Pro Bono Program’s new campaign to benefit Allendale Co. schools

Paula Birch Billingsley ’15 says she knew her law degree would help her give back to the place she once called home.

Along the state’s “corridor of shame” is Allendale County, less than 100 miles from Columbia, but a world away when it comes to resources. The corridor of shame refers to the I-95 corridor of South Carolina, where some of the nation’s poorest counties lie. A state of emergency has been declared over their education system, and rates of violent crimes, teen pregnancy and unemployment climb. It’s a community known for its negative attention. But where others see loss, Paula Birch Billingsley sees hope.

The 2015 alumna says it was during her time at South Carolina Law, learning from professors like Derek Black and Libba Patterson, says that her eyes and heart were opened to what a law degree could mean for the place she once called home.

She returned to Allendale with goals to advocate for the school system specifically. She found a group of like-minded people and the Allendale Fairfax Education Foundation was formed.

“It’s great: male, female, black, white, ages 18 to 80. We have parents, teachers, social workers, and more. They almost all work, have families, and do this 100 percent volunteer,” says Billingsley, the president and chair of the foundation

She says they operate like a “booster club for academics,” raising money for everything from school supplies and community events to a mentoring program and chess team. But she wanted to do more. She turned to Pro Bono Program director Pam Robinson for help on their latest project: Change for Change.

<Read More>

Law Merit Badge Day in South Carolina raises bar for others across country


The verdict is in, and the Law Merit Badge Day in South Carolina is one of the best around.

Ninety Boy Scouts have registered to attend this Saturday’s event, presented by the Indian Waters Council. It’ll be held inside the new building of the University of South Carolina School of Law in Columbia.

Nearly a third of the Boy Scouts participating are considered at-risk, meaning the council is offering this activity at no cost to their families. For these Scouts, the event could be a path to a better life — and, if they choose, a law career.

<Read More>

Unique 1870’s bench finds home in new law school building

Throughout the 187,500 square feet of the new home of the University of South Carolina School of Law, there are brand-new classrooms, state-of-the-art technology, and grand architecture. But as the school forges the next phase of legal education and celebrates its 150th anniversary, it looks to its roots for grounding.

One piece of history that links the past and the present is the bench in the Judge Karen J. Williams Courtroom. While its design is seamless with the rest of the room, and its use proper, it has a story all its own that dates back to the 1870s. After the Civil War ended, South Carolina had a new state constitution and a new high court. The legislature commissioned a bench for South Carolina’s first Supreme Court, and that bench was in use for almost a century until, in 1971, the court moved into its own building. The bench was left behind and moved into the basement of the South Carolina State House, where it was all but forgotten, gathering dust and providing shelter for creatures from time to time.

Then, in 1992, when the State House underwent major renovations, it was rediscovered. It was offered to the School of Law just as talks of a new building were beginning. The law school took the bench in hopes of one day having a suitable place for this piece of history. Professor W. Lewis Burke and Pam Robinson, director of the Pro Bono Program, were instrumental in helping the bench find a new home at the law school.

“We were kind of shocked and confused why it was in the basement of the State House. But we said, ‘Oh, we have to save that,’” says Robinson.

For the next 25 years the bench sat in the lobby of the School of Law’s old building on Main Street. There, it was used as a study desk, a bake sale table, and even a food and drink station during special events, among other things.

“The lobby wasn’t exactly the most noble place for [the bench]. But it kept it and preserved it until we were ready to use it,” says Rob Wilcox, dean of the law school.

On certain occasions, such as when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held hearings at the School of Law, it was moved into the auditorium.

But moving the 100-year-old, solid pine bench wasn’t an easy task.

“It wasn’t exactly portable,” says Robinson. “And every time we moved it, I sort of winced because it wasn’t good for it and I thought if I was that old I wouldn’t want to be moved and taken apart.”

Today, the bench finally sits in its permanent place in a room befitting its stature.  It was an accomplishment Burke and Robinson say they are proud of. The 300-seat courtroom is one of the crown jewels of the new building and was built as a working courtroom, and will play host to actual jury trials and appellate hearings, as well as mock trial and moot court competitions, symposia, and other special events.

