Martin H. Brinkley

Print This Page (PDF) Dean and Arch T. Allen Distinguished Professor of Law


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

A native North Carolinian and first-generation lawyer, Martin H. Brinkley '92 is the 14th Dean of the University of North Carolina School of Law. He shares with James Cameron MacRae (Dean, 1899-1909) the distinction of being the only person in the law school's history to become dean directly from practice.  By appointment of the Provost of the University, he is also one of the law school's two Arch T. Allen Distinguished Professors -- an honor he cherishes because the grandson of the chair's namesake, Arch T. Allen, III '65, was one of his own first mentors in the law.

During his 22 years at the bar, Dean Brinkley practiced primarily in the fields of corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, antitrust and regulated industries, public finance and charitable organizations law. As a partner at Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan, L.L.P., he was lead counsel to clients in the manufacturing, distribution, food and beverage, and insurance industries. He led Smith Anderson’s regulatory and governmental affairs practice and was recognized in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Business Lawyers, Woodward/White’s The Best Lawyers in America, and Who's Who Legal International: M&A and Corporate Governance in the fields of corporate law and governance, mergers and acquisitions, and nonprofit organizations law.

After serving as Executive Articles Editor of the North Carolina Law Review during his third year at Carolina Law, Dean Brinkley clerked for Chief Judge Sam J. Ervin, III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In 2011-12 he served as President of the North Carolina Bar Association, the youngest lawyer to lead the nation's preeminent voluntary state bar in more than 50 years. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute and a Permanent Member of the Judicial Conference of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Dean Brinkley has served on the boards of and acted as pro bono counsel to dozens of nonprofit institutions with charitable, religious, artistic and educational missions. He is presently a trustee of the North Carolina Symphony and the North Caroliniana Society. He is Vice Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina and a former Senior Warden, Junior Warden and Vestryman of Christ Church in Raleigh.

Dean Brinkley was the 2017 recipient of the N.C. Bar Association’s H. Brent McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award, recognizing a North Carolina attorney "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, inspire others."  He is a past recipient of the N.C. Bar Association's Citizen Lawyer Award and Carolina Law’s Pro Bono Alumnus of the Year Award.  In 2017 he was made an Honorary Master of the Bench of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, one of the four inns of court in London.  As an undergraduate, he delivered the Latin Oration at the 336th Commencement Exercises of Harvard University and won many of Harvard’s academic prizes in the study of the Greek and Latin languages and literatures.

Dean Brinkley lives in Raleigh with his wife Carol, a language facilitator for hearing impaired children at Frances Lacy Elementary School. They have three children.  When not deaning he is a passionate musician, performing as pianist of the Fairview Chamber Players.  He has been known to keep an occasional backyard flock of laying hens, in memory of a youth in which he sold the eggs from his Rhode Island Reds for pocket money and his Bourbon Red turkeys won blue ribbons at the North Carolina State Fair.

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