Melanie Leslie


Dr. Samuel Belkin Professor of Law 


B.A., 1983, University of Oregon

J.D., 1991, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Areas of Expertise

Nonprofit Organizations
Real Estate Law


     Dean Melanie Leslie became dean of Cardozo Law School on July 1, 2015. She is the first Cardozo Law graduate and the first woman to hold the position. In the three years since she became dean Cardozo has jumped 23 places in the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings to 52nd in the nation. During this time employment numbers for Cardozo graduates have improved dramatically. More than 80% hold jobs that require a J.D. degree as well as bar passage within the first 10 months after graduation.

     Dean Leslie was the driving force behind a number of important programs that position the law school as a leader in technology as well as businesses related to intellectual property. The FAME Center for fashion, art, media and entertainment law was created under the guidance of Dean Leslie to build upon Cardozo's nationally renowned intellectual property program and expose more students to experts and practical experience in these creative fields.

     Dean Leslie oversaw the creation of the Cardozo/Google Patent Diversity Project, which launched with funding from Google and is designed to increase the number of women and minority innovators receiving patents. The law school has identified this area as a significant obstacle to women and minorities in technology and other businesses. Dean Leslie also created the Blockchain Project, the Center for Rights and Justice, and the Center for Real Estate Law & Policy.

     A faculty member since 1995, Dean Leslie is a leading scholar in the trusts and estates field, and is an expert on the law of fiduciary duties as it applies to trustees and charitable boards. As a professor of law she teaches Property, Trusts and Estates, Nonprofit Governance, and Evidence. Dean Leslie is widely respected for her excellent teaching skills and engagement with the student body and has been presented the “Best First-Year Professor” award by three graduating Cardozo classes.

     In 2014 she became Cardozo’s Vice Dean. In this role she oversaw the introduction of new professional concentrations to the curriculum, and began the expansion of Cardozo’s renowned intellectual property program to include major new initiatives on technology, data law, and in businesses of fashion, sports, media, the arts and entertainment.

     Dean Leslie is a prolific scholar, and has published in many important law reviews including the NYU Law Review, Boston College Law Review, Florida Law Review, William & Mary Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal, and Indiana Law Journal. She is also the coauthor of a leading casebook, Estates and Trusts, Cases and Materials, as well as Concepts and Insights: Trusts and Estates. Dean Leslie has been a visiting associate professor of law at New York University and a visiting professor of law at Columbia Law School. She is a member of the NY State Bar and NYC Bar Joint Committee on the Uniform Trust Code, a Legal Fellow of the American College of Trusts and Estates Counsel (ACTEC), and an Executive Committee member of the AALS Section on Nonprofits and Philanthropy.

     Prior to joining the Cardozo Law faculty in 1995, she clerked for Justice Gary S. Stein of the New Jersey Supreme Court. She practiced commercial litigation at Debevoise & Plimpton, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, and McCarter & English.

     Dean Leslie received her B.A. from the University of Oregon with Honors, and her J.D. from Cardozo Law magna cum laude in 1991, where she was executive editor of the Cardozo Law Review.




"Accidental Inheritance: Retirement Accounts and the Hidden Law of Succession,"(with Stewart E. Sterk). 88 New York University Law Review (forthcoming 2014).


"The Limits of Self-Regulation in the Charitable Sector."Symposium: Perpetual Conservation Easements: What Have We Learned and Where Should We Go From Here? University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. Utah Law Review (forthcoming 2013).


"The Myth Revisited: New Challenges for Testamentary Freedom." Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law, Workshop on Wealth, Families and Death: Socio-legal Perspectives on Wills and Inheritance, Bilbao, Spain, April 2013. The Oñati Socio-Legal Series (forthcoming 2014).


Time to Sever the Dead Hand: Fisk University and the Cost of the Cy Pres Doctrine." 31 Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal 1 (2012).