A message from the Dean

COMMITTED TO EXCELLENCE
Leadership lies at the very core of our mission as a law school. There are so Rob Wilcoxmany tangible examples of how the University of South Carolina School of Law is leading the way in word and deed. In past issues, we have highlighted the remarkable leadership records of our alumni in national professional organizations. In this issue, we turn your attention especially to the leadership shown by our faculty, staff, and students. 

One of our most exciting new student experiences is the Konduros Leadership Initiative Program, detailed in our cover story. The program, which began last fall, focuses on helping our students jumpstart their paths to leadership positions. It is a unique offering designed especially for our students, and it will make a significant difference for those who participate. Soon we’ll have a network of Konduros Leadership alumni across the nation, poised and ready to do great things. 

Our faculty continue to build upon our law school’s reputation as a thought leader in matters of law and policy. You’ll read about Prof. Eboni Nelson, who has recently received a grant to study aspects of the law school admissions process that could potentially blaze a trail for more women and minorities to enter the legal profession. Then there is Prof. Marcia Yablon-Zug’s thought-provoking new book chronicling the history of mail-order brides and showing how the pioneering efforts of these women helped build America. 

Speaking of pioneering women, we sat down with our own Pamela Robinson, named South Carolina Lawyers Weekly’s “2016 Lawyer of the Year,” to learn the origins of the groundbreaking Pro Bono Program she helped create, how she keeps the program fresh after so many years, and why she came to law school on a dare. 

Just as Pam has led the Pro Bono Program to excellence for more than a quarter century, another of our alumni, Harry Davis, has guided the development of our Children’s Law Center into one of the state’s most important organizations serving the interests of children. In this issue we say goodbye to Harry, who retired in May after 12 years as director of the center, and we welcome Michelle Dhunjishah as his successor. Michelle has a proven track record of helping South Carolina’s children, and we know she will continue to build upon the work begun under Harry’s remarkable leadership. 

Finally, you’ll go behind the construction fence to see some recent photos that will help you visualize the progress and the impact of our new home. With less than a year until we move in, we couldn’t be more excited. Stay tuned for more updates in the months to come, as we roll out our schedule for a year of commemorative events around this new building and the 150th anniversary of our school. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating!

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Robert M. Wilcox
Dean

Let There Be Light!

One of the most striking features of our new home is the number and size of the windows, inviting light to shine throughout the building. Taken in April, these photos provide a glimpse of the beauty that awaits us in 2017. We’re making plans now to celebrate the grand opening of our new building and the 150th anniversary of our school. Stay tuned for more information, and we hope you’ll join us for a full slate of exciting activities next year!

Building1

The grand entrance into the Perrin Family Lobby.Building2

 

Karen J. Williams Ceremonial Courtroom.Building3Looking across the courtyard at the main staircase.Building4The reading room.

Summer 2016 Read & Repeat

ReadAndRepeat
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among all law schools for students with the least loan debt, according to U.S. News & World Report 2016 rankings.


42nd

on National Jurist’s list of schools with the most Big Law partners as alumni.


49th

on the National Law Journal’s list of “Go-To” law schools for the percentage of 2015 grads hired by the 100 largest law firms.


seven

years in a row named a “Best Value” law school by National Jurist magazine.

2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009


9th

in the nation for producing the most influential federal judges, according to a study from Ravel Law, a legal research and analytics company.

 

Buying a Bride: A closer look at the matrimonial practice that helped build the United States

 

A group of Montana men advertising for wives, ca. 1901. Photo courtesy of National Park Service, Glacier National Park Archives

A group of Montana men advertising for wives, ca. 1901. Photo courtesy of National Park Service, Glacier National Park Archives.

Without marriage, there could be no stable family units, no children, and no future. And without mail-order brides, one could argue, there might not be a United States of America. The entire colonial endeavor hinged on marriage,” says University of South Carolina law professor Marcia Yablon-Zug, whose new book, Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches, traces the phenomenon as far back as our nation’s first permanent English settlement, Jamestown. 

