Thomas A. Kelley

James Dickson Phillips, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Community Development Law Clinic

Areas of Expertise

  • Community Development Law
  • Comparative and Foreign Law
  • Human Rights Law
  • International Human Rights
  • International Law
  • International Law and Development
  • Law and Society
  • Nonprofit Organizations Law
  • Social Entrepreneurship/Social Enterprise Law


Tom Kelley joined the Carolina Law faculty in 1999. He serves as the James Dickson Phillips Distinguished Professor of Law and the faculty supervisor of the Community Development Law Clinic. His teaching and research interests include nonprofit organizations (with an emphasis on nonprofit social entrepreneurship) and international law (with an emphasis on Africa). His scholarly work has appeared in such publications as the Fordham and Tulane Law Reviews, Global Jurist, and the American Journal of Comparative Law. His article, Unintended Consequences of Legal Westernization in Niger: Harming Contemporary Slaves by Reconceptualizing Property, won Carolina Law’s 2009 Chadbourn Award for outstanding scholarship. In 2003-2004, Kelley was a Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at Abdou Moumouni University (University of Niamey) in Niger. He has also served as a visiting lecturer at Universite Jean Moulin 3 in Lyon France and visiting academic at University of Cape Town in South Africa. During the summers of 2013 and 2015 he led summer study abroad programs in Rwanda and The Hague focusing on Genocide, Human Rights, and International Criminal Law.

Kelley earned a B.A. from Harvard University and a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. Before attending law school, he served as United States Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Niger. After law school, he clerked for James Dickson Phillips on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, then practiced law at Foley, Hoag & Eliot in Boston.


  • J.D., Northeastern University (1991)
  • A.B., Harvard University (1984)

Selected Publications

Maintaining Power by Manipulating Memory in Rwanda, 41 FORDHAM INT'L L.J. 79 (2017).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | Hein | BEPress

North Carolina Charter Schools (Non-?) Compliance with State and Federal Nonprofit Law, 93 N. C. L. REV. 1757 (2015).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | Hein | BEPress

Apples to Oranges: Epistemological Dissonance in the Human Rights Case Hadjatou Mani v. Niger, 32 QUINNIPIAC L. REV. 311 (2014).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | Hein

Corruption as Institution Among Small Businesses in Africa, 24 FLA. J. INT'L L. 1 (2012).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | Hein | BEPress

Government and Nonprofit Organizations (with L. Altman and M. Henderson), in COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT IN NORTH CAROLINA (2012).
KFN7830 .C68

Teaching Nonprofit Law at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law, 33 NOTES BEARING INTEREST 15 (NC Bar Association, April 2012).

Transactional Teaching at Carolina Law, NOTES BEARING INTEREST (N.C. Bar Assoc., Sept. 2011).

Wait! That's Not What We Meant by Civil Society!: Questioning the NGO Orthodoxy in West Africa, 36 BROOK. J. INT'L L. 993 (2011).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | Hein | BEPress

Beyond the Washington Consensus and New Institutionalism:  What is the Future of Law and Development?, 35 N.C. J. INT'L L. & COM. REG. 539 (2010).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | Hein | BEPress

Law and Choice of Entity on the Social Enterprise Frontier, 84 TUL. L. REV. 337 (2009).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | SSRN | Hein | BEPress

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