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School of Law

The Coastal Law Field Lab

The Coastal Law Field Lab is an innovative summer environmental law program open to students from around the country. 

The Coastal Law Field Lab is not currently accepting applications.  Thank you for your interest.

The Coastal Law Field Lab is an immersive four-week, six-credit summer course located in Charleston, SC. The course combines an interdisciplinary in-class approach with two weekly field labs, which include visits to sites that have been at the heart of important litigation or that illustrate national high-profile issues relating to coastal, environmental and energy law.

During each lab day, students will meet on-site with practicing attorneys, parties in current cases, geologists, developers, business managers, government officials, and other experts. In the classroom, coursework blends traditional law courses with related topics such as coastal oceanography, environmental policy and economics, and the business of private land conservation taught by experts in that particular field.


The curriculum consists of three modules: Coastal Law, Climate Change and the Coast, and Coastal Energy Law. 

The first two weeks will cover issues in coastal development and conservation. In addition to classes on Coastal Law, students will be exposed to coastal oceanography, wetlands ecology, environmental policy and economics, and the business of private land conservation. During Coastal Law, students will have four field labs which will focus on beach renourishment, wetland mitigation banking, private land conservation, and land use regulation and the Constitution. During these field labs the class will travel to Folly Beach, Awendaw, Kiawah Island, and Isle of Palms.

The third week will cover international and domestic climate change law. This includes an introduction to the concepts of climate change adaptation and resilience focusing on coastal zones, an overview of disaster law and the array of challenges that arise in coastal zones at the intersection of property law, land use management, and environmental law (as amplified by climate change). There will be two interdisciplinary lectures focusing on climate change and adaptation and the economics of regulation of water, electricity, and natural gas. The class will go on two field labs which will cover climate adaption and planning and nuisance flooding and hazard mitigation. During these field labs students will explore downtown Charleston and take a trip to Sullivan’s Island to discuss the town’s emergency preparedness.

The last week will cover issues related to onshore and offshore energy. Students will learn about energy law, offshore oil and gas law, and biomass energy. Additionally, students will learn about the coastal impacts of on-shore energy. For instance, do mercury emissions from power plants affect fish? Students will combine their legal coursework with interdisciplinary lectures on energy and coastal impacts and alternative energy sources. Field labs will include coal power generation at the AM Williams Power Station and alternative energy innovation at Clemson Universitys SCE&G Energy Innovation Center, and the wood pellet process at the Francis Marion National Forest.

Sample Schedule: Coastal Law (Week One)

Day 9:00 – 12:15 12:15 – 2:00 2:00 – 3:30
Monday Introduction to Coastal Law Lunch Coastal Oceanography taught by Professor Leslie Sautter
Tuesday FIELD LAB: Beach Renourishment at Folly Beach   
Wednesday Legal Geography Lunch Wetland Ecology with Professor Jim Morris
Thursday FIELD LAB: Jurisdiction and Wetland Mitigation Banking at the Congaree Carton Mitigation Bank and Sewee Visitor’s Center   
Friday Public Trust Doctrine Lunch   


Charleston, SC

Charleston provides the prime location for The Coastal Law Field Lab. Not only does downtown Charleston exemplify many important coastal, environmental and energy law issues, but Charleston is close to numerous coastal communities that provide ideal locations for additional field labs. Charleston is also known for its scenic waterfront, rich history, and southern food and hospitality, making it a great place to spend your summer! In the past few years Charleston has been voted by the Conde Nast Traveler as the “Friendliest City in the U.S.,” the “Top City in the U.S. and Canada,” and the “Top Travel Destination in the World.”



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