Carol Spruill

Senior Lecturing Fellow

E. Carol Spruill is a Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke Law School and until her resignation in December 2008 was the Associate Dean for Public Interest and Pro Bono. She has taught a seminar/clinic on Poverty Law each spring semester since 1994. She began work at Duke Law School in 1991 to establish its Pro Bono Project. She served as Assistant Dean and then Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from 1996 to 1999. In 1999, she became Duke Law's first dean of its then new Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono. Duke University presented her with its Blue Ribbon Diversity Award in 2006. Upon her retirement from her deanship, the Duke Law Alumni Association’s presented her with its annual A. Kenneth Pye Award for distinguished service to the Duke Law community in April 2009.

Spruill received both her undergraduate degree, in Political Science and with honors in American Studies in 1971, and her law school degree in 1975 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and she studied law at Oxford University in the summer of 1974. She clerked for the Superior Court judges of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1975-1976.

In 1976, she received a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship to work as an attorney with Legal Services. She represented hundreds of clients on cases in areas including domestic violence, bankruptcies, evictions, consumer finance, government benefits and employment, and she also engaged in law reform work. She lobbied on debtor protection and child support enforcement laws, and helped draft North Carolina's first domestic violence legislation in 1978. She was on the board in two counties in initial efforts to start groups to protect battered women. She was co-counsel in Carter v. Morrow, one of the first federal class actions against the Child Support Enforcement (IV-D) Agency for failing to assist those not on welfare with their child support claims. After eight years of representing clients in Legal Services, in 1984 she became Deputy Director of Legal Services of North Carolina, then the third largest Legal Services program in the country, and served in that position from 1984 until 1991.

She has worked as a consultant for Legal Services programs in New Jersey, Ohio and North Carolina, and taught for the Arkansas-based Southeast Training Center's Management Institute. She was a consultant for the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for five years, 1991 – 1996, as coordinator of its Sabbatical Program that awards grants to nonprofit leaders.  From 2008 to 2013, served as a consultant for management and strategic planning for Legal Aid of North Carolina. 

Spruill has served on numerous state and civic boards. She served on the Steering Committee for the newly formed Association of Women Attorneys in 1978-1979 and was its first Parliamentarian.  She received the NCAWA award that it later renamed the Gwyneth Davis Award. In 1982, she was appointed to North Carolina's Child Day Care Commission, first by Lt. Gov. Bob Jordan and later by Gov. James Hunt, where she served eight years and advocated to abolish corporal punishment in day care centers and to lower child staff ratios. She was an incorporator and the first Board Chair of the N.C. Association of Nonprofit Organizations beginning in 1992. She was a member of the board of Carolina Legal Assistance, a legal services program for people with mental disabilities from 1996 to 2004 and has served as its Vice-President. She was appointed to the National Advisory Committee of Equal Justice Works in 2004 and served until 2008. She was a member of the North Carolina Editorial Review Board, an affiliate of the American Forum, beginning in 2007. She was third Vice-President of the Wake County Democratic Women from 2009 to 2011.  She served several terms on the board of the North Carolina Women’s Forum and was President in 2012-2013.  She was on the first North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission, appointed by Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, in January 2006 and was appointed to a second term by Chief Justice Sarah Parker.  For that Commission she co-authored the Initial Report of the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission, published in May 2009.  She continues to serve on the Executive Committee of the Equal Access to Justice Commission Foundation and is on the Civil Gideon Committee. She has served on the NC Bar Association’s Law School Liaison Committee since 1999, including terms as Chair and Co-Chair. She was a Vice President of the North Carolina Bar Association's Board of Governors in 1998-1999. She is on the board of Raleigh Fine Arts and Chair of the NC Artists Exhibition for 2016.