Professor Beth Hopkins, J.D. '77, Retires After Distinguished Career at Wake Forest

This article was originally published by Wake Forest University School of Law in April.  It is reproduced with permission. Professor Hopkins is a 1977 graduate of William & Mary Law School.

Photo courtesy of Wake Forest UniversityProfessor Beth Hopkins is retiring from Wake Forest University after more than 30 years in various roles, most recently as the inaugural director of the Smith Anderson Center for Community Outreach at Wake Forest Law. In her role as outreach director since 2010, she has overseen the law school's Pro Bono Project and the Public Interest Law Organization (PILO).

Hopkins brought to the law school a passion for pro bono and a drive to implement more pro bono projects on and off campus, according to her students, her fellow faculty members and her deans.

In an interview from 2010, Hopkins said she intended "to build upon the foundation that Associate Executive Dean of Academics Suzanne Reynolds and her faculty and the student Pro Bono committee established."

Since then, Hopkins has done just that. She worked with local law firms, the local bar association and general counsels of local corporations as well as private attorneys and organizations throughout the Triad and beyond to organize additional pro bono activities where students provide legal information to citizens all over the state, from Asheville to Pembroke and beyond.

"All of the pieces of the puzzle were here, I was just fortunate to be in a place to put them together," Hopkins said. "None of this would be possible without the students' energy and vitality and the support of the faculty and administration."

More than 15 projects are active including providing advance directives at the Downtown Health Center, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Novant; Teen Court hearings; VITA tax services; prison letters; and Lawyer on the Line. More than 600 people were served this year alone through the law school's Expungement Program; more than 100 were served in the wills programs over the past three years; and hundreds of local high school students have attended "Know Your Rights" presentations.

"I don't know what we are going to do without Beth Hopkins," says Reynolds, now dean of Wake Forest Law. "The dynamic duo of Beth and Denise Hartsfield has made pro bono programs something that we are incredibly proud of at Wake Forest School of Law."

Hopkins also designed pro bono programs that received awards from the American Bar Association (ABA) as well as the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA). Under Hopkins direction, the law school's Veteran Advocacy Law Organization (VALOR) received the 2012 Judy M. Weightman Memorial Public Interest Award from the American Bar Association Law Student Division under her direction. And most recently the Pro Bono Project was named the recipient of the ABA Day of Service Award from the Law Student Division for students pro bono efforts during the ABA's Pro Bono Week in October 2015. The Pro Bono Project received this top honor as a result of the high number of students participating in this year's Pro Bono Week. Wake Forest Law students logged more 200 hours of pro bono service during that week, according the ABA.

"Professor Hopkins has transformed the Wake Forest Pro Bono Project into a premier law school program that inculcates the Wake Forest tradition of Pro Humanitate into our law school culture," said Ann Gibbs, associate dean of administrative and student services. "Working with the talented student Pro Bono Board, she has dynamically lead the expansion of pro bono efforts into a wide variety of areas, including clinics on expungement, advanced directives and wills, in addition to work with Teen Court, Know Your Rights programming and Lawyer on the Line (a partnership with Legal Aid)."

Hopkins' accomplishments outside of the Pro Bono Project include contributing a chapter to the textbook, "Trauma and Resilience in American Indian and African American Southern History," in 2013 and she contributed a chapter to Wake Forest Professor Ed Wilson's book about the history of Wake Forest. Hopkins was also honored with the Martin Luther King, Jr., "Dare to Make a Difference" Award in recognition of her efforts for human and civil rights on Jan. 18.

Of the many accomplishments Hopkins achieved while at Wake Forest Law, one of her most prized acknowledgments stems from her involvement in the United States Tennis Association, where she served at all levels. Hopkins has a passion for tennis and won the Winston-Salem Tennis Open's Lash-Southern Award as well as the USTA Southern Tennis Volunteer of the Year Award.

Read more about Professor Hopkins in a November 2015 article published by the North Carolina Bar Association, "Tennis Lessons: WFU Professor's Life a Study in Sportmanship, Tenacity and the Law."

In addition, Hopkins and the Legal Aid of Raleigh staff designed the Lawyer on the Line project in which students can participate. Wake Forest Law began the pilot program, and now, all law schools in the state participate. Lawyer on the Line allows citizens to file a concern with the Legal Aid of Raleigh, after which Raleigh sends a case load to Hopkins' office. Students do the research on the case, investigate and send their findings back to the Raleigh Office, which then decides if it can assist the client.

Carson Smith, the outgoing executive director of the Pro Bono Project, has been working alongside Hopkins for the past three years.

"Professor Hopkins' passion for uplifting the community through pro bono has been inspiring. Professor Hopkins made herself available 24/7 to ensure that the law students were able to provide legal services for the marginalized and underprivileged," Smith said. "Beyond just her passion for helping others, she is an unparalleled leader. She has the ability to orchestrate and guide students while at the same time allowing the students to make each project their own. Her humility and lack of ego allowed her to get the best out of everyone around her, and with her character and passion, Professor Hopkins lives the pro humanitate motto every single day."

Nick Griffin, outgoing executive director of the Public Interest Law Organization (PILO), has also worked closely with Professor Hopkins. "The great thing about working with Professor Hopkins over these two years is that she doesn't control the whole system but rather she works with students," he says. "She nourishes them and helps them grow and encourages them to innovate so that they can create something that is unique and special every year for the Wake Forest community."

Griffin says moving forward, the PILO Summer grants will be named the Beth Hopkins Pro Humanitate Grants.

Professor Hopkins is a 1973 cum laude graduate of Wake Forest University, with a major in Asian history, as well as a 1977 graduate of the William & Mary Law School. She was Wake Forest's first black homecoming queen and she contributed a chapter to Wake Forest University Professor Ed Wilson's book about the history of Wake Forest. Hopkins has dedicated more 30 years to Wake Forest University, beginning in 1985, when she began serving in Wake Forest University's Legal Counsel's office

Hopkins has served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Virginia and Louisiana, an Assistant Attorney General in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the Wake Forest University Legal Counsel's Office and as an associate in a private law firm. Professor Hopkins has taught courses in the History Department and in the American Ethnic Studies Program for the college as well as a course in Business Drafting for Wake Forest Law. She is married to another Wake Forest University alumnus, Lawrence D.  Hopkins, and they have two children, Michelle and David.

Dean Reynolds added that when Professor Hopkins was tapped to lead the law school's pro bono and public interest projects, there were a handful of students performing a few hundred hours of service. This year nearly 60 percent of the law school's students participated in pro bono work equating to some 6,000 hours. Reynolds said that she knew Professor Hopkins was perfect for the role because of her reputation as an attorney, her passion for social justice and her broad and loyal network.

"This law school now has the name of THE pro bono law school in the state and I couldn't be prouder," Dean Reynolds said. "Beth has made this law school a better place and us better people. We are extraordinarily grateful."

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