Class of ’24 reflects on life-changing experience at law school

Charleston School of Law anticipates 212 graduates will receive their Juris Doctor degree at the Spring 2024 Commencement ceremony this Saturday, May 11 at 2:00 p.m. at McAlister Fieldhouse on the campus of The Citadel. The Law School will also recognize two community partners with the Community Partner of the Year Award. The honor is given to recognize community partners who have assisted in supporting student development.

For Victoria Tappan (’24), earning her Juris Doctor is the culmination of a dream she’s had since she was nine years old.

“When I was adopted by my dad at nine years old, I knew my path led to law,” said Tappan. “For the past 16 years, I have worked tirelessly to make my nine-year-old self proud and show her dreams come true.”

Mackenzie McKee called her time in law school “one of the most challenging and most rewarding experiences I have ever had.”

“I can’t help but think how much I will miss law school,” said MacKenzie McKee (’24). “Truly, I cannot express how grateful I am for everything law school has provided me.”

“Thank you to the people who have believed in me,” said Victoria Tappan (’24). “I thought graduating would be the easiest part of law school, but it is quite hard. This school will always be a part of me, and I will never be able to express my gratitude in words.”

Allison Leonard (’24) praised the people who supported her throughout her law school journey: “Thank you to the people who changed me,” she said. “Thank you to the professors who taught me. Thank you to the friends who held my hand the whole way through. And thank you to my family for always loving and supporting me.”

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McKee will leave her mark on the school as a student, a leader and an active participant in community service. During her three-year tenure, McKee completed more than 150 pro bono hours, served on five different student organizations, two years working for a private practice law firm and was given the opportunity to sit on the bench next to multiple family court Judges.

“Law school has not only taught me how to navigate the legal world but also the importance of your relationships with others,” said McKee. “The friends, colleagues, and mentors I have gained in these past three years are priceless. Community is so incredibly important in this career path, and I am so grateful for the community Charleston School of Law has provided me with.”

Tappan joined Phi Delta Phi (PDP), a legal honor society and helped PDP raise $10,000 for charitable fundraisers. Since her first year in law school, McKee said she “dreamed of becoming Magister of my Inn. It has been my absolute honor to execute this position this past year. I want to thank the members of this organization for allowing me the privilege of being the Magister of Pinckney Inn. 

“I have learned more about my true passion for law, but I have also learned an immense amount about myself,” said Tappan. “Charleston Law has taught me not just the law, but how to be confident, patient, and primarily to be strong in the face of adversity. When I look back to my nervous 1L self, I wish I could tell her how this school would change her in the most beautiful ways and at the end of three years.”

“My time in law school has changed me immeasurably,” said Leonard. “It’s taught me to be a more patient, confident, and resilient person in all aspects. It’s taught me how to celebrate the wins and learn from losses. I’ve learned to think more deeply about the world around me. Because of my time at Charleston Law, I am a smarter, stronger, and more passionate person than I was then I first entered the doors.”

“Thank you to my professors who both taught and listened,” said Tappan. “Thank you to my friends who held me up when things got heavy on my own. Thank you to my family for being the most incredible support system who understood when I did not call them back, for fighting for my future with me, and mostly, for the unconditional love they have shown me my whole life.”


The Charleston Law Forensic Club announced for new inductees four May 2024: Shane Hursh, Diana Lewis, Gabriel Mangold and Zaire Reid. Matthew Decker, a December 2023 inductee was also recognized.

In November 1825, a group of Charleston attorneys were granted a charter by the State of South Carolina to establish a “Lecture-ship on the Law.” In February 1826, the Forensic Club offered lectures in the law to begin what essentially was the South’s earliest law school. As a tribute to the founding members of the Forensic Club, the Charleston School of Law selects a limited number of graduates to become members.

Lonnie C. Harvey (’24) was recognized with the William Bennett Regan Award. The honor is awarded to a law student who exemplifies commitment to public service and leadership. 

This year’s recipient of the Arthur Howe Trial Advocacy Award is Gabriel L. Mangold. The award is presented annually to the graduating student who best exemplifies excellence in trial advocacy. It is funded by the South Carolina Chapter of the American College of Trial Lawyers and is named in honor of one of the premier trial lawyers in South Carolina. 

In addition, of the minimum 50 hours of pro bono service required for graduation, 57 Charleston School of Law students exceeded 100 hours of public service. This requirement allows students to work with attorneys practicing in the public interest legal sector. Those students were honored for their commitment and service to the community.

The Commencement ceremony was held in memory of Charleston Law student Andi McDanel who passed away in March. She was 28 years old. McDanel was enrolled at the Charleston School of Law, where she would have graduated today.

The event program stated:

Andi’s memory will forever be a guiding light. We will continue to look for her in all the most beautiful things. Her legacy of love, compassion, and joy will continue to inspire all who knew her.