UNC School of Government Dean Mike Smith, was overwhelmingly positive. Under his strategic leadership, the School of Law progressed in increasing applications and improving the overall quality of applicants, thereby positioning the school for improved and outstanding national rankings, as evidenced by its ascension to 27th among all U.S. law schools in last fall’s U.S. News & World Report rankings (and one of the top 10 public university law schools in America). Brinkley has improved first-time bar passage to the highest rates of all North Carolina law schools and elevated student job placement rates to above 90%.

Brinkley’s accomplishments as dean include:

  • Launching the UNC Law Institute for Innovation, a three-clinic center providing experiential education for 48 law students per year that makes startup/small business, intellectual property and social enterprise legal services available to entrepreneurs on the campuses at UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State University, other branches of the UNC System and at rural economic incubators. The Institute was founded with support from the William Rand Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and a recurring appropriation from the NC General Assembly.
  • Creating a military and veterans law clinic.
  • Helping to launch the UNC Critical Race Lawyering Civil Rights Clinic, the first of its kind in the country, under the leadership of Thomas W. Lambeth Distinguished Professor of Public Policy Erika Wilson.
  • Hiring 16 new tenure-track, tenured lateral and long-term contract faculty members, including a significant increase in the number of faculty who contribute to diversity.
  • Increasing alumni and donor engagement. The law school has now raised 75% of its fundraising goal of $75 million toward For All Kind: The Campaign for Carolina, with two years to go in the campaign trajectory.
  • Leading the law school through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I recognize and appreciate his hard work and applaud his many accomplishments,” wrote Blouin. “Chancellor Guskiewicz and Board of Trustees Chair Richard Stevens, himself a graduate of the School of Law, have both remarked how important it is to the University and to the state to have Carolina back among the nation’s top law schools.”

Blouin also thanked members of Dean Brinkley’s reappointment review committee, including:

  • Michael Smith, Chair (UNC School of Government)
  • Lissa Broome (UNC School of Law)
  • Anita Brown-Graham (UNC School of Government)
  • Cynthia Butler (University Development)
  • Gina Chowa (UNC School of Social Work)
  • Rashaad Hamilton (UNC School of Law student)
  • Jeffrey Hirsch (UNC School of Law)
  • Cal Lee (UNC School of Information & Library Science)
  • Ted Shaw (UNC School of Law)
  • Richard Talbert (College of Arts & Sciences department of history)
  • Joni Walser (UNC School of Law alumna)
  • Brent Wissick (College of Arts & Sciences department of music)