The University of South Carolina School of Law welcomed the future President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to campus on Sept. 18 for a three-day visit. The Right Honourable Baroness Brenda Hale of Richmond DBE, the current deputy president of that court, was appointed in July 2017 as its first female president, a position she will assume in October. The position is the equivalent to Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In addition, Lady Hale is also the treasurer of Gray's Inn, one of England’s four Inns of Court.
South Carolina Law’s partnership with Gray’s Inn spans 13 years, and it is the only law school in the United States to have a program in which American law students study inside a London Inn of Court. Each year, law professor Martin McWilliams accompanies students to London for a Maymester course at Gray’s Inn, allowing students and faculty rare access into one of the oldest legal systems in the world.
“Our partnership with Gray’s Inn is unprecedented for American law schools, and has given our students a unique experience, as well as extended their legal education in a way we could not teach them at home,” says McWilliams.
Lady Hale’s visit comes on the heels of another prominent justice’s visit to the School of Law. Just days before Lady Hale arrived in Columbia, the Honorable Samuel A. Alito, associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, delivered the keynote address at the dedication ceremony for its new building.
Lady Hale’s visit was marked by meeting notable judicial members in South Carolina, as well as alumni and students of the School of Law. She was given a private tour of the school’s new home and attended a lunch with the school’s faculty. Invited guests and members of the John Belton O’Neall Chapter of the American Inn of Court had the distinction to meet her at a private reception, as well as hear a message from her. She spoke about breaking boundaries and her life mission to bring diversity to the rigid tradition of the British legal sector.
Lady Hale has paved the way for such diversity. In 1999, Hale followed Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss to become only the second woman to be appointed to the Court of Appeal, and in 2004, she was appointed the first female Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. Her rise through the British judicial system began with a career in academia. After graduating at the top of her class at Cambridge, she taught law at Manchester for 18 years. She became the first woman and youngest person to be appointed to the Law Commission, overseeing a number of important reforms in family law during her nine years with the Commission. She also served as a judge in the Family Division of the High Court of Justice. Family and children law remains one of Lady Hale’s top priorities.
During her visit to UofSC Law, she also met with the Women in Law student organization, as well as faculty and staff at South Carolina Law’s Children’s Law Center.
“It was an honor to be in the presence of such a prominent woman in the legal field. As women entering the legal profession, it was inspiring for us to hear her life story that began with education and took an untraditional path to the very top of the legal field in England and Wales. She is one of the ultimate role models for women in our profession, and we thoroughly enjoyed her visit,” says third-year law student and Women in Law vice president Maggie Chappell.