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Joseph F. Rice School of Law

Q&A with Judge J. Michelle Childs

Why did you choose to attend the University of South Carolina School of Law?

I decided to attend the University of South Carolina because I wanted to practice law in South Carolina.  It is a very reputable and competitive school, so I believed that it would provide me a solid legal foundation, opportunities to connect with the local bar, and the ability to enhance my career options.

Where has your job taken you?

Upon my graduation from law school, I became an associate attorney at Nexsen Pruet Jacobs and Pollard law firm (1992 to 2000).  I became the first black female partner in a major law firm in the state of South Carolina.  Thereafter, I received two gubernatorial appointments to become the Deputy Director of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (2000-02) and a Commissioner on the South Carolina Worker's Compensation Commission (2002-06).  I was then elected by the South Carolina General Assembly to be an at-large Circuit Court Judge (2006-10).  I now serve as a United States District Judge for the District of South Carolina (2010-present), having been appointed by President Barack Obama.

As you continue your journey in this profession, be a person of courage and conviction.  We all have a crucial role, individually and collectively, to be architects of society.

What is the most valuable information you learned while you were in law school?

In law school, you learn early on that your reputation and credibility will follow you throughout your career.  Your classmates will be on opposing sides in cases or matters and will be leaders in various firms, agencies, and organizations in the state so you always want to be known for having good character as your reputation can affect your ability to resolve matters entrusted to you.

Additionally, you should always surround yourself with good mentors, personal and professional, who can not only be there for guidance but to sponsor you as you move through your career and assist you in your personal development.

What event or professional experience has given you the most satisfaction?

I have been most humbled by the gravity of the decisions that I have to make as a judge.  A judge plays an integral role in the quality of our justice system.  On a daily basis, I am charged with ensuring that all litigants perceive a fair and impartial judicial system.  I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of the challenging research and writing and oral presentations as I attempt to make well-reasoned decisions that affect the destiny of civil litigants, criminal defendants, corporations, government, and ultimately, society at large.

What information would you give a graduating class member seeking your advice on a legal career?

Our profession is one of privilege, so we always have to be gracious for the opportunity to join such a noble profession.  As you enter the profession, make sure that you always work in settings that allow you to enjoy the meaningful work that you will do.  The true measure of success is your ability to balance your work life against the time you devote for your spirituality, family and friends and those moments that provide you inner peace.

As you continue your journey in this profession, be a person of courage and conviction.  We all have a crucial role, individually and collectively, to be architects of society.  Being successful is not just for the purpose of a place of comfort and satisfaction, but a place of responsibility and challenge.

I encourage each of you to take advantage of the many opportunities available to you as you embark on your legal careers.

What do you do for fun?

I love to spend time with family and friends, play tennis, listen to live music, read, and enjoy my home.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.