Law School honors community partners

Charleston School of Law presented its inaugural “Community Partner of the Year Award” to Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services and the U.S. Coast Guard Judge Advocate General at Saturday’s Commencement ceremony.

The award was established to recognize two employers—one in the private sector and another in the public sector—that go the extra mile in providing educational and mentorship opportunities to students.

Charleston Pro Bono and Charleston Law have provided law students with experiential learning opportunities through the Housing and Family Law Clinics, in which students represent actual clients; with Equal Justice Works, a summer fellowship program in housing law; and numerous externship and pro bono service opportunities.

“From the beginning, our organization made a commitment to instilling an ethos of public service into the next generation of lawyers,” said Alissa Lietzow (‘10), Executive Director at Charleston Pro Bono said, “We partnered with the Charleston School of Law to train their students, not only in substantive legal areas, but also in skills such as client interviews, case management, and professionalism.”

Lietzow said, “These clinics provide students with the unique opportunity to utilize the lessons learned in class by representing clients in magistrate and family court. Beyond our clinics, our staff also teach courses in human trafficking and trauma-informed lawyering. Having seen the long term impact of our investment in these students, we remain committed to serving alongside Charleston School of Law in ensuring a quality legal education.”

In partnership, Charleston School of Law students assist low-income families with their legal needs. The program includes participation in client intake including eligibility determination and fact gathering, preparation of pleadings, affidavits, and other legal documents, and client follow-up to guide the client through their legal process.

In addition to the clinical experience, law students also host three Fellowships, including the Ackerman Fellowship, Westbrook Fellowship (in honor of the late Kat Westbrook, a Charleston Law student) and the Equal Justice Fellowship.

Charleston Law and the U.S. Coast Guard Judge Advocate General recently announced a new partnership that will create a court-martial mock trial competition for law students. “We forged this partnership for the benefit of not only the students, but the community itself,” said Charleston School of Law Dean, Provost, and Professor of Law Larry Cunningham. “We’re excited to be able to expose students from around the country to the court-martial process and provide them the opportunity to try a court-martial case.”

The Charleston area is a recognized Coast Guard community. Recently, the Coast Guard established its Office of Chief Prosecutor in North Charleston, which, over the next few years, will exponentially increase the number of attorneys and legal staff in the region in support of its military justice operation. This has opened new doors for student externs. During the last academic year, six students have externed with the Coast Guard JAG, and two students or graduates have received commissions, with several additional students and graduates already in the application process. Coast Guard officers are involved with the Law School in other ways. CDR Graham Lanz taught a course this semester in Military Law. LCDR Andrew Taylor, CDR Lanz, and CDR Ben Gullo have served as mentors to students through the school’s Law Links program.

“Charleston School of Law maintains a strong connection with the JAG Corps of each military branch, which results in countless opportunities for students to learn more about using their lawyer and leadership abilities to serve our country,” said Nick Sanders, Associate Dean of Students and Career Services.

“It is inspiring to watch our graduates learn, lead and grow while serving in the military,” said Dean Cunningham. “The Charleston School of Law opens doors for students to a variety of opportunities in the legal profession. We are grateful for our partnership with all the military branches.”

The award winners were announced during Saturday’s Commencement ceremony at the McAlister Fieldhouse on the campus of The Citadel. Accepting for Charleston Pro Bono was Alissa C. Lietzow, Executive Director, Cody A. Tettemer, Staff Attorney, Sydney Ford, Development Director, and Gerald Kaynard, Esq., Chairperson of the Board. The Coast Guard representatives were CAPT Anita M. Scott, CDR Graham E. Lanz, LCDR Andrew P. Taylor, and LCDR Peter W. Link.