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Raleigh attorney Charles Marshall ’88 is vice chancellor and general counsel for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He provides legal advice and counsel to the Board of Trustees, the chancellor, the administration, faculty and staff on legal matters involving or affecting the institution.

Charles Marshall '88 with dog Rookie

Raleigh attorney Charles Marshall ’88 is vice chancellor and general counsel for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He provides legal advice and counsel to the Board of Trustees, the chancellor, the administration, faculty and staff on legal matters involving or affecting the institution. He holds two degrees from Carolina; after studying political science and history, Charles earned a bachelor of arts with distinction in 1992. He went on to receive his doctor of law degree with honors in 1996.

Although Raleigh is home base, Charles often returns to Charlotte to connect with friends and family. After a recent visit, he reflected on his time at Country Day and the impact it has made on his life. 

What are your fondest memories of Country Day?

One of my favorite things about Country Day was being part of an outdoor campus, where all of the common spaces were outdoors and all of the classrooms were surrounded by open windows and the sounds of students socializing outside.

Who were the teachers that had the biggest influence on you at Country Day?

Marsha Newton-Graham had the biggest influence on me while I was here. She was as much of a life coach as a teacher to me – she taught me important lessons about leadership, taking chances, and learning how to be an adult. Roger Coulombe taught me how to study history and write essays in ways that I still use all the time.

What advice do you have for students who are trying to figure it all out?

Slow down, be present, and surround yourself with people that you respect. 

How did Country Day help you shape and pursue your goals?

Country Day prepared me for law school as well as college did. That’s partly because of Ed Kelly’s mantra about the singular relationship between preparation and performance – “if you have thoroughly mastered the material, you will do well.” That was always true for me at Country Day, and it’s been true for me in law and life generally – my biggest failures in a courtroom, on a stage, pursuing a hobby, or even in planning for a family adventure, are all because I didn’t devote enough time or attention to preparation. 

My parents emphasized the value of being well-rounded, and my teachers and coaches at Country Day encouraged me in that same direction. They pushed me into different spaces to learn different life skills – researching, writing, public speaking, being a leader on a team – that had nothing to do with achieving the highest grade in a class or being the most valuable player. Country Day also helped me learn how to take chances and deal with failure. My advisors challenged me to take classes beyond my comfort zone, and even though I didn’t perform as well in those classes, I became a stronger student because of them. I failed at public speaking many times as a student, and sometimes in a very public way, but working through those failures and the stresses that accompanied them helped make it so much easier to tackle tough audiences with more confidence as I grew older.

Tell us about your career journey. 

My career is not built upon any specific achievements or specialized knowledge. Rather, it’s been a journey of having to learn new subjects and skills at each new job – from tax law to Congressional politics to media law and organizational management, and now, higher education law and policy. Through the interesting turns that I’ve taken in my legal career, I’ve learned that the value of earning the trust and respect of the people you work with far outweighs the value of being the smartest person in the room.

What has been the most rewarding or exciting professional experience for you thus far?

One of the most rewarding professional experiences I’ve had is the opportunity to work in all three branches of the federal government in Washington, D.C. when I was a young lawyer. The jobs themselves were not glamorous, but they gave me a ground-floor view of government, law, and policy from three different perspectives. 

One of the most exciting professional experiences I’ve had is being asked to moderate a panel on leadership with two National Football League Hall of Famers, Ronnie Lott, and Marcus Allen. It was incredibly hard to stay focused on the discussion and not jump out of my chair to show them plays I had diagrammed for my 7-9 year-old flag football team. 

What is the greatest challenge you have overcome in life? What helped you persevere?

I’ve been fortunate and privileged to have a happy and healthy family, but I suffered a traumatic brain injury earlier this year falling off a golf cart. The strain it put on my wife and children and colleagues – and the stress of trying to recover back to my “normal” self – taught me so much about humility, gratefulness, the illusion of control, and the sanctity of my marriage. 

What do you do for fun?

I write and play music with The Balsa Gliders, I host “tailgates” on my back porch, I run in the mornings with a great group of friends, I love to take car trips around the country with my family, and I am slowly learning to fly fish. 

Charles recently wrote an article about a 10-year football tradition he established with his sons. You can connect with Charles Marshall '88 via his LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin.com/in/digitalprivacylawyer/