JOE Program inspires students

July 29, 2019 – For many law students in South Carolina, participating in the JOE Program is a rite of passage that helps jump start their legal careers.

Student participants of the JOE program with their supervising judge

From L to R: Christy Oler with Judge Ann Gue Jones, Mandee Funai with Judge Tim Pogue, Angela Ray with Judge Debra Matthews, Jessica Duffy with Judge Tarita Dunbar, Mave Cayabyab with Judge Deadra Jefferson, and Joni Zavolta with Judge Randall McGee.

The JOE (Judicial Observation and Experience) Program is in its 16th year of placing students for up to two weeks with members of South Carolina’s state judiciary as well as a number of South Carolina federal judges.

This summer, 76 students from the Charleston School of Law and 62 students from the University of South Carolina School of Law participated in JOE. The students from both schools worked with 100 judges. Since the summer of 2007, 1,779 students have participated in this extremely successful program.

The students observe the court’s daily routine, including court proceedings, and have the opportunity to discuss their observations with the judge. Some judges also will ask the students to perform legal research or other work that a law clerk or court staff member would perform.

The South Carolina Chief Justice’s Commission on the Profession created and sponsors the JOE Program. Sharon Williams is the program director who  administers the program with assistance from the career services departments at both law schools.

“The JOE Program is an excellent opportunity for both the court and the student,” Williams said. “Getting to observe the law in practice rather than as an abstract concept is a valuable experience for JOE students and provides a good transition from law school to the ‘real world’.”

“JOE inspires many students to seek judicial clerkships after graduation and also gives them the confidence to litigate in the future. Students have told me JOE was one of the highlights of their law school experience,” said Director of Public Service and Pro Bono Michelle Condon, who administers JOE at Charleston Law.
Along with helping the students, the JOE Program also helps the courts and those they serve. “I have had JOE students assist with projects and even found a future law clerk through the program,” Charleston County Probate Judge Irv Condon said.

By helping the students and helping the courts serve the public, the JOE Program is a beneficial experience for all.


Here are just a few comments from Charleston Law students about their JOE experience:

“Any law student should jump at the chance to participate in JOE. The most valuable lesson I learned came from observing the attorneys who appeared in court. It helped me see what kind of attorney judges appreciate appearing before them and what kind of attorney I want to be when I start practicing.”  – Mandee Funai

“I was so blessed to shadow Judge Dunbar in family court in Greenville County this summer. I learned a lot, made great connections, and truly furthered my passion for family law. The JOE Program is an amazing opportunity that every student should take advantage of.” – Jessica Duffy

“I was fortunate to observe Judge Anne Gue Jones, a family court judge in Orangeburg. She has a wealth of knowledge in family law and took the time to explain the reasoning behind her decisions in the cases I observed. Having just finished my 1L year and not taken family law, I was nervous that I would lack understanding, but Judge Jones told me on the first day not to be afraid to ask questions. She also asked me what questions I had at the close of every day. The JOE Program is a wonderful experience, and I encourage everyone to participate in JOE.” – Christy Oler

“I have witnessed Judge Jefferson’s compassion and fair interpretation of the law. My experience with my judge was truly unforgettable, and it served as a reminder of why I chose this profession.” – Mave Cayabyab

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