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.”

Breaking Ground…

It was standing room only as more than 400 law alumni, faculty and students gathered at the corner of Bull and Senate streets on Friday (Sept. 26) to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new home for the University of South Carolina’s School of Law. “I know that if you’d not seen this day with your […]


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  

Topping-off ceremony marks another milestone

20150709_Topping Off Ceremony_0056On Thursday, July 9, a little more than nine months after first breaking ground, the University of South Carolina School of Law celebrated a major milestone in the construction of its new home: the topping-off ceremony. Faculty, staff, university trustees and distinguished alumni gathered to watch as the final piece of steel forming the structural framework of the building was lifted into place by construction crews.

20150709_Topping Off Ceremony_0005School of Law Dean Robert Wilcox said seeing the completion of this phase of construction is a reminder of how the school promises to further transform law education at the university.

“Already the building is transforming the Gervais Street corridor. When finished, it will just as surely open new opportunities for our students to study law in the best possible environment,” he said. “We are incredibly excited to see the project reach this milestone toward completion.”

20150709_Topping Off Ceremony_0026University President Harris Pastides praised the dedication of Gilbane Construction’s crew in reaching the milestone. “It’s been fascinating for all of us to watch USC’s new School of Law’s structural rise,” he said. “Hard hats off to these tenacious workers who, even during one of the hottest summers on record, have provided the expertise needed to get each steel beam in place.” 

Over the next 18 months, the building will begin to come to life as its offices, classrooms, courtrooms, bookstore, library, café, commons area and courtyard take shape. Completion is expected by the School of Law’s 150th anniversary in the fall of 2017.

In keeping with a centuries-old Scandinavian tradition, when the highest beam of a building is hoisted into place, a tree is raised along with it to symbolize the bringing of life to the new structure. The Leyland cypress raised at the School of Law’s ceremony will be removed from the beam and planted on the grounds of the new building. Because the cypress is a symbol of durability and longevity, it will serve as a living reminder of the School of Law’s long tradition of contributions to the state, the nation and the world.

Watch time-lapse videos showing the progress so far:




Spring 2015

In this issue

Committed to Excellence
A message from Dean Robert M. Wilcox.

Breaking ground, moving forward
After much anticipation, the new law school building is taking shape.

Q&A with Colin Miller
The associate dean for faculty development is the creator and editor of a blog ranked among the ABA Journal’s Top 100.

Getting away with murder
Prof. James Underwood’s latest book recounts the turn-of-the century political scandal that rocked South Carolina.

A conversation with the President
USC Law alumnus and ABA President William Hubbard shares his thoughts on his time at the helm of the association, and the future of the legal profession.

Remembering Morris Rosen
He left an indelible mark on his native Charleston and on the Palmetto State.

Faculty updates
A look at the scholarly activities of USC School of Law faculty.

Read and repeat
Want to brag? Here are a few things to talk up about your law school at that next cocktail party.

People, events, and accomplishments happening at the School of Law.

Publication Information

A message from the Dean

Dean Rob Wilcox


We are at the end of our sesquicentennial, a period of celebration that has reflected on the accomplishments of the last 150 years while keeping an eye on the many exciting opportunities that await us in the future. Not so coincidentally, the stories in this issue follow suit.

Before we close the door on this anniversary, we take one last look back at our history from the perspective of two groundbreaking individuals at the School of Law. Our cover story is a conversation between I.S. Leevy Johnson, the first African-American graduate since Reconstruction to have attended all three years of school here, and Chelsea Evans, the first African-American editor-in-chief of the South Carolina Law Review. It was with some trepidation that Mr. Johnson decided to enroll in 1965, just one year after the school had desegregated. He spoke candidly with Ms. Evans about what it was like to be one of only three African-Americans at the school, and how things have — and have not — changed over the last 50 years.

So, what is on the horizon? In these pages, you’ll learn about one of our newest initiatives, our veterans clinic, under the command of Bennett Gore, a 2005 alumnus and U.S. Army veteran. When the clinic opens this summer, it will be unlike any of our other clinical courses, as it will operate year-round and indigent veterans will be able to contact the school directly to seek help with their legal issues.

We also spoke with John Few, Associate Justice for the Supreme Court of South Carolina and a 1988 alumnus, about a new website that is designed to make it easier for attorneys willing to do pro bono work to be paired up with South Carolinians in need of free legal services. It is a passion project for Justice Few — one that he hopes will drastically increase access to justice for those in need with help from all of you.

