Articles published in the Richland County Bar Association's Richbar News

Breakfast Rules

March 28, 2013Richbar News Articles

One of the perks of being the editor of this newsletter is that once a month I get to eat a free breakfast with the members of Richland County Bar Association’s Executive Committee at their monthly meeting. I’m not sure that I’m actually supposed to be there. But my predecessor and friend Ward Bradley always was. So, if feeding a non-Committee member constitutes some kind of gross malfeasance, blame Ward.

Anyway, in between stuffing myself with free Belgian waffles and remembering to restrain myself from voting on anything, I catch nuggets of news from the Executive Committee which occasionally make their way into this newsletter. Two weeks ago I caught a good one.

Henry McMaster came to talk about the new USC law school building.  I have to say that I was pretty blown away by some things that Henry said. But before getting into all that, let me first admit to some skepticism.  I attended USC Law from 1991 to 1994. I had some great professors; I got mediocre grades;  I went to some good parties. And I went through it all with people who remain friends to this day and whom I encounter regularly as colleagues and adversaries.  But the facilities?  Not great. When they did asbestos abatement in the library, the plastic wrap actually made the place seem cozier.

Thus, my law school experience was kind of a mixed bag, in the course of which I accumulated a student loan debt that (while ridiculously modest by today’s standards) put a serious squeeze on a 25 year old in 1994. When they started asking for money to build a new school, my response was “time served.” And without much further thought, that remained my default setting.  Until Henry visited us two weeks ago.

Instead of just wowing us with architectural drawings of what the school will look like (easy because they are stunning), Henry spent a lot of time talking about what the new school will be like — and more importantly, what it can mean.  A great example of this is the impact the new school could have on USC’s Rule of Law Collaborative.

So what is the Rule of Law?  It is a system based on four universal principles:

  1. The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law.
  2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.
  3. The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, efficient, and fair.
  4. Justice is delivered by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.


These principles are what make civil societies possible. Where they are absent, there is never justice and seldom prosperity. They are foundational to everything else.

Thus, when USC President Harris Pastides announced the University’s five future priorities a few years back, the only priority not focused on science was the Rule of Law initiative, which became the Rule of Law Collaborative.  Seven members of the collaborative, including its Deputy Director, Joel Samuels, are USC Law professors.

I got the chance to talk with Joel about what the Collaborative was doing.  He told me about the Collaborative’s work not only locally, but in countries all around the world — including in some of the world’s most volatile (Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, etc.).  The hope is to grow the Collaborative into a national Rule of Law Center at USC, in which the new law school could play a huge part.

And finally, that new school is really just around the corner.  A few weeks ago USC’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the financing necessary to move forward toward construction of the new buildings.  Then on March 12, Columbia lawyers and alums Steve Hamm and Charles Dibble presented a gift of $2 million for the building campaign, the funds coming from a case they successfully litigated after a 16 year fight.  Interestingly, Steve was one of those great professors I mentioned above, and the person that first sparked my interest in consumer law.

I’m not the 25 year old with the student loan debt anymore.  I’m the 44 year old with the kids’ tuition, soccer, groceries, house, car.  But at last I’ve realized it’s time to give something to get this thing across the finish line.

Just keep those free breakfasts coming.   

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