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Joseph F. Rice School of Law

Giving back to move forward

Due West is a small community in the Upstate with a single four-way stop and – as of the 2020 census – fewer than 1,300 people. It’s also the hometown of Emma Dean ‘06, the new executive director of the South Carolina Bar. 

“My parents would call it the village,” she says, with a quiet smile. 

Dean did not have any lawyers in her family, but both her parents were educators and much of her early education centered on connecting with others and giving back. Growing up in a small town reinforced those values. 

She took the lessons of her youth to heart and continues to mentor future and current attorneys, in addition to coaching children’s soccer and basketball.  

“Seeing the best in others and trying to give them what they need to achieve are core skillsets we all carry,” Dean says. “I think that’s what’s helped me be successful.” 

As for her own mentors, Dean counts Lee Coggiola ‘88 and Justice John Kittredge ‘82 among those who helped grow her own legal career while modeling community care. 

“Not having family as attorneys, getting to know them, see how their minds work, and how they make a difference has been an incredible experience,” Dean says. “It's one I had early in my legal career, and they’ve continued to mentor me, for which I’m very grateful.” 

Dean considers community investment a crucial component of professional responsibility, and knows she isn’t alone in that belief. 

“If you look around in your community to see who the leaders are on your local nonprofit boards or on your church board, or your childcare board, they’re often attorneys,” Dean says. “Because they understand the importance of community and the importance of leadership.” 

Her goals as executive director are to reinvigorate lawyers regarding their profession and remind people just how many resources are at their disposal. Continuing Legal Education, numerous committees and sections in specialized areas, middle and high school mock trial, and the Ethics Line are a few such resources. The South Carolina Bar also offers Lawyers Helping Lawyers, which provides mental health counseling and peer support to law students and lawyers throughout the state.  

Dean prioritizes relationship-building first and foremost and encourages law students to take full advantage of their support system in South Carolina. 

“The South Carolina Bar is a family. There are lots of people that will mentor you, and you will go on to mentor others,” Dean says. “Be excited about joining this profession, and full steam ahead.” 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.