Founded just after the civil war ended, the University of South Carolina School of Law (South Carolina Law) is the only public law school in the entire state. Since its foundation, the student body has grown increasingly diverse. During the Reconstruction era, 11 African-American students graduated from the school. Today, minorities comprise over 20% of the student body. In 1918, the first female student graduated from South Carolina Law. Today, women comprise over 45% of the student body. In 2017, the law school moved into a new $80 million facility that includes a variety of unique spaces including a courtroom and a law library. The law school’s alumni included three governors of the state and two U.S. senators including Lindsay Graham, who currently represents South Carolina.
The first-year curriculum includes six core academic courses plus two courses that begin preparing students for the practical aspects of the legal profession. The academic courses taught in the first year are the traditional, fundamental course of the American legal system: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. On the practical side, students take an introduction to the legal profession and a course in legal research, writing, and analysis.
In their final two years, the only required course at South Carolina Law is a semester course in professional responsibility. Students have standard requirements to complete an upper-level, writing assignment and complete 6 hours of experiential education. The law school also requires all students to complete one course that covers perspective in law. These advanced courses introduce students to the complexities and nuances of the modern legal system by exploring various perspectives on the law.
South Carolina Law does offer one, unique concentration for students in the practice area of children’s law. This unique concentration prepares students to practice in this growing area of law from professors who are experts in the field. South Carolina Law is one of the leaders for this practice area and the concentration in children’s law allows students to show they are practice-ready in this field.
Juris Doctor students at South Carolina Law also have the opportunity to pursue a second degree as part of a joint degree program. By pairing their J.D. with another professional degree, students are able to complete both programs in less time than pursuing them separately. Also, joint degrees prepare students for the modern legal profession, which is increasingly interdisciplinary. Students have the option of combining their J.D. with degrees from one of 12 other professional schools. Admission to both programs is required.
Undergraduate students at the university also have the option to apply to the school’s 3+3 program that allows them to complete both their undergraduate degree and a law degree in 6 years. During their final year of undergraduate studies, students in the 3+3 program take the traditional first-year curriculum at the law school.
J.D. students also have the unique opportunity to spend a “Maymester” studying abroad at the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, one of the four London Inns of Court. This historical court is one of the courts that manage the legal system in England. The “Maymester” program exposes students to international law as well as the experience of another culture.
Career and Career Placement
Within 10 months of graduation, 82% of all graduates of South Carolina Law are employed in careers that require either a law license or prefer a Juris Doctor Degree. A smaller percentage of students took other professional positions or pursued additional education. In total, only 7% of graduates were still seeking employment 10 months after graduation from the law school. Small law firms, state and local judicial clerkships, and government positions were the three most common career choices and accounted for over half of all career choices. Law firm work, in general, also accounted for nearly half of all graduates first career choice. The state of South Carolina was–by a wide margin–the most common jurisdiction for students to begin their careers.
At South Carolina Law, the Career Services Office (CSO) staffs four professionals who work with students and alumni through their professional careers to leverage both their education and South Carolina Law’s extensive alumni network to help all their graduates achieve their professional goals. Career counseling is rooted in individual counseling sessions where students explore their career goals with the CSO staff. The CSO maintains a wealth of resources for students and provides year-long programming to assist in resume preparation and interview preparation. The CSO also organizes on-campus interviews twice a year. As shown in their placement statistics, the CSO also has an extensive program to place students in state and local judicial clerkships.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
South Carolina Law’s commitment to graduating “practice ready” attorneys is rooted in both classroom and extra-curricular programs such as the school’s legal clinic and externship program. Students begin to learn practical skills during their first semester at South Carolina Law. These lessons build into their final year where students participate in a capstone course that combines their practical skills to solve a semester long, complex legal problem with their classmates. These simulations courses leave students with the ability to solve these problems in the real work environment.
Students also learn practical skills by participating in one of the school’s eight in-house legal clinics or opting for an externship in a legal office in the local area. The legal clinics provide a range of practice area. Students are supervised by faculty experts who are practitioners in each of the eight practice areas. Under this supervison, students may represent real clients in a variety of legal situations.
Externships offer a similar experience as the legal clinics but offer students even more range of practice areas. Legal offices range from public defenders and prosecutors to corporate legal offices. In their externships, students learn alongside practicing attorneys building their professional skills as well as their professional network.
Students at South Carolina Law enjoy a range of services provided to all students at the University as well as some law school specific programs. Law students can purchase health care through the University as well as utilize the many health and exercise facilities located near the law school. The law school hosts dozens of student organization that allow students to socialize and work together on a variety of civic issues. The school also is home to a robust moot court and mock trial program where students compete around in the country while also building courtroom skills.
Life in Columbia, South Carolina offers students a bustling, active city with low costs and lots of opportunities. The city is built around the Congaree River and is home to one of the South’s best zoological parks. The downtown area is home to countless unique eateries as well as a range of affordable housing options for students. The area is also a golfer’s paradise with countless courses in the city and a short drive for the Master’s course in Augusta, GA.