Finally, in addition to highlighting this year’s distinguished recipients of the 2018 Compleat Lawyer Award, we spotlight a recent grad and a student who are already making a name for themselves through their achievements and philanthropic endeavors.

There are so many good things happening at your School of Law — more than we could ever squeeze between these pages. If you don’t already, we invite you to visit our website often ( to read the recent accomplishments of our faculty and students and learn about upcoming events that you can take part in. And if you follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram, I hope you will share our news, tag us in yours, and show your pride in being an alum of the University of South Carolina School of Law.



Our 150th Anniversary


South Carolina College was chartered in 1801 and opened in 1805 as the state’s first venture into public higher education. At that time, some American universities had begun professorships of law, but law schools did not yet exist as separate departments. Harvard formed a law school in 1817, but the apprentice system continued to be the principal method of educating attorneys. A professorship of law was first authorized in 1820 at Carolina but was not implemented until 1867. By this time, there were only 30 law schools in the United States.

Alexander Cheves Haskell, Carolina’s first professor of law, held his first class on October 7, 1867, in what is now the South Caroliniana Library. The class of two students graduated in June 1868. Haskell resigned in November to become a judge, and the law program remained closed for the remainder of that academic year.


From 1873 to 1877, South Carolina College was the only southern state university to admit and grant degrees to African-American students. Eleven African Americans are known to have graduated with law degrees between 1874 and 1877. The first was Walter Raleigh Jones. Another, Richard T. Greener, was also the first African-American faculty member at the university.

In 1877, Carolina closed, reopening in 1880 as a segregated school. It would remain so until 1964. The School of Law’s future steadied in 1884 with the appointment of Col. Joseph Daniel Pope to the professorship of law. Pope had read law under James L. Petigru and from 1884 to 1900, he taught the entire law curriculum. Under his influence, the School of Law was recognized in 1891 as a separate department and was moved from the library to the first floor of Legare College.

During this period, admission standards for the law school were almost identical to those for incoming freshmen, the only difference being the age requirement. Law school applicants had to be at least 19, while college freshmen could enroll as young as 15.


The early 20th century saw a series of “firsts” that would have a tremendous impact on the School of Law, including breaking new ground for its first building, educational programs and
both the size and composition of its student body.

In 1900, Pope was named the first dean of the School of Law, and by 1906, the law faculty had grown to three. Enrollment increased from 32 students in 1907 to 75 students in 1917. It was during this time that the course of study was expanded to two years, and the case method of teaching was adopted. A century later, it continues to be the most prevalent style of legal classroom education.

Claudia James Sullivan became the first female graduate of the School of Law in 1918, but despite her groundbreaking achievement, women remained very much the exception for nearly another half century.

In 1919, Petigru College (now Currell College) became the first separate law school, built at a cost of $40,000. In 1923, the School of Law required all applicants to have completed at least one year of college. In 1924, the School of Law, its faculty now numbering six, was accepted as a member of the Association of American Law Schools and in 1925 was accredited by the American Bar Association. That same year, the admission requirement was raised to completion of two years of college, and the curriculum was expanded to a full three-year course.

Two prestigious student organizations, which continue today, had their origins in the School of Law in the 1930s. In 1935, two students created the Order of the Wig and Robe, initially honoring seven seniors and five juniors who had attained the highest academic averages. Today, the Order continues to recognize the top second-year and third-year law students.

In 1937, the Year Book of the Selden Society began publication as the voice of an organization formed in 1933 to promote interest in “legal history and the scholarly aspects of
the legal profession among law students.” Over time, it evolved into a more traditional academic journal, becoming the South Carolina Law Quarterly in 1948 and the South Carolina Law Review in 1962.

In 1938, the School of Law ushered in the birth of experiential learning, creating the nation’s first practice court program under Judge Marcellus Whaley, a professor at the school from 1937 to 1950.


Some living alumni might remember a time when law school classes were all white and almost all male. Seeds of change were planted in the 1940s and blossomed into permanent changes
two decades later.

In 1940, Sarah Leverette entered the law school as one of only three female students. She was the only one to graduate and went on to become the school’s first female faculty member.

