It is a phrase you hear a lot on the Charleston School of Law campus.
It is not a “catch phrase” or a cliched marketing tagline. Open doors are part of the culture – the DNA — that attracts students to the school and fosters success. The “open door” model plays out in classrooms, mock courtrooms, faculty offices, student organizations, and experiential opportunities.
Case in point: Rachel Stewart (’21). As a student, she was active in community service both on and off campus. She enrolled in the law school’s externship program, collaborated with classmates for the annual MOOT court competition and served as a member on the Law Review.
But it was in her final year at Charleston Law that Stewart met with the Career Services Department at Charleston School of Law and applied to participate in Law Links, a two-year old mentorship program in partnership with the Charleston County Bar Association which matches law students with local practicing attorneys. The attorneys mentor students through the milestones in the transition from law school like career decisions, professionalism, and life after graduation.
For Stewart, the opportunity served as an open door, one she walked right through.
Stewart was matched through Law Links with J. Barnwell Fishburne Jr. (’14), an associate at Luzuriaga Mims LLC. Despite the ongoing COVID pandemic, the pair connected to develop networking opportunities and strategies to prepare Stewart for the transition from the classroom to the legal profession.
“That’s how I got my first job out of law school,” said Fishburne. “Networking is essential; and timing is important, too.” He encouraged Stewart – and law students, in general — to “talk to as many practicing attorneys as possible.”
“These partnerships pull back the veil on the mystery of practicing law and give students a practical snapshot of what life after law school looks like,” said Emily Guerrero, Associate Director of Career Services at Charleston Law and co-founder of Law Links. “For many students, it’s a light bulb moment: students realize practicing attorneys are just real people working hard to balance challenging careers and life outside the office.”
“I learned the value of networking,” added Stewart. “An opportunity may open when you least expect it. It could open a door.”
It was those opportunities, those relationships, and the networking that eventually paid dividends.
Call it luck.
Call it right place, right time.
Call it serendipity.
But the call itself came and the door opened.
Today, Stewart, a Jackson, Mississippi native, is colleagues with her mentor as an associate at Luzuriaga Mims LLC.
“I was not expecting my mentor to offer me a position,” said Stewart.
Through the Law Links program, Fishburne learned, “She had experience working in the legal field, specifically in the defense field. Her writing and research she had published in the law review.”
Fishburne knew the value of legal research and writing. He was a Legal Research and Writing Teaching Fellow and received the CALI award for highest class grade in Legal Research & Writing I during his time at Charleston Law. Fishburne was also an Executive Member of the Moot Court Board, where he competed in three national competitions and earned individual awards for his advocacy.