Skip to Content

Joseph F. Rice School of Law

  • Black and white historic photo of the Caroliniana Library, where the first ever law class was held.

    The first law class was held at the South Caroliniana Library on October 7, 1867.

Formation of the School of Law

South Carolina College was chartered in 1801 and opened in 1805 as the state’s first venture into public higher education.   At that time, some American universities had begun professorships of law, but law schools did not yet generally exist as separate departments.  Harvard formed a law school in 1817, but the principal method of educating attorneys through these years continued to be the apprentice system.

A professorship in law was first authorized in 1820 but was not implemented until 1867 when the School of Law was established as one of ten academic schools at the University of South Carolina.  By this time, there were only 30 law schools in the U.S.

Alexander Cheves Haskell, the first professor of law, held his first class on October 7, 1867 in the University Library, now the South Caroliniana Library.  The class of two students graduated in June 1868. Haskell, however, resigned in November to become a judge, and the law program remained closed for the rest of that academic year.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.