“It’s unlike any class you’ve ever taken in law school.” That’s how Professor Josh Eagle describes The Coastal Law Field Lab, a four-week, six-credit summer class offered by the University of South Carolina School of Law.
“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 program coordinator Emily Bogart.
The Coastal Law Field Lab is open to law students from across the country. Those who are selected for the course will spend four weeks diving into coastal law. The classes are taught by renowned law scholars, including 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 Dean Cinnamon Carlarne, who is also a professor of law at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. However, students will also hear from other experts such as coastal law attorneys, environmental activists, commercial contractors, and more.
“There are two kinds of days in our course. The first is the classroom day, where we will have typical law discussions on coastal law issues. And in the afternoon, we have an interdisciplinary lecture, something like wetlands ecology, coastal oceanography, and environmental policy and economics,” says Eagle.
But the exciting part for Eagle happens on the days outside of the classroom, the field lab days. For about half of the class, eight full days, students will visit beautiful locations like Kiawah Island, Sullivan’s Island, and Folly Beach. In addition to their beauty, the sites were picked because they have been at the heart of important litigation or illustrated national coastal, environmental, and energy law issues. Regulators and lawyers from both sides of the case will also discuss the issues involved with that property.
“There aren’t a lot of classes in law school that are in the field. I saw this as an opportunity to break through the walls of the classroom,” says Nexsen Pruet associate and former Coastal Law Field Lab student Alex Serkes.
Serkes took the class in 2016, when the course—informally known as “Law at the Beach”—was offered as a spring break trip. After popular demand, Eagle decided to extend the course to four weeks in the summer, and open it to students across the country.
“I wish it would have been longer when I took it, so I think this is a great idea,” says Serkes.
Eagle says being in the field is crucial to effective learning when it comes to coastal law.
“Really we are property lawyers working in a sensitive environment. It’s important for lawyers to know and understand the physical aspects of the properties, and the only way we can do that is by going down and seeing some of these places,” says Eagle. “Students will learn how to walk the property with a client. It’s something you can’t learn from a textbook.”
“As a practicing attorney, getting firsthand knowledge of these environmental litigation issues, before actually practicing, gives you a better perspective of what’s out there and what could happen. It ends up making you a better attorney,” says Serkes.
Aside from the many on-site educational opportunities it offers, Charleston is a great place to
spend a month. Charleston is the first domestic destination to earn the coveted Travel + Leisure World’s Best City title. With impressive shops and nightlife, there is plenty for students to do. It’s home to hundreds of unique restaurants, from fresh seafood to outdoor cafes. It’s a foodie’s paradise’s, served with a southern smile.
“From the beautiful scenery to the historical significance of the city, Charleston is a must-see destination. Spending a full month in Charleston will give students the opportunity to really explore the city,” says Bogart.
And all of it is easily accessible from the College of Charleston—located in the heart of downtown—where Coastal Law Field Lab students will have the option to stay.
The class runs from June 18 to July 15, 2017. Applications are available online.