Read and Repeat: Things to know about today's law school

Read and Repeat Summer 2014

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Once again, USC Law is in the top 16 percent of law schools for job placement as its 2013 graduates found full-time, permanent employment in positions that require a J.D. These numbers surpassed the national average by double digits. Looking to hire, or to get hired? Go to http://law.sc.edu/career.


moved up 5    

 

Number of spots USC Law jumped in the U.S. News & World Report rankings–the second consecutive rise–bringing us to No. 93.  

 


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  Percentage of our 2013 graduates who passed the S.C. bar exam on their first attempt.  

 

 


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Number of new faculty members coming this fall to expand and strengthen course offerings.    

 

 


  ReadRepeat-2   Two of the 50 most popular blogs edited by law professors in 2013 have ties to USC Law. Colin Miller is the editor of The Evidence Prof blog, and Alex Ruskell is a contributing editor for the Law School Academic Support blog.  

 

 


  ReadRepeat-13   Number of spots the S.C. Law Review rose in the latest W&L Journal Rankings, bringing the state’s oldest and most prestigious legal publication to No. 67.  

Sue my car, not me

It might seem like a flight of fantasy — a car that could actually drive you to work (or your child to soccer practice) all by itself — but the technology is well underway and its advent on roadways is all but inevitable.

The question now is determining who will be liable when a self-driving car causes an accident. Jeff Gurney, a 2014 alumnus, suggests several scenarios in which the developer of the self-driving technology — not the driver — should be held responsible. He makes his case in an article published in the University of Illinois “Journal of Law, Technology & Policy” titled, “Sue My Car, Not Me: Products Liability and Accidents Involving Autonomous Vehicles.”

“Autonomous vehicles could be enormously helpful to transport the elderly, the disabled, the incapacitated, those too young to drive and those who are simply too busy and would rather work during a commute,” Gurney said.
“It’s predicted that autonomous vehicles will reduce the number of fatalities and injuries resulting from human error and that fuel efficiency will improve dramatically. But no technology is perfect. There will be accidents.”

Self-driving cars equipped with Google-developed technology have logged more than 300,000 miles of autonomous test driving under a variety of conditions without a serious mishap. But Gurney takes a lawyerly approach in sizing up what should happen when the inevitable wrecks involving such vehicles occur. He thinks forcing riders to be fully liable if their self-driving cars malfunction — a stance that technology developers might support — would defeat the purpose of the technology.

“Why pay for an autonomous car if you’re going to be expected to be vigilant behind the wheel and take over at the first sign of trouble?” he said. “That defeats one of the selling points, which is that you can be more productive while letting the car do the driving.”

Gurney got interested in the topic after taking a course on tort liability in his first year of law school. Professor Emeritus David Owen helped him with the paper that would eventually be published in the University of Illinois’ law journal.

“It’s not every day you get to help shape the landscape of an emerging topic,” he said. “I’ve had four citations on the paper so far.” Gurney landed a two-year clerkship with Timothy Cain, a federal judge in Anderson, S.C. Did the published article help?

“It was a main topic of the clerkship interview,” he said.

Celebrating silver

Share your Pro Bono Program stories

Pro-Bono-25th-Anniv-Logo-noUSCOne of the biggest feathers in the law school’s cap is the Pro Bono Program. It’s the oldest all-volunteer program in the country, turning 25 this fall.

We need your help in celebrating the landmark. We’re looking for stories from alumni who have put the lessons learned from their volunteer experiences into practice during their careers.

Have you started or do you help run a non-profit? What was one of your most interesting pro bono cases? Was there a moment on a Pro Bono Program project that changed your career path? How do you incorporate the pro bono ethic into your professional life? What inspired you?

Tell us about your experience, so we can share the ripple effect the Pro Bono Program has made across the world during the past 25 years! You don’t have to write the story. Just tell us you have one, and we’ll take it from there. Drop a line to Rob Schaller, director of communications for USC Law or call (803) 777-5611.

USC LAW GROUNDBREAKING

Grab a big red marker, turn to September on your calendar and draw a nice big circle around Friday the 26th. Add a few stars for effect, and write the following words in all caps: USC Law School Groundbreaking.Then make plans to be here and be a part of one of the biggest milestones in the school’s almost 150 year history as we officially break ground for our new 187,000 square foot building.

Located on Gervais Street, between Bull and Pickens streets, the new building will help form the state’s “legal corridor” along with the State House, the S.C. Supreme Court and the National Advocacy Center, as well as many downtown law firms. Each element, from classrooms to courtrooms to available technology, has been designed with flexibility in mind, allowing USC Law to meet the rapidly changing needs of legal education well into the future.

We hope you’ll join us for this historic day!


Want to attend? Let us know by registering at usclawgroundbreaking.eventbrite.com.  

Writing robustly

New S.C. Legal Writing Academy helps lawyers make their case in print

“‘What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.’

