Externship Profile: S.C. Supreme Court

While an eight-week externship with the S.C. Supreme Court seems appealing to any law student, James Joseph, a rising 3L, had another reason for wanting the opportunity to extern alongside the Honorable Kaye Hearn.

“I graduated from Bethany College, the same undergrad institution as Justice Hearn. I knew this coming down to South Carolina and made it a point to meet her and pursue some type of position working for her at the Supreme Court,” said Joseph.

A native of Pennsylvania (just like Hearn) Joseph was born into a legal family and grew up in law offices and courthouses; his father and brother are both practicing attorneys. Only recently though, since enrolling in law school and working at the Supreme Court, has he gained further insight into the day to day operations of a Judge’s chambers.

“Witnessing the American legal system firsthand, let alone being a part of it, is very exciting. The behind-the-scenes look at how a Justice approaches a case, what his/her clerks do in terms of document and bench memo preparation, and generally the whole behind closed doors look at how a court works is very interesting. The experience has provided me a great amount of insight, which I will utilize in my future law practice and any future clerk positions,” said Joseph.

During his externship with the S.C. Supreme Court, Joseph fulfills duties similar to the law clerks including working on bench memos and research projects. Additionally, his work has contributed to several opinions.

The intensity of the work of the S.C. Supreme Court has been one of the most interesting experiences for him. Many cases are criminal and have serious consequences.

“Something that really conveys the gravity of the work here are my daily situations of sitting and doing research knowing that each minute I take to do research and write a memo is a minute that someone is in jail waiting for me to finish so they can return to their family, job, life, or their general freedom. It is a powerful feeling and demands high performance and diligent effort,” said Joseph.

Past Charleston Law courses are extremely useful assets to him on a daily basis. Recently he referenced Professor Constance Anastopoulo’s Torts II class while working on an insurance case.  Professor William Janssen’s Civil Procedure courses provide the necessary knowledge needed in his day to day work. Janssen is also Joseph’s faculty sponsor for his externship.

Several Charleston Law students have interned at the S.C. Supreme Court, but Joseph is the first to officially turn the experience into an externship. His advice for other law students interested in this externship is to have strong and fast research skills.

While juggling several different cases on a daily basis, he must digest and absorb information quickly and efficiently. Constant change is his favorite part about the work. “I think that is what I enjoy most, the fact that I am always working on some new case with a completely different set of facts and arguments,” said Joseph.

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