Zug explains that mail-order brides were brought to the colonies with the express purpose of growing the population and ensuring the survival of the settlements. Because of that, she believes these women were heroes and should be remembered as such in American history. 

“They were taking incredible risks, and as a result, the country reaped great benefits,” she says. 

Certainly, the overwhelming perception of mail-order brides doesn’t reflect this attitude, and Zug admits it wasn’t her perception either when she first started looking into the topic. 

“When I began researching this book, I thought I would discover that mail-order marriage was bad and had always been bad, but it turns out more often than not to be beneficial and even empowering for women,” says Zug, whose legal research focuses on the intersection of family law and immigration law. 

Today, the mail-order marriage industry continues to thrive, but perhaps for slightly different reasons. In recent years, American women have experienced significant improvements in their educational and financial prospects. During this same period, the prospects for many middle and working-class men have stagnated. As Zug points out, the result of this disparity is that increasing numbers of men are viewed as unsuitable partners. 

“With dwindling local marriage prospects, many of these rejected men consider mail-order marriages,” says Zug. “What interests me most is the women they are marrying are the same kind of women who are rejecting them here. Most of these women are doctors, lawyers, accountants — and most of them want to work. They expect to. The difference is they also expect to be wives first.” 

Overall, Zug believes mail-order marriage is nothing like the grim stereotype prevalent in today’s culture. In her book, she argues that the practice has actually improved the lives of many of these women — and the men they marry.

book

 

 

Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches is published through, and available, from New York University Press.

Engineering Equality

Nelson-loresThe legal profession has been called one of the least diverse in the country. According to a 2012 ABA demographics report, 88 percent of lawyers are white. Additionally, the 2015 “Law360 Minority Report” revealed that fewer than seven percent of minorities are law firm partners. 

And while countless attempts have been made within the legal industry to ameliorate the problem, University of South Carolina School of Law professor Eboni Nelson believes the key to real change starts with law schools. 

“Higher education serves as a gateway to opportunity for many young adults; it’s imperative that those gateways remain open to everyone,” Nelson said. “Law schools in particular play a vital role because they train many of our democracy’s leaders and policymakers. That’s why it’s so important that they adequately reflect the diversity of our society.” 

Nelson, who has written extensively on affirmative action in higher education and the constitutionality of race-conscious student assignment plans, was recently awarded a grant by Access Group to determine if there is a relationship between the race of first year law students and their race-neutral identity factors, such as educational experiences and family circumstances. She hopes to learn whether law schools can create a more diverse student body and provide greater educational access to students of color without having to ask specific questions about race. 

While she admits there has been an overall increase in minority law students during the past few decades, Nelson says many law schools still suffer from a lack of diversity. And affirmative action programs, which often aid with diversity issues, are not as prevalent as they used to be. They have also been attacked as unconstitutional in cases like Fisher v University of Texas, in which a prospective white student, Abigail Fisher, was denied admission and challenged the university’s admissions process, stating that the consideration of race was discrimination. While Fisher did not win, the case crystalizes the need to find other means of admitting more minority students. 

“If we can help law schools understand how race-neutral admissions factors help — or hinder — their ability to assemble a racially diverse student body, it will go a long way to providing greater access to students of color,” Nelson said. “We need to do all that we can to ensure that the doors of opportunity are open to everyone, that everyone is encouraged and equipped to walk through those doors, and that they feel welcomed and included once they enter.” 

Nelson will conduct her study along with Ronald Pitner, a professor in the university’s College of Social Work, and Carla Pratt, associate dean for academic affairs and educational equity and professor of law at Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law. They expect to publish their results next spring.

Passing the Torch

editAfter more than a decade as director of the Children’s Law Center at the University of South Carolina School of Law, Harry Davis has given up one title in hopes of earning a new one: World’s Best Grandpa. 