In 1946, an African American named John H. Wrighten applied for, and was denied, admission to the School of Law. He sued the university, and in Wrighten v. Board of Trustees of University of South Carolina, the U.S. District Court ordered that the state either admit African Americans to the University of South Carolina School of Law or to another school with equal facilities or not operate a law school at all. Subsequently, a law school was opened for non-white students at South Carolina State College. It was closed in 1966, just three years after Carolina re-integrated following nearly 100 years of segregation.

In June 1967, Jasper Cureton, later a judge on the S.C. Court of Appeals, became the first African-American graduate of the School of Law since Reconstruction. In 2004, Burnele V. Powell became the first African American to serve as dean of the School of Law; in 2017, Chelsea Evans was named the first African-American editor-in-chief of the South Carolina Law Review; and 20 percent of the entering class in fall 2017 were minority students.

At a cost of $250,000, the second Petigru College opened in 1950 and featured such modern amenities as a practice court, cubicles in which students could type without disturbing others, and a library large enough to hold its 40,000 volumes. In 1953, air conditioning was added.

However, the student population boomed in the decades that followed, growing from 173 students in 1960 to 496 in 1970, forcing the School of Law to once again seek a new home. The
Law Center at 701 Main Street was dedicated in 1974, with Lewis F. Powell Jr., associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Vice President Gerald R. Ford as featured speakers.

Unfortunately, the $5.9 million building didn’t anticipate the sweeping changes that would soon be coming, and many amenities were noticeably absent, including technological capacity and women’s bathrooms. The computer revolution was still some ways off, but it was during the 1970s that women finally began to constitute a significant percentage of the law student population, growing from only a handful in the Class of 1970 to nearly 50 women in the Class of 1980. The entering class in fall 2017 was 46 percent female.

The School of Law was in the vanguard of perhaps the biggest change in legal education in a generation, creating one of the nation’s first clinical programs. But it was another area that
had not been anticipated, leaving less than adequate space over the next 40 years for a program that operates much like a law firm. Now, during a time when experiential learning is receiving new emphasis nationally, the School of Law clinics enjoy a far more appropriate space with more than 4,600 square feet of offices, work areas and interview rooms.

During the 1980s, the School of Law began one of its most cherished traditions, the outdoor graduation on the Horseshoe. It was also awarded a chapter in the Order of the Coif.

In 1989, the School of Law developed the nation’s first voluntary law school Pro Bono Program, which was later selected as one of President George H.W. Bush’s thousand points of light. With more than 20 volunteer opportunities, it continues today under the guidance of its first director,
Pamela D. Robinson. And in 1995, the Children’s Law Center was created to promote policies in the best interests of children, and provide continuous child protection advocacy training for the state’s legal community.


Today, the School of Law continues to provide excellent legal training to its students through myriad opportunities found nowhere else, such as the London Maymester program created
in 2004 and the Konduros Leadership Program developed in 2015.

With more than 50 full-time faculty, students can choose from more than 100 upper-level courses, 12 dual-degree programs, and a variety of experiential learning opportunities, including clinics, externships and capstone courses.

New faculty have been strategically hired to strengthen specialty law areas including health law, law and technology, small business practice, environmental law and children’s law.

Our alumni are more than 10,000 strong and can be found all across the globe. They are our greatest resource to provide for the future of this school now and in the years to come. We
celebrate all of this along with our new building, which opened this summer.

While it is the fourth university building constructed specifically for the school, it is the first School of Law building to have the name of the school engraved in stone above
its entrance. As such, it opens with a permanence of presence and
purpose not always associated with the three previous law school

No single descriptor adequately captures the new building. It is traditional in its classical exterior design, reflecting in important ways the influence of 19th century architect Robert Mills. Yet it offers a fresh and modern interior style, with copious amounts of glass and natural light. Its construction materials are a durable blend of brick, limestone and granite, but its hallmark is its flexibility of design, allowing it to adapt nimbly as legal education changes in the years

Indeed, the School of Law has transformed itself into a living educational space. But more importantly, it will continue to lead the way in which legal education is taught in our state and in our nation for the next 150 years.

Dean’s Message

Founded in 1867, the University of South Carolina School of Law is one of the nation’s oldest law schools.”

This was the first sentence emblazoned on many materials the law school published back when I was a student from 1978-1981, and it was still in use when I became a professor in 1986. As dean, I vowed to change that, to banish these words from being our introduction to the public. Yes, it showed that we had a rich heritage, and certainly there is something to be said for such a solid legacy. But it didn’t reflect our school today.