It’s the classic line from one of my favorite movies, ‘Cool Hand Luke,’ and I think of it often,” said Rob Wilcox, dean of the University of South Carolina School of Law.
“In our profession, knowing how to communicate effectively, accurately and concisely is so vital. And so many times it’s when we don’t communicate well that problems come up.”

Wilcox was speaking to members of the inaugural S.C. Legal Writing Academy, a new initiative of the law school aimed at promoting the mastery of written communication among practicing attorneys.

“This is an important part of taking the role of the law school beyond just the J.D. and seeing how we can continue helping lawyers improve their skills,” Wilcox said. “When we ask our colleagues what are the most important skills needed to succeed, number one is ethics, but a close second is the ability to write and communicate effectively.”

During the academy, held in April, five lawyers from across South Carolina worked in intensive, interactive sessions with assistant directors of legal writing Jan Baker and Amy Milligan on grammar and citation, objective and persuasive writing techniques, self-editing and peer review. At the conclusion of the course, the five were named fellows of the academy.

Baker and Milligan began planning the academy in 2013, with the goal of bringing lawyers to campus for a robust writing experience.

“We didn’t want this to be a typical CLE,” Baker said. “We wanted the academy fellows to have space and time to concentrate on improving their writing, but we also wanted to give them a chance to hear from and get feedback from those who have to read their work in an official capacity.”

Judge Aphrodite Konduros, a member of the S.C. Court of Appeals, helped kick off the academy by not only humorously extolling the virtues of brevity from her side of the bench, but also speaking with participants about the practical and ethical considerations related to written communication.

“Written submissions and oral arguments are the cornerstones of advocacy,” said Judge Konduros. “Lawyers may argue before a judge on any given case once, maybe twice, but written submissions will be perused many times. Use this opportunity to advance your case.”

Federal law clerks Brittany Clark, Brandon Gottschall, Deborah Morgan and Sara Svedberg led a panel discussion and engaged academy fellows in a question and answer session on best practices in written and oral advocacy.

Class members practiced what they had learned by writing a client letter and a trial memorandum. The law clerks and Lisa Eichhorn, a law professor — serving as honorary academy faculty — joined Baker and Milligan to review the fellows’ work and conducted one-on-one consultations with each one.

Marghretta Hagood, a newly named fellow who practices in Spartanburg, described the academy as a great skills-building seminar. “There are few CLE programs where participants actively participate or actually do something to develop skills,” she said. “Getting feedback on my writing was extremely helpful.”

Plans for the next academy class are already underway. Baker and Milligan hope to build the academy into an elite writing experience for lawyers in South Carolina and beyond.

“This was one of the best teaching experiences I have had in my career. I can’t wait until we hold the next one and can grow the program further,” Baker said.

For more information on the S.C. Legal Writing Academy, visit http://sclegalwriting.org.

Before the bench

Mentoring program introduces middle schoolers to courtroom experience

The last thing most 14-year-olds want to do is stand before a judge. But eighth-grader Danielle Rice, pictured above, and 39 of her middle school peers relished the opportunity this past spring.

Rice was one of 40 students from four Midlands-area middle schools (W.A. Perry, Hopkins, Heyward Gibbes and Alcorn) who participated in the University of South Carolina School of Law’s first-ever Middle School Mentoring Program. It was a chance for them to learn how the law is relevant to their daily lives. And for Danielle Holley-Walker, former associate dean for academic affairs, it was an opportunity to spark the students’ interest in careers in law.

Holley-Walker is one of this year’s class of Liberty Fellows, each of whom is charged with creating a service program that engages multiple educational institutions.

“The program is designed around teaching kids things that would make them excited about becoming future lawyers,” she said. “But instead of a traditional mentoring program where we go visit their schools I thought, ‘You know what could be better is if we brought the students here to USC Law.’”

She and a team of eight law students built the program, which included one-on-one mentoring and educational workshops that helped the middle school students learn how to build a case and advocate for a cause. The program culminated with oral arguments before a real judge.

With the agenda in place, more than 40 law students were recruited to serve as mentors, while principals from each of the participating middle schools selected 10 students to take part in the program. Beginning in January, the middle-schoolers came to USC to meet with their mentors for the first time and learn about the problem on which they would focus during the coming months: should public school uniforms be mandatory?

On March 21, arguments in hand, the students sat in the second-floor law school courtroom and waited their turn to go before Judge Michelle Childs. A 2010 Liberty Fellow as well as a 1991 law school alumna, Judge Childs not only heard the arguments but also provided each student with tailored feedback.

“It was really cool that we got to present to a real judge in a real courtroom,” said Rice, who was the first to present her case, while her mentor and other participants watched. “That’s something most kids our age definitely don’t get a chance to do.”

Law student mentors and middle-schoolers alike agreed that they gained tremendously from this experience.

