Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) has announced Hunter Koehl ‘20 is the newest recipient of its Dixon Fellowship. The two-year fellowship is based out of the Morganton Legal Aid Foothills Office, where Koehl will work in the areas of education, domestic violence, consumer rights, employment and housing law. This is the first time Legal Aid has offered the Dixon Fellowship for two years.
In order to be eligible for the Dixon Fellowship, the Legal Aid website states, “Candidates must have a demonstrated commitment to social justice and community service, and be able to relate well to low-income people in a rural setting.”
Koehl fits the role perfectly, according to Hilary Ventura, managing attorney of the LANC Foothills Office. “Hunter stood out for us as a candidate because of his obvious passion for people and his personal and even innovative approaches to meeting needs that he saw in his community,” she said. “As our local office transitions to new leadership, we are excited to be increasing our reach impact across our service area, and we believe that Hunter will be just the person to help us further that goal.”
No stranger to charitable work, Koehl participated in “Lawyer on the Line,” a two-year education law project offered through Legal Aid, while he was in law school. During his second year with Legal Aid, Koehl was named a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar for his work with the Advocates for Children’s Services Project in Durham that focused on special education law cases.
“I wanted this opportunity with LANC for two reasons: The mission and the people,” Koehl explained. “Through my time with LANC, even as an intern, I was shown respect and felt a sense of teamwork I hadn’t experienced anywhere else.”
Koehl added that he hopes to “dive into the community head first and establish my foothold as a leader and innovator. Learning the unique barriers facing the people of Western N.C. will allow me to more strongly impact on the community.”
Koehl is also no stranger to leadership. As the founder and first managing editor of the Campbell Law Reporter, Koehl played a significant role in the launch of the student-run podcast that reports on legal issues in October 2019. To date, the podcast has been downloaded more than 1,400 times. One of the most podcast’s most popular episodes was Koehl’s interview with N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Sec. Mandy Cohen to discuss a variety of topics surrounding leadership, career success, and also health law.
What does “leading with purpose,” the University’s motto, mean to Koehl? “This quote will forever remind me of my time with the Campbell Law Reporter podcast,” he said. “To me, it means to leave your pride at the door. Trust, respect, dignity, patience, etc. all occur as a byproduct of a truly humble leader.”
The Dixon Fellowship was established in 2018 through a $1 million gift from the estate of Charles D. Dixon to the North Carolina Bar Foundation Endowment’s Legal Aid of North Carolina Fund, which Dixon initiated with a gift of $100,000 in 2007. A renowned philanthropic lawyer of the Hickory area and partner at a local law firm, he also dedicated a significant amount of pro bono time to the Morganton LANC office, as well as other local charitable projects.
Koehl added, “Failure will be inevitable as a new attorney; having colleagues that can I trust to guide me and teach me is a priceless opportunity.”