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The Hon. James L. Gale, a retired chief judge of the North Carolina Business Court, received Elon University School of Law’s 2021-2022 Leadership in the Law Award at a ceremony hosted by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly.

The Hon. James L. Gale

A retired chief judge of the North Carolina Business Court whose wealth of knowledge on corporate law has been sought out by organizations across the country is the recipient of Elon University School of Law’s top professional award for leadership.

The Hon. James L. Gale received Elon Law’s 2021-2022 Leadership in the Law Award on April 14, 2022, at a leadership awards program hosted in downtown Greensboro by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly.

Elon Law has bestowed its annual leadership award in a banquet with North Carolina Lawyers Weekly attended by judges and attorneys from across the state for the newspaper’s own Leaders in the Law program.

Gale’s contributions to the legal profession include:

  • Authoring more than 200 opinions from 2011-2021 as a judge on the North Carolina Business Court
  • Serving for three years as chief judge before he was named in 2016 as Senior Business Court Judge, a position created by the North Carolina General Assembly
  • Counseling the American College of Business Court Judges, the American Bar Association’s Business Law section, The Sedona Conference, and the North Carolina Conference of Superior Court Judges
  • Mentoring dozens of North Carolina law school students and graduates who have joined his chambers adjacent to Elon Law as interns and clerks

Gale started his legal career as a clerk for the Hon. Franklin T. Dupree, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina before joining the firm of Smith Moore Leatherwood, the predecessor of today’s Fox Rothschild, where he practiced for 35 years and  served as managing partner for its Raleigh and Tampa offices.

In 2011, Gale was appointed by Governor Bev Perdue to serve as a Special Superior Court Judge on the North Carolina Business Court, citing his litigation experience with disputes involving partnership, fiduciary duties, franchise, intellectual property issues, trade regulation and unfair competition claims.

Gale was recognized for his contributions to the legal profession with the NCBA Antitrust & Complex Business Disputes Law Section’s 2021 Distinguished Service Award, an honor bestowed every other year on recipients who demonstrate the highest ethical standards, professional competence, and contributions to the section and/or the fields of antitrust or complex business disputes law. He has been included in The Best Lawyers in American and has been named to Business North Carolina’s “Legal Elite” for Business Litigation.

Law and Politics Magazine had named Gale one of North Carolina’s top 100 “Super Lawyers” for several consecutive years prior to his judicial appointment.

An Alabama native, Gale earned a Bachelor of Arts in literature from Florida Presbyterian College (since renamed Eckerd College) before completing his Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia where he graduated magna cum laude. He has been admitted to the bar in North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Elon Law Leadership Fellows who contributed to the North Carolina Lawyers Weekly program where Elon Law honored Judge James L. Gale were (from left) Craig Almond L’23, Jeffrey Hudgins L’22, Jeannette Carson L’22, Judge Gale, Cassandra Saxton L’23, Emily Erickson L’22, and Emmanuel Agyemang-Dua L’22.

Elon Law Interim Dean Alan Woodlief presented Gale with the award. In his remarks, Woodlief thanked Gale for contributing to the education of law students across North Carolina and for his direct support of Moot Court programming at Elon Law.

“Judge Gale’s presence as a judge on the North Carolina Business Court inside our law school building offered students a daily example of what we mean when we describe the role of a ‘legal leader’ in our profession,” Woodlief said. “And before he began his transition into retirement, Judge Gale welcomed and has since mentored his successor, the Honorable Julianna Earp.

“It is our privilege at Elon Law to know that Judge Gale’s commitment to the success of the North Carolina Business Court, and the success of all law students who have benefited from his mentoring and wisdom, will carry forward.”

Previous Award Recipients

  • The Hon. Albert Diaz (2020), judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • Janet Ward Black (2019), Greensboro attorney and former president of the North Carolina Bar Association
  • The Hon. Henry E. Frye (2018), chief justice (retired), Supreme Court of North Carolina
  • The Hon. Robert N. “Bob” Hunter Jr. (2017), associate justice, North Carolina Court of Appeals
  • The Hon. Patricia Timmons-Goodson (2016), vice chair, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
  • Leslie J. Winner (2015), executive director, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
  • The Hon. Mark Martin (2014), chief justice, Supreme Court of North Carolina
  • Charles L. Becton (2013), attorney/judge/higher education leader in North Carolina
  • Fred Lind (2012), Guilford County public defender
  • Michael T. Marshall and Karen McKeithen Schaede (2011), Greensboro attorneys and founding Elon Law preceptors

Business Court judge honored with Elon Law leadership award