Dayton Campbell-Harris’s ability on the football field wasn’t surprising: His family is studded with star athletes. But the leadership skills he developed outside the lines were what propelled him to law school, where he is fostering community and turning a desire to help marginalized communities into the tools to do so.

Since becoming a Law Dawg, Campbell-Harris has served in multiple student leadership roles, including his current job as editor-in-chief of the Washington International Law Journal, one of the law school’s flagship publications.

Since taking the reins, Campbell-Harris has championed efforts to feature more diverse scholarly work, increase transparency and engage in deeper community-building. One such event is the journal’s spring symposium, “A Global Reckoning: Answering Calls for Change.” Inspired by the protest movement following George Floyd’s killing, Campbell-Harris and his executive board centered the event on how corporate actors can support marginalized groups’ social movements domestically and abroad.

Campbell-Harris recognized early in his law school career how foundational community is for students’ success, especially for students from historically underrepresented groups in the legal profession. While serving as the SBA vice president of diversity and inclusion in 2019, he led an effort with affinity group leaders at the law school to create an annual retreat for students of color.

“Surrounding each other with that kind of uplifting community is so important and foundational, because it really does take a village to accomplish positive lasting change.”

“Entering law school was a huge reckoning for me,” Campbell-Harris says. “My classmates are the cream of the crop, which was honestly a little intimidating at first. Starting the retreat for students of color was all about initiating those relationship-building opportunities for students who may have felt marginalized like myself.”

Breaking the plane

Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Campbell-Harris says sports were a huge motivating factor to attend college at Pacific Lutheran University. He majored in history and international relations while playing for the Lutes as a safety.

He harbored a lingering interest in the public housing crisis facing vulnerable populations, and he volunteered at the Low-Income Housing Institute in Seattle. Law school, however, was where he saw the biggest opportunity to make a scalable impact.

At UW Law, Campbell-Harris has been involved in the Washington Innocence Project, Black Law Students Association, Moot Court, the Student Bar Association and the Cyber Law Association of Washington. Professionally, he has worked for organizations on opposite sides of the courtroom in the public and private sectors.

In March, Campbell-Harris and his Washington Innocence Project co-counsel Tierney Vial take a client’s case to the Washington State Supreme Court for oral argument. Their client is a geriatric Black man challenging his conditions of confinement under the U.S. and Washington state constitutions.

It has been an exceptional privilege and honor to serve our client. Serving [him] has been the capstone of my law school career,” he says.

As he looks ahead to life beyond 2021 commencement. Campbell-Harris is optimistic. He has a clerkship lined up in the Eastern District of Michigan; after that, it will be time to write a new chapter.

“As a leader, when you work hard, that work is going to reflect on those who are looking up to you as well,” he says. “And if you’re not exercising that strength and service mentality, then it's unlikely to be replicated by people who are looking up to you.

“Mindsets are contagious. Surrounding each other with that kind of uplifting community is so important and foundational, because it really does take a village to accomplish positive lasting change.”