Externship Profile: Charleston County Family Court

With a father who practiced family law throughout her childhood and as a mother herself to a three-year-old son, Meredith Hastings, 3L, knew that a summer externship with the Charleston County Family Court would be an excellent fit for her.

“I went to law school with an interest in family law. This clerkship is teaching me the proper way to try cases in the Family Court by watching both experienced and new lawyers present their arguments,” said Hastings.

This opportunity with the Family Court allows Hastings to get experience with all types of domestic matters including divorce, child custody and visitation, child support, equitable distribution and abuse and neglect.

A typical day involves sitting on the bench with a local Family Court judge or doing research and writing memos. Through these daily tasks, Hastings has had the opportunity to learn proper courtroom demeanor, what it means to be prepared, attention to detail while clearly separating issues and the way a Family Court judge views various situations.

Through her work with the judiciary she sees firsthand how they can make a difference. “The judge’s passion for the welfare of children is inspiring. He started a custody program, now being tested in other counties, that aims to quickly resolve custody matters far before property division and other matters that flow from a divorce or otherwise occur, thus serving to protect the child(ren) from being exposed to prolonged custody litigation and temporary situations,” said Hastings.

Charleston Law has provided a solid foundation that has prepared Hastings for work in the courthouse.  “After two years of law school, the principles from each class start coming together, forming a big picture of how the law works substantively and procedurally. Domestic Relations is closely tied to Property, but principles I’ve learned in almost every class help me to do what I’m asked to do and hopefully get it right,” she said.

She highly recommends this externship program for others who believe their passion lies in family law.  “If you have an interest in family law and can handle hearing cases with a lot of emotions, externing at the Family Court is a great way to decide whether you want to pursue the path or not.  It’s a very sensitive area of law which often has children’s lives and wellbeing at stake.  As a mother, I think this is the most important area of law there is,” said Hastings.

Hastings is a native of Hattiesburg, Miss. and worked in real estate prior to enrolling in the Charleston School of Law.

Charleston School of Law’s externship program allows students to gain practical work experience while earning course credit. Students complement their classroom studies by working under the direct supervision of members of the judiciary or attorneys in the public sector. This summer, Charleston School of Law students are at 35 exciting externships sites helping the community. Since fall 2006, Charleston School of Law students have completed approximately 82, 114 externship hours. The externship course is offered during the fall, spring and summer terms. For more information please contact Professor James Klein or Autumn Jones.

Story by: Alexis Economy
Photos by: Graham Ervin