Breaking ground, moving forward

The future home of the University of South Carolina School of Law

A new University of South Carolina School of Law building is taking form with the first load of structural steel delivered in February.

It’s tremendous progress, especially considering it was only a few months ago that more than 400 law school faculty, students, and alumni came out for the ceremonial groundbreaking on Sept. 26, 2014. And while it may have been the symbolic turning of dirt the crowd came to see that day, the message they carried away was of the promise of a brighter future for our state and our nation.

“I would not be overly bold if I said that no college at the University of South Carolina has had a greater impact on the Palmetto State than our School of Law,” said University President Harris Pastides. “The rule of law is one of the great pillars of civilization. The work that will be accomplished here will impact the quality of life for men, women, and children in South Carolina, and I hope throughout the world, for generations to come.”

During his remarks, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, ’81, said, “What comes out of this building is the most important aspect of why we’re here today, and I’m here to tell you that what’s going to come out of this building in the future is going to be some of the best lawyers and judges in the entire United States: family court judges, trial judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and those who represent average, everyday South Carolinians.

“One of the most important things I can do in my time in politics is to be a partner with USC to build a law school that will tell the world that South Carolina cares about the rule of law.”

Jean H. Toal, ’68, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, said, “It’s not too much to say that South Carolina has made a major new investment in the creation of a just society for its citizens. This is where the lawyers of the future — in whose hands the rule of law will be crafted — will be trained.”

So how will the new law school fulfill this promise? How can a building change legal education and improve the way students are being prepared to be the leaders of tomorrow?

According to Dean Rob Wilcox, a major part of it comes down to the fact that the new building was specifically designed to enhance the synergy among faculty, students, and the legal community in ways that the current building can’t accommodate.

“One of the immediate impacts on South Carolina’s legal profession is that this building will open up so many opportunities to bring together judges and lawyers with students and faculty,” Wilcox said. “It will be built in a way that increases interaction and facilitates communication, and that will change the entire climate of the law school.”

Breaking ground image twoExpected to open in 2017, the three-story, 187,500-square-foot school will occupy the block bounded by Gervais, Bull, Senate and Pickens streets in downtown Columbia, creating an important legal nexus for the state and the university. In addition to its proximity to the state legislature, State Supreme Court, municipal courthouses and downtown law firms, the new building will be located directly across Gervais Street from the USC Law Children’s Law Center, where research, training, and education on children’s legal issues will be performed, and one block north of the National Advocacy Center, where federal prosecutors are trained.

First-year students Travis Bain and Sara Shariff believe the advanced tools and features of the new school will certainly benefit future students.

“Facilities capable of providing the structure and environment needed to develop a bright legal future is probably one of the biggest things that a prospective law student might look for,” said Bain. “The new school conveys to both students and the community that USC is committed to the development of young legal professionals.”

The new building definitely factored into Shariff’s decision to attend USC for law school. “Although I realized I wouldn’t get much time in the new building,” she said, “I still considered the school’s growth. The opening of the new building will be a huge moment in the law school’s history, and I am glad to be part of this monumental change.”