“I hope students will learn the history of the bench and know that we value our books and benches, as well as our laws,” says Burke.

It’s the history and heft of the bench that Robinson says grounds the law school’s new home on Senate Street.  “While all of the shiny and new details of the building will help us better educate law students, it’s the historic pieces that will remind the students why the law is so important.”

“It’s fabulous to see that a piece of pine furniture that’s been around for roughly 150 years can have such an important role in a school that will be here for the next 150 years,” says Dean Wilcox.

Ten law classes celebrate during alumni reunion weekend

Graduates of the law class of 1982 reconnected at their 35th law reunion.

The University of South Carolina School of Law’s 150th anniversary and dedication ceremony coincided with annual law class reunion activities. On the weekend of Sept. 15-17, 10 law school classes, dating back to 1967, reconnected with their classmates.

The weekend included an invitation to the School of Law’s building dedication, as well as a CLE given by Dean Rob Wilcox. On Friday night, each class enjoyed their own private party around Columbia, and on Saturday, alumni were invited to a tailgate party before the South Carolina vs. Kentucky game.

This year’s reunions celebrated the classes of 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007, and 2012.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice to Speak at USC Law School Dedication


COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito will speak at the dedication for the University of South Carolina’s new law school.

Justice Alito will deliver the keynote address at the new building, located at 1525 Senate St., at 10 a.m. Thursday.

School officials said the program will also include remarks by President Harris Pastides, Dean Robert Wilcox, S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty and William Hubbard, past president of the American Bar Association, alumnus and university trustee. The dedication coincides with the School of Law’s 150th anniversary.

<Read More>

Uniquely Ours

Walk through the University of South Carolina’s new law school and two things are apparent in the design — a sense of history and an eye toward the future.

The classrooms convey the formality of the legal profession but are equipped with state-of-the art media capabilities, including ceiling microphones. An old-school reading room designed for quiet study complements a bustling, 24-hour student commons area named for South Carolina’s largest law firm, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.  

And then, of course, there are the two courtrooms, named for two towering figures from South Carolina’s rich legal history.

“I tell people all the time, ‘We don’t want this to be a building that could just as easily be at the University of Iowa or someplace else,’” says Robert Wilcox, ’81 law, dean of the School of Law. “This is the University of South Carolina. We’re proud of the historical ties to the profession in the state, and I’ve noticed a lot of people walking through the building are very taken by that — this is a place that is uniquely ours.”

<Read More>

Weather related announcements and updates

The University of South Carolina is monitoring the forecast for Hurricane Irma and coordinating with local and state agencies. As a state agency, the university follows the delay and closing determinations of Richland County government. University officials will continue to consult with state and local officials and any updates on potential cancellations or closings will be posted here, social media and Carolina Alerts. 

All students and employees are urged to register for Carolina Alert and update personal contact information at up-to-date weather alerts and other emergency notifications, follow Carolina Alert on Twitter and Facebook

<More updates>

UofSC takes donations for Texas hurricane victims

As Gamecocks, we stand with those affected by Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, knowing all too well the hardship of historic flooding. In conjunction with the Columbia mayor’s office, City Council and a citywide relief effort, the University of South Carolina and Gamecock Athletics will be collecting items to send to the hurricane victims in Texas. The following donations will be accepted:

  • Cleaning supplies (bleach, bleach wipes, mops, gloves, clean rags)
  • Personal hygiene products (soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, etc.)

Students, faculty, staff and members of the community can drop off donations at two School of Law locations from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday, September 5 and Wednesday, September 6. 

Look for boxes at the Main Lobby entrance to the Café, and in the locker area at the entrance to the Commons.

For more information about the drive, contact Ambra Yarbrough Hiott at For media inquiries, contact Dana D’Haeseleer at or 803-777-3691.

Summer job helps rising-3L follow immigration law path

Raus (top row, middle) stands with his co-workers, who he call his “work family.”

As the heated debate surrounding immigration continues, University of South Carolina School of Law third-year student Kevin Raus says he’s putting words into action.

“Once you strip away the politics from this issue, it becomes clear that immigration is a part of the law that affects everyone in separate ways,” says Raus.