“One of my favorite parts of this is getting to meet all of these new people. I have new friends that care about the same things I do,” Rice said.

“I’m happy that we are able to help put the kids on a path that encourages them to pursue higher education,” said second-year student Cassandra Huggins. “I like that we found a simple topic that involves their issues and also puts an interesting spin on the law.”

While the first Middle School Mentoring Program has concluded, there are high hopes for the future. Visiting Assistant Professor Claire Raj, who ran a similar program at Howard University School of Law, will take the reins of the program, and even explore the potential for expansion with a future summer camp program.

“We need to start preparing these kids for the future as early as middle school. We are opening a door of opportunity and hoping they walk through it,” Raj said.

Digital distinction

Digital distinction

The Coleman Karesh Law Library is becoming the go-to online resource for legal questions

Technology has become a necessity in the legal community, allowing ease of use and widespread availability of legal documents across municipalities and states.

Lawyers and clerks are now programmed to look online to find answers to their questions, and with increasing frequency they are turning to the Coleman Karesh Law Library.

“The first thing people, both students and alumni, want to know is if a resource is electronic,” said associate director for library administration Pamela Melton.

The law library began to digitize some of its 500,000 volumes in early 2010, starting with older versions of state statutes, from colonial laws to the 1952 South Carolina codes. Five years into the project, the online collection now covers projects centered on facilitating state primary law research, including:

• The S.C. State Register from March 1977 to June 1999
• Historical codes
• S.C. attorney general opinions*
• The Colcock-Hutson Collection, a 19th-century law library
• Memory Hold the Door, a memorial repository of biographies of esteemed late S.C. attorneys.

While the records and briefs collection isn’t itself digital, you can search its holdings from your office and easily pinpoint the hard copy’s location within the library. As the initiative continues, the law library hopes to add South Carolina’s Acts and Joint Resolutions to its online collection. The eventual goal is to have a comprehensive digital record of the state’s legal history.

“We are always thinking of things we can do to preserve our state’s legal material and make it more accessible to people who need it,” Melton said.

By creating an extensive collection of information online, the law library strengthens its reign as the Palmetto State’s premier law library, supporting not only the teaching and learning of current students and faculty, but also of the public, including alumni and bar members. Many of the digital collections are available via the law library website at law.sc.edu/library/research_aids/scref.shtml and law.sc.edu/library/special.shtml, while others require help from the law library staff.

“We hope the legal community realizes we are available and willing to help them with their research needs,” said Melton, who encourages attorneys to use the online resources or contact the Coleman Karesh reference desk at lawref@law.sc.edu or at (803) 777-5902 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday for assistance.

*S.C. attorney general opinions are available through HeinOnline, and can be accessed at no cost from any law library computer.

 

A message from the Dean

COMMITTED TO EXCELLENCE

It’s been another tremendous year here at USC Law, and as we look into the near future, we know it will prove to only get better. I’m pleased to share with you just a few of the many highlights on the following pages. We remain cRob Wilcoxommitted to excellence in providing an unparalleled legal education to our students, preparing them for success outside of these walls. It starts with outstanding faculty, and not only are we continuing to attract top-notch candidates — including six new professors who will join us this fall — but our existing faculty are all making names for themselves. 

Colin Miller was voted Teacher of the Year by the student body this spring, and in July he was named associate dean for faculty development. Earlier this year, Josh Eagle was appointed the Solomon Blatt Professor of Law, becoming the law school’s newest endowed chair holder. And Susan Kuo — one of only 26 professors nationwide to be profiled in the book, “What the Best Law Teachers Do” — was recognized as USC’s best graduate teacher with the 2014 Michael J. Mungo Graduate Teaching Award. And while we will deeply miss Danielle Holley-Walker, our former associate dean for academic affairs, it speaks highly of the caliber of our faculty that she was named the new dean of Howard University School of Law. Her legacy will live on here, including a middle school mentoring program that you will learn about in this issue.

The “South Carolina Law Review” — whose hard work was recognized with a double-digit jump in the “Washington and Lee Law Journal” rankings — secured two ABA presidents as speakers during its symposium on the future of legal education, a subject near and dear to today’s students.

This spring, we added a new juvenile justice clinic, and this fall, we will celebrate 25 years of unique hands-on learning opportunities that have been created through our Pro Bono Program.

All of these accomplishments are being noticed, and I’m happy to say that our school climbed another five places in the “U.S. News & World Report” rankings. But we know it will go higher.

In fact, the most exciting news of all is this: On September 26, we will officially break ground and begin construction of our new building on Senate and Gervais streets! If all goes well, we expect to be in the building for our 150th anniversary in 2017. It’s a very busy time, but with so many positive things happening, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope you’ll agree that it’s never been a better time to be an alumnus of the University of South Carolina School of Law.

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Robert M. Wilcox Dean