Davis retired in May after a 40-year career dedicated to advocating on behalf of the youngest citizens of South Carolina, including the past 12 at the CLC. Under his leadership, the center dramatically expanded its educational programs, which annually train more than 15,000 attorneys, family court judges, guardians ad litem and other child advocates. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children, the only multidisciplinary policymaking body tasked with studying children’s needs and issues and coordinating legislative efforts on their behalf. 

But perhaps his lasting legacy will be the CLC’s new permanent home in the historic Whaley House, a project Davis began in 2005. Located directly across Gervais Street from the new law school, the Whaley House will provide the CLC with much needed room to add a mock child abuse crime scene and courtroom, plus additional classroom space. While Davis has retired as director, he will remain on staff with the School of Law to oversee the completion of the Whaley House restoration. 

That will leave the CLC’s new director, Michelle Dhunjishah, time to focus on her new role, and move the center forward through a new emphasis on research that she hopes will ultimately shape public policy for children. 

Dhunjishah is the former executive director and general counsel for the S.C. Foster Care Review Board, where she oversaw more then 25,000 case reviews of children in foster care and advocated that children and youth in foster care have permanency as soon as possible. The former legal writing adjunct instructor at the School of Law has also been the chairperson of the Children’s Law Committee of the S.C. Bar and an associate member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. 

“I am excited about leveraging the expertise of the Children’s Law Center staff with the intellect of the School of Law faculty to improve outcomes for South Carolina’s vulnerable children,” said Dhunjishah.

Leadership in Law

Leadership-in-LawIt’s Monday morning and you haven’t even had your second cup of coffee when the call comes in. Your heart sinks as you discover that millions of dollars have been embezzled  from your firm’s biggest client — by one of your legal assistants who has disappeared. Is it the wave of adrenaline or the flood of questions that hit you harder? What will you do? How do you tell the client what happened? What about other clients? Prospective clients? How do you handle the media? How do you win back trust? Can you lead your firm back, or is this the end? Law school didn’t prepare you for this… 

Or did it? 

This scenario — which actually happened in Taiwan — was given to students at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Their task was to devise a strategy to lead their firm through this crisis, answering all those questions and several more. After formulating their plans, they heard from guest speakers, including a managing shareholder of the Columbia office of a national firm, who revealed how they would have handled the situation. Only then did the group learn how leaders at the Taiwanese firm actually reacted, and brought their practice back from the brink. 

It was just one component of the School of Law’s new Konduros Leadership Development Program, which tasked students with learning different communication strategies and reinforcing their problem-solving and relationship-building skills. The ultimate goal: to equip them with the necessary tools to assume leadership positions in an increasingly complex world. 

The program was launched last fall, thanks to funds provided by 1954 alumnus Jim Konduros who credits the law school with helping him develop the strategic thinking and counseling skills that guided him throughout his successful career. 

“Often, you have an opportunity to participate in leadership development programs once you’re actually in practice, but the Konduros program brings that element into the law school, so you’re getting it before you even leave,” said Dean Rob Wilcox. “This is the kind of unique program you can’t get anywhere else. It acknowledges that we are looking to prepare students more fully for practice, and leadership is a key component of that.” 

The highly selective program is based on other successful leadership development initiatives such as the Liberty Fellowship, which brings together successful individuals who are already active in their communities. It is also entirely voluntary, meaning that all the requirements are performed in addition to regular coursework, and for no academic credit. 

“We chose 15 students to participate in the inaugural class. There were a large number of applicants, so it was a very difficult decision,” said Jill Kunkle, associate director of career services who helped create the format and coordinates the program. “Likewise, the students who applied knew that this was going to be a big commitment, but the payoff in their future careers would be worth it.” 

“As a future lawyer, this program reaffirmed some leadership techniques that I had already acquired, while helping me learn new ones more specifically tailored to the legal profession,” said Rosanne Prim who graduated in May. “But as a student, the program provided unique networking opportunities for me and my fellow Konduros classmates. 