This summer the Charlotte native worked at Gardner Law, a Raleigh-based firm that specializes in immigration issues. While he wasn’t sure the area of practice was right for him prior to his summer job, now he is certain it is the path he will pursue post-graduation.

It’s a path he says will be made easier thanks to the support and skills he’s learned during his time at the School of Law. From resume reviews at Career Services to networking events orchestrated by the school, Raus says South Carolina law has prepared him to reach for his goals. He says it even taught him that sometime failure is the best way to learn.

“I would research an issue, submit my work, and get most of it wrong. It hurt my pride at times, but I knew failure would only help me grow. Now, , given my learning experiences,

I am more confident than ever in my ability to succeed.”

His confidence has also grown in the immigration field. He says his “work family” at Gardner Law has been there along the way, encouraging him and helping him to be his best.

“This summer has taught me the many ins and outs of the immigration practice. There are many facets of working as an immigration attorney that one could easily glance over if not careful. Immigration attorneys have to work side-by-side many federal and state agencies to make sure their client receives the best possible outcome. My summer job has opened my eyes to the real-life workings of this complicated practice.”

The Coastal Law Field Lab wraps up first summer course

The first summer class of The Coastal Law Field Lab is in the books. Students completed the four-week, six-credit class on July 15, celebrating with an oyster roast. The unique field-centered class took place in Charleston, drawing law students from both Carolinas. 

The class was taught by renowned professors who are experts in the field: Solomon Blatt Professor of Law Josh Eagle—who wrote the casebook on coastal law— and Professor Nathan Richardson, both from the University of South Carolina School of Law, as well as Cinnamon Carlarne, an associate dean and professor of law at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Each professor taught one of the three modules, respectively: Coastal Law, Climate Change and the Coast, and Coastal Energy Law. 

About half of the course was spent in the classroom. The rest of the course took place “in the field,” learning about important coastal, environmental, and energy law issues where they matter: on beaches and islands, in marshes, and at other sites emblematic of the environmental challenges in sustainable development. 

“The Coastal Law Field Lab is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for students who are interested in environmental law, real estate practice, or who want to immerse themselves into a new area of law through interactive learning,” says Prof. Eagle.

Twice a week, the class visited properties that have been at the heart of important litigation or that illustrate high-profile issues. At the sites, students met with guest speakers who provided unique insight into these problems. The speakers represented the range of professionals involved in the day-to-day practice of coastal law: state regulators, attorneys, geologists, ecologists, environmental representatives, and developers.

“I wanted to take the class because I was looking for a hands-on classroom experience. I learn best when I can actually interact with the material. I learned more in four weeks due to the connections that were solidified when moving from the classroom to the field lab,” says second-year University of South Carolina School of Law student Christy Schofer.

For other students who plan to pursue a career in environmental law, like second-year South Carolina Law student Pierce Werner, the class allowed him to meet experts and professionals working in the field every day. 

“The field labs not only give students the most hands-on way of experiencing the material that was covered in the classroom portion, but they also give the students a chance to network and get to know the lawyers that do practice in the field. I now have a list of people that I can call for advice or expert testimony,” says Werner.

In addition, the field lab included supplemental lectures on topics critical to good coastal lawyering such as coastal oceanography, environmental policy and economics, and alternative energy technology. The combination of legal coursework, interdisciplinary lectures, and eight issue-packed field labs gave students a comprehensive understanding of the coast, coastal issues, and the role that law and lawyers play in resolving those issues.

Werner says the class went beyond the law, connecting important scientific knowledge, something he enjoyed since his bachelor’s degree is in environmental science.

“This class was unlike any other class that you can take in law school. No other class can give you nearly as much exposure to the lawyers and subject areas of the practice that this course can provide. No other law class will allow you to learn about a property from a famous case while standing on the beach in front of that property,” says Werner. “Learning opportunity aside, you get to have a law school class on a beautiful beach—shoes optional.”

A week-long spring break course for University of South Carolina School of Law students focusing on coastal law will be offered in 2018 with plans to bring back the national summer course in 2019.

“I will recommend this class to anyone and everyone. The professors were phenomenal. To be able to interact with such knowledgeable people in such a small classroom setting is something that you don’t typically get in law school. It’s been amazing to be a part of it,” says Schofer.