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Joseph F. Rice School of Law

Q&A with Thomas O'Sullivan

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

When I applied to law school, I was living in Charleston, SC and running a small business that I had started the year before, following my graduation from the University of North Carolina. I knew I wanted to go to law school in the south, and having graduated from a basketball institution, I wanted to go to an SEC program with a solid football program. I applied to South Carolina Law and got in, never having visited Columbia. I accepted and loved my time in Columbia. During my 2L year, I ended up applying to the IMBA dual degree program so I could spend more time out of the country and work on my Spanish skills. I spent time studying abroad in Madrid, Lima, Guadalajara, and Panama. I met my wife while I was on my internship program, and we ended up moving to Florida.

Where has your job taken you?

I spent six years in private practice in south Florida. Following a year as in-house counsel for a duty free company, I ended up accepting a job as a management consultant in northern Alaska working in the oil fields. I worