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.