DURHAM, N.C. (December 3, 2014) — Alumnus Karl Leo and his wife, Fay, have committed $1.25 million to Duke University to establish a new faculty chair in business law and entrepreneurship, one of the fastest-growing areas of study at the Duke Law School, President Richard H. Brodhead said Wednesday.
“The integration of law with business and business-creation is an exciting approach that leads to real-world applications for our students,” Brodhead said. “We’re grateful to Karl and Fay Leo for their generosity and vision in investing in this important new area of expertise.”
The gift adds to the law school’s recent efforts to advance entrepreneurship by helping students develop the specialized legal knowledge and professional skills necessary to advise, create and lead ventures in the innovation economy. Those efforts include developing Law and Entrepreneurship degree programs, establishing scholarship funding for students pursuing those degrees and expanding the Start-Up Ventures Clinic.
Currently, there are 17 graduate attorneys pursuing the one-year LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship, the biggest class since the program started in the 2010-11 academic year. The school also has a dual-degree offering through which students can obtain a JD and LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship in three years through targeted coursework and externship placements.
The Start-Up Ventures Clinic, which provides legal advice and assistance to seed- and early-stage entrepreneurial ventures that have not yet raised significant amounts of outside capital, has grown to 14 students since the pilot in 2010.
“We are extraordinarily grateful to Karl and Fay Leo for their generosity and commitment to Duke Law,” said Law Dean David F. Levi. “Their gift will deepen what is already one of our strongest fields of teaching and scholarship, and one that is of vital importance to our students and the profession.”
The Karl W. Leo Professorship is the fifth new professorship to be created with matching funds from a $5 million gift in 2011 from Stanley Star, a 1961 Duke Law graduate, and his wife, Elizabeth.
About Mr. Leo
Karl Leo graduated in 1983 from Duke Law, where he was an editor of the Duke Law Journal and coached Duke’s undergraduate debate team. He clerked for Chief Justice C.C. Torbert Jr. of the Alabama Supreme Court and practiced three years in Greensboro, North Carolina, with a construction law firm. He returned home to Huntsville, Alabama, in 1987 and started a solo practice. Shortly after, Leo became outside general counsel to a small roofing-supply company, ABC Supply Co., Inc., which has since grown into the nation’s largest wholesale distributor of roofing, siding, windows and gutters. He serves as the company’s vice president and chief legal officer and an adviser to related businesses in industries ranging from real estate and insurance to nuclear medicine.
He also founded and runs Leo Law Firm, LLC, a boutique business law firm with eight lawyers in Huntsville.
“I give a lot of credit to Duke Law for building the foundation to be able — three or four years out of law school — to take on the things that I did,” Leo said. “I had a high level of confidence, and I think Duke was a big part of that.”
Now on the school’s Board of Visitors, he said his degree and experiences at Duke would not have been possible without a full-tuition scholarship. The endowment for a new faculty chair is not only a way to say thank you, but also a way to help expand opportunities for students to prepare themselves for corporate and transactional work, Leo said.
“I think the greater the faculty is endowed, the greater the course offerings, the greater the practical offerings, the better prepared students will be for a career in business law,” he said.
About Duke Forward
The professorship is the latest of eight secured at Duke Law as part of the Duke Forward campaign, the seven-year, $3.25 billion university-wide fundraising initiative that supports priorities across Duke’s 10 schools and units, Duke Medicine and a range of university programs and initiatives.
Duke Law School’s $85 million campaign goal focuses on adding faculty positions and research funds, expanding student financial aid packages, expanding and enhancing academic and practical programs, and growing the Annual Fund. As of Nov. 17, the Law School had raised $69.3 million, or 82 percent of its campaign goal.
CONTACT: Andrew Park