A 2006 graduate of Campbell Law School, Allegra Collins was elected as a judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2018. In the six years prior to joining the Court, she was an adjunct professor and then a Clinical Assistant Professor of Law at Campbell Law, teaching judicial writing, legal writing, and remedies. She also served as interim director of the Legal Writing Program, the director of the Externship Program, and faculty advisor for the Campbell Law Review. A former appellate attorney, she founded Allegra Collins Law, an appellate law firm that focuses on in North Carolina state appellate litigation. She is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA)’s Appellate Rules Committee, the immediate-past Chair of the Appellate Practice Section, and a member of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI). Collins is among a number of women leaders being featured in the law school’s alumni spotlight series.
You were a college athlete starting in California, how did you end up at Campbell Law School?
I grew up in McLean, Virginia, and went to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) to study and play tennis. After returning to the East Coast to finish my degree at the College of William and Mary, I lived in various places in the U.S. and Europe, including Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Atlanta, Santa Clara, and Boston. I ultimately settled in North Carolina because of the good schools, relatively low cost of living, and nice people. I chose to attend Campbell Law after I visited for an admissions interview. I knew that day I wanted to get my law degree from Campbell.
Tell us about your career in private practice and at Campbell Law School that led you to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
I fell in love with legal research and writing (LRW) and appellate law as a law student at Campbell. I enjoyed taking LRW, being an LRW Scholar, and competing as a member of Campbell’s moot court teams. After law school, I spent almost four years as a law clerk for the Honorable Linda Stephens of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. I then spent four years as an Assistant Appellate Reporter at the North Carolina Supreme Court. During this time, I taught LRW at Campbell. In 2015, I opened my own appellate law firm and represented clients in civil and criminal matters before our North Carolina appellate courts and our U.S. Supreme Court. In 2015, I became the interim Director of Legal Research and Writing at Campbell and the following year I became the Director of Externships. I also continued to teach LRW, judicial writing, remedies, and appellate law until I was elected to the bench in November 2018. From Campbell Law School to the bench of the N.C. Court of Appeals, I have spent my entire career in the field of appellate law. I feel very fortunate that my time as a student and as a professor at Campbell helped prepare me for a career as an appellate judge.
What have the first few years on the North Carolina Court of Appeals been like?
I am close to completing my second year on the bench — time flies when you are working hard and having fun! The Court receives about 1,200 cases a year and the issues are complex, so my case load is heavy. Although I clerked for the Court and had spent my entire career working in or teaching about the Court before I took the bench, I had a lot to learn, and I’ve learned a lot. The work is fascinating, and I enjoy my colleagues very much.
Do you have some skills that have been applicable throughout all of your positions? How did Campbell Law School prepare you?
All of my jobs have required proficient legal research, analysis, and writing. My LRW classes (all of my classes really), my position as an LRW Scholar, and my participation in moot court at Campbell all prepared me for success as a clerk with Judge Stephens. Under Judge Stephens’ amazing mentorship, I was able to become a better writer. With each successive position I have held, I have built upon the foundational LRW skills I gained as a student at Campbell.
Can you tell us one story or memory that still sticks around as having a lasting impact on your career?
My participation in Campbell’s moot court program has had a lasting impact on my career. Trying out for the team during the intramural competition was the first time I really understood what appellate advocacy was — until then, I had only been familiar with trial advocacy. Writing the briefs and arguing at the various competitions was certainly a highlight of my law school experience; because of those experiences, I knew I wanted to work in the field of appellate advocacy.
What does Campbell Law School’s motto “leading with purpose” mean to you?
To me, leading with purpose means leading with thoughtfulness, grace, skill, and kindness.