“Spending time with established professionals is a great reminder of why we worked so hard in law school, and it provided the extra motivation to keep pushing through with our best efforts to the finish.” 

In addition to the seminars and intensive networking opportunities, students also worked in groups to come up with solutions to problems facing South Carolina. Projects included a plan to change the public perception of vocational schools, attracting more students interested in high-paying manufacturing and technical jobs in the Palmetto State; working with the S.C. Attorney General’s office to address cyberbullying and sexting incidents; and a program to help law students learn healthy coping mechanisms now, so they’ll be ready to handle the stress of practicing law later. 

“Law school can be stressful, and it doesn’t get any easier in practice. Substance abuse is a huge problem in the field,” said recent graduate Ashlea Carver. “I think it’s really important to teach law students how to manage stress and take care of themselves so they can have healthier and more fulfilling lives when in practice.

“Programs like the one we’re advocating will help create a more open dialogue surrounding mental health as well as give students some practical ways to take care of their mental health and wellness.” 

While the third-year students who completed the program have since graduated, spread out across the Southeast and are now preparing for the bar exam, all of the participants remain committed to the law school, agreeing to serve as mentors to future participants, and helping build a network of Konduros Leaders across the nation. 

“I really look forward to staying in touch with this class and seeing where their careers take them,” said Kunkle. “They are a very talented group, and it says a lot about them — and their investment in the program — that they want to stay involved.”

Q&A with Pamela Robinson

PamRobinsonQAAs the nation’s first all-voluntary program, the Pro Bono Program has long been a point of pride for the School of Law, as has its director, Pamela D. Robinson. She has been recognized both locally and nationally for her work, most recently being named the “2016 South Carolina Lawyer of the Year” by South Carolina Lawyer’s Weekly. 

What was your reaction when you heard that you had won Lawyer of the Year? 

The British word “gobsmacked” pretty much describes my reaction. I was most appreciative of the honor as I was able to share the experience with students, past and present. The realization that a state employee in the public service sector was being recognized did not sink in for a few days. The entire 2016 Leadership in Law Class was amazing, and I was honored to be a part of such an accomplished group. 

The Pro Bono Program is almost 30 years old. How did it begin? 

The seeds of the idea were planted through a conversation with former dean John Montgomery. He had recently returned from a meeting where another dean was talking about mandatory pro bono! Our reaction was about the same: What? We needed to be more realistic. We knew what would work in S.C. and what would not. I called the ABA and AALS, but this was so early that there were no models. They said it was a great idea and to let them know how it worked out. It’s funny because now the ABA has an entire Center for Pro Bono able to advise. 

You were once an elementary school teacher. What led you to a career in law? 

Simple — I came to law school on a dare. After teaching first grade and working as a children’s librarian, I realized I had to have a graduate degree to move up. A friend thought I could use my organizational and teaching abilities to solve problems and a law degree could greatly enhance my skills. I decided that if USC accepted this Clemson girl, I was going! I still consider myself a teacher. I just don’t have to fit in those little first grade chairs! 

How has pro bono changed during your career? 

For all that it has changed — with technology and the demands of each generation — the core idea that you are making a difference for people has not changed and never will. The success of the Pro Bono Program has always come from the amazing work of thousands of students learning the value of service and putting pro bono into action.

When you’re not organizing pro bono opportunities, how do you like to relax and unwind?

Knitting, painting and learning to cook different world cuisines are high on my list.  I am also a huge consumer of written material on a plethora of topics-politics, travel, fiction, history- the list goes on and on.

Anything else you’d like to add or make sure is included?

The success of the Pro Bono Program at USC has always been because of the amazing actions of thousands of students.  I am a bit like the wizard behind the curtain, moving the parts around so that things function smoothly. As I said recently “ I organize chaos”. The reality is that the long history of the program is about students learning the value of service and putting pro bono into action.