It didn’t convey the innovation that has been a hallmark of our academic programs; or the excellence of our faculty whose scholarship and teaching is breaking new ground and exploring solutions to some of our most complex problems; or the power of our alumni and students to effect change both in our state and on the other side of the world. In short, it didn’t fully tell our story.

In this issue, we wanted to tell more of that story, not only by reflecting on our past, but also celebrating our future.

And what a future it is. As you know, we turned 150 this year, and we began the next 150 by moving into our magnificent new home. We were honored to have Justice Samuel A. Alito of the United States Supreme Court deliver the address during the dedication ceremony, and delighted to have more than 500 attend our 150th celebration that same evening.

As we put together our sesquicentennial story, it was certainly amazing to see how far we’ve come, and even more so to realize how often this law school has been a national leader in legal education.

That tradition continues today with an emphasis on experiential learning for our students, including new domestic violence and medicolegal partnership clinics. We’re proud to expand our clinical offerings, especially in two such vital areas of importance—areas that exemplify our mission of serving the needs of this state, and improving the lives of its citizens.

Our focus on service is truly a part of the culture of today’s law school. More importantly, however, it stays with our students even after they have graduated. We highlight in this issue stories of students and alumni who have traveled abroad to improve the lives of others, from helping refugees in Australia to assisting with indigenous land right issues in Cambodia.

And finally, you’ll meet our newest faculty members, including Clint Wallace, who has ties to this school that go back over a century. We were fortunate to interview him with his grandmother, Sarah McCrory ’44, before she passed away in October

This year, more than any other, I have been reminded how special our school is. And I know that we wouldn’t be where we are today without you, our alumni. Thank you. We’re glad you are part of our story.

York County conviction shows domestic violence law applies to same-sex marriages


A Fort Mill man was convicted earlier this month in a York County court of domestic violence against his husband. It’s South Carolina’s second groundbreaking ruling this month related to gay marriage.

Until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2015 legalized gay marriage, the charge of domestic violence in same-sex relationships could not have gone to court. South Carolina law did not recognize domestic violence in same-sex relationships until gay marriage became legal.

Thousands of gay victims and gay defendants could be impacted by the March conviction, legal experts said. Colin Miller, criminal law and evidence expert at the University of South Carolina law school, said under state domestic violence law, the following are legal definitions of a household member for purposes of prosecuting domestic violence: spouse, former spouse, persons who have a child in common, or a male and female who live together or have lived together.

Committed to Excellence

Dean Rob WilcoxIt’s hard to believe that two years have passed since the groundbreaking ceremony for our new building. It’s even harder to fathom that this June we’ll make our move and be in our new home when the fall semester begins. And while the anticipation continues to grow, it’s important to remember that the best part of our new building will be the education it will help us provide to future law students so that they will become great lawyers. We have a tradition of outstanding alumni. For almost 150 years, our graduates have used their degrees to change this world for the better. And our incredible faculty, with their passion for the law, continues to shape the lives and careers of future alumni.

In this issue, we wanted to share just a few stories of ways our alumni and new faculty members are making an impact. Stories like that of Lonnie Doles and Jack Cohoon, who worked to correct an oversight in the coding of criminal records that too often prevented otherwise-capable individuals from obtaining jobs and providing for their families. Stories like that of Sheila Bias, whose participation in the mentoring program coordinated by the Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough Center on Professionalism has provided valuable insight and encouragement to many first-year students. And then there’s Lee Floyd, whose 2006 student paper helped change state Supreme Court precedent almost a decade later.

Prof. Bob Felix was the one who brought Lee’s story to our attention, and it serves as a great example of how the bonds between student and teacher last long after graduation. Likewise, Bill McAninch continues to positively affect the lives of our alumni through the Loan Forgiveness Fund he established, which turns 15 this year and has helped numerous public interest lawyers reduce their student debt.

Also in this issue, you’ll meet our six newest faculty members — key hires in helping us increase our clinical offerings, grow our environmental law program and strengthen our legal research and writing curriculum. And you’ll also learn about Prof. Derek Black’s new book, “Ending Zero Tolerance,” which chronicles the rise of such policies and the unintended consequences they have had on our youth.

It’s stories like these that show the impact our school continues to have on our state and our nation. That positive impact is truly something for all of us to be proud of.

And don’t worry — you’ll also find a few photos showing the exciting progress of the building!