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Chris Meazell charts new course as director of Master of Studies in Law program

Chris Meazell, director of the new master's program at the Wake Forest University School of Law, outside the Worrell Professional Center on Friday, June 15, 2012.

Chris Meazell, director of the new master's program at the Wake Forest University School of Law, outside the Worrell Professional Center on Friday, June 15, 2012.

As a professional musician turned entertainment lawyer, Chris Meazell already knew a thing or two about career reinvention.

When he decided to move back to the South about a year ago, Meazell thought about relocating his law practice. Instead he chose to chart a new course for himself by becoming Wake Forest Law’s first Director of the Master of Studies in Law.

“I liked the start-up aspect of it,” he said. “It’s a big challenge to create an entirely new department and degree in a law school. There are a lot of moving parts. It’s not only that it’s never been done before at Wake Forest, it’s really never been done like this before anywhere.”

For many years Meazell, an English major, played guitar professionally with several bands. He left a career in music to earn his JD from the University of Georgia School of Law. He spent 12 years in practice at Dow Lohnes PLLC, a national media and communications law firm, where he became partner and still practices.

During his years in practice, he found that he spent a lot of time educating clients on the basic workings of law. Those experiences led him to think about the benefits of offering a master’s degree in law.

“You essentially could create a more sophisticated client and consumer of legal services by having people who understand the law and how it works at a master’s level,” he said.

When he found out that Wake Forest University was going to start such a program, Meazell jumped at the chance to be part of what he sees as an emerging trend in legal education – one that exists right now at only a handful of schools across the country.

“Because Wake Forest is a small, sophisticated enterprise, this is something we can implement,” he said. “The faculty is supportive and everyone is coming together to create an opportunity that may not exist anywhere else.”

The core curriculum is specially designed for the MSL students, and is taught by the law school faculty. Students also take JD courses in their areas of interest.

Meazell also works with both MSL and JD students in the classroom. He is teaching both dispute resolution and a law firm economics class that he developed through his experience managing a Dow Lohnes regional office.   The class explains how law firms work, how they make money and how firms develop and retain  clients.

“For years young lawyers were not informed or expected to understand the business side of practice,” he said. “Once you get to be a mid-level or senior associate, you are often confronted with some pretty harsh realities as to what is required to sustain a productive firm and how it all works.”

Understanding those dynamics from the beginning should help students become stronger professionals and make better informed decisions about their career paths.

And as for Meazell’s own career path, he has found that the City of the Arts offers a perfect venue for a former musician who still likes to take the stage occasionally.

“I have this apparatus with computers where I can do a whole live production,” he said. “It’s instrumental improvisation and I’ve been working with some dancers. It’s a bit like being a performing DJ.”

In addition to his musical contributions, Meazell brought something else unusual to Winston-Salem when he moved here.  Two giant dinosaur statues – a T-Rex and a Brontosaurus – grace the front yard of his West Highlands home.

“People stop and have their kids’ photos taken with the dinosaurs,” he explained. “The dinosaurs have become a calling card. I have moved a number of times in the past decade and the dinosaurs have always come with me.” Considered a neighborhood fixture of sorts, Meazell has no plans to make them extinct.