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New School of Law RenderingOn Thursday, the South Carolina Budget and Control Board voted unanimously to approve funding for a new building to house the University of South Carolina School of Law.

“Today’s positive vote by the South Carolina Budget and Control Board is a tremendous milestone for the school, and brings us much closer to realizing our vision of a state-of-the-art facility that will allow us to offer the very best program of legal education and research well into the future,” said Robert M. Wilcox, dean of the law school. “This is a day that we have all been looking forward to and working toward for a long time, and will only be surpassed by the day we actually break ground on the construction site next summer.”

He went on to give credit and thanks to those who have helped make this monumental moment possible. “We are now able to proceed in large part due to the commitment shown to the project by the University Board of Trustees, President Pastides, Ed Walton, and other officers of the University, as well as the hard work that John Montgomery, Burnele Powell, and Jack Pratt invested in this project during their tenures as Dean.  Steve  Hamm and Mike Kelly have been stalwarts as co-chairs of our campaign throughout, working with our development directors, Sharon Williams, Rachelle Bussell, and Michelle Hardy.  Over the last two years, Henry McMaster has offered valuable help as well,” said Wilcox.

With funding cleared, the law school will continue its work with city planning staff and university officials to obtain final design approvals. Construction on the 187,000 square foot building is anticipated to begin in late summer of 2014, and should be finished before the School of Law’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

The new building will be located on the north side of the University of South Carolina campus in the block that is bounded by Gervais, Bull, Senate and Pickens streets. It will be steps from the university’s Children’s Law Center as well as the National Advocacy Center, and the S.C. Statehouse and Supreme Court.

The new building will have a flexible design to meet the changing needs of legal education and will maximize interaction and collaboration among students and faculty and engagement among members in the legal community. Similarly, the technology is being designed to be state of the art to meet today’s needs, but still remain flexible enough to be easily adaptable for future innovations. The new law school will also project a much more modern and sophisticated image consistent with the expectations of both the legal profession, and the transformative work performed within its walls.

Current plans call for a more open and inviting space, with a variety of academic learning spaces, four courtrooms and a student affairs suite that will centralize admissions, registrar, career and other services.  Space devoted to clinical offices and student organizations will also increase. The new building will also incorporate dedicated event space, enabling it to host conferences, lectures and similar activities that will benefit students and the legal community.

COMMITTED TO EXCELLENCE

Over the past couple of years, USC Law has reached new heights, while beginning to change the way legal education is provided in South Carolina.

We have been fortunate to have university support, which has allowed us to replenish our teaching staff with 10 new professors and faculty librarians, including Elizabeth Chambliss, whom you will meet in this issue.

Rob WilcoxNew academic support opportunities have been developed, including Kick Start, which acclimates 1Ls to law school a week before orientation. Kick Start is one aspect of a growing Academic Success and Bar Preparation program, which supports students during all three years.

We are rapidly increasing our externships, replenishing our clinics, and creating new capstone courses to provide real and simulated practice experiences for 3Ls. Plus, the first class to benefit from our enhanced legal research and writing curriculum graduates this May.

And there is more to come. An environmental law laboratory course taught at the Baruch Institute this spring, and a new Children’s Law Certificate — described in the pages that follow — will benefit two of our state’s most precious gifts: our magnificent coastline and our youngest residents.

Our commitment to volunteer service remains unwavering, and you will read about just a few of our many students who provide extraordinary assistance to those who need better access to the legal system.

You will also learn some good news about jobs for USC Law graduates, who are being hired at a rate well above the national average. For students to graduate with manageable debt loads, we need to continue increasing scholarship support. I know you will be touched as we all were by Brooke Mosteller’s recollections of her classmate Joe McNulty, in whose memory one of our most recent scholarships was awarded.

I hope you will agree that it pays to read the fine print*!

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Robert M. Wilcox
Dean

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Elizabeth Chambliss joined the School of Law this summer to teach courses on legal ethics and the changing legal services market. Chambliss is also the new director of the school’s Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough Center on Professionalism. She previously was research director for the Program on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School and taught for 10 years at New York Law School. Her scholarship focuses on the future of legal education.

Q: How is legal education changing and what will it look like in 10 years?

A: I would expect to see more specialization among law schools, hopefully along functional or substantive versus simply status lines. But this will take proactive, public-spirited efforts by the profession. Currently, there is too much of a dog-eat-dog atmosphere among law schools and too much focus on the economic returns of law school for lawyers. The profession needs to focus instead on the value of law school training for clients and look for new ways to deliver quality legal services at a lower cost.

Q: What trends do you see in the legal profession?

A: Like other “knowledge” industries, legal services is being disrupted by information technology, which makes it easier to separate and automate parts of what used to be lawyers’ work. In corporate markets we see the emergence of legal process outsourcing, much as we saw business process outsourcing before it. In consumer markets, we see increasing competition from self-help legal software, automated document assembly services and smart-phone apps. I know a lot of smart former lawyers who are designing software to promote new forms of public engagement with and access to legal services.

Q: As its new director, what plans do you have for the NMRS Center on Professionalism?

A: The Nelson Mullins Center has been a leader in developing mentoring programs for lawyers and law students, and has well-established ties with the bar and other law schools. My goal is to build on the center’s national reputation in this area and expand its mission to include leadership training, research on the profession and public-facing educational programs for S.C. lawyers and consumers. I also want to make the center a hub for entrepreneurial and interdisciplinary projects and a place where students with an entrepreneurial bent can collaborate on ideas for legal start-ups. Eventually, we hope to bring experienced practitioners and scholars here to collaborate on projects aimed at improving the delivery of legal services in specific fields.

Q: You received your undergraduate degree from the College of Charleston.
Do you have Southern roots?

A: My mother, Coleman Chambliss, was born and raised in Columbia and is the Executive Director of the Richland County Bar. I’m sure most of your readers know her! My father was in the military, so we moved around quite a bit when I was young, but I have lived in Columbia off and on throughout my life. I went to first grade at A.C. Moore, where my daughters just started. And I graduated from Spring Valley High School.

Q: What led you to a career in law? If not, what drew you to the law, and then into academia?

A: I think of myself as a scholar and teacher; I study, rather than practice, the law. I know some people think this is exactly what’s wrong with law schools! But I disagree. If law is to make a credible claim to being a “profession”—a self-regulating occupational group that maintains high standards for training and practice—it needs some people whose specialty is to take a big-picture, long-term view. That is not to say one would want a law school made up entirely of people like me. But research on the profession is important. Today more than ever, law schools need to think critically about their public and professional mission and how to guide—versus simply react to—changes in the economy and society. I’m proud to be at a law school that is committed to this project and look forward to contributing.

Q: When you’re not teaching or writing, how do you like to relax and unwind?

A: I’m always teaching or writing. Just ask my family. If it’s not about law, it’s about whatever they are doing. I can be little bossy. But I do like to cook, and garden, and get outside. I love the beach. And I’ll take the beaches in South Carolina over the Jersey Shore any day.