Martin H. Brinkley

Dean and William Rand Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor

(919) 962-4417

Areas of Expertise

  • Antitrust and Trade Regulation
  • Business Organizations Law
  • Commercial Law
  • Corporate Governance
  • Corporate Law
  • Judges
  • Jurisprudence
  • Legal Biography
  • Legal Education
  • Legal History
  • Legal Profession
  • Nonprofit Organizations Law
  • Organizations Law
  • Politics and the Law
  • Property Law and Real Estate
  • Religion Law
  • Rule of Law


Martin H. Brinkley is Dean of the School of Law and the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina.  He also serves as faculty director of the UNC Law Institute for Innovation.

A native North Carolinian, Dean Brinkley received an A.B. degree summa cum laude in Classics from Harvard University and studied papyrology at the University of Cologne’s Institute for Ancient Studies 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 practiced corporate law for 22 years in Raleigh, NC.

Dean Brinkley 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 U.S. News & World Report rankings have placed it among the top ten public university law schools in the United States. Carolina Law completed a successful $78 million capital campaign on June 30, 2022.

Dean Brinkley was reappointed to a second five-year term effective July 1, 2021. For four years, he taught an advanced course in mergers & acquisitions which he designed.  He now teaches the law school’s upper-level Business Associations course.  He also co-teaches a section of first-year Property and an upper-level course in Legal History, both with emeritus William Rand Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor John V. Orth.  Dean Brinkley led the law school’s creation of the UNC Law Institute for Innovation, a group of three legal clinics that provides early stage legal counsel to new for-profit and nonprofit ventures.  Dean Brinkley serves as faculty director of the Institute.

Dean Brinkley’s primary research and writing interests relate to the roles played by law and lawyers in the development of public institutions; the influence of ancient Greek, Roman and English common law principles and institutions on American law and public institutions; and the development of professional and personal identity in younger lawyers.

Dean Brinkley is committed to the legal profession, his church, and the civic life of his native state.  He has served on the boards of, or acted as pro bono legal counsel to, many nonprofit institutions.  He has been Senior Warden, Junior Warden and a member of the Vestry of his home parish, Christ Episcopal Church in Raleigh.  He currently serves as Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina and, in that role, as principal legal adviser to Diocesan Bishop Samuel S. Rodman III and to various diocesan bodies and institutions.

Brinkley is an elected member of the American Law Institute and an Honorary Master of the Bench of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple.  In 2011-12, he 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.”  In 2023, he received the North Caroliniana Society Award in acknowledgement of his “long and distinguished service in the encouragement, production, enhancement, promotion, and preservation of North Caroliniana.”

When not deaning, Brinkley is a devoted amateur oboist and pianist.


  • J.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1992)
  • A.B. (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa), Classics, Harvard University (1987)

Selected Publications

Teaching Leadership in American Law Schools: Why the Pushback?, 73 BAYLOR L. REV. 194 (2021).
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In Memoriam: William Brantley Aycock, 95 N.C. L. REV. 1 (2016).
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"Great and Truly Public": Carolina Law's Twenty-First Century Challenge, 94 N.C. L. REV. 1 (2015).
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The Regulation of Contractual Change: A Guide to No Oral Modification Clauses for North Carolina Lawyers, 81 N.C. L. REV. 2239 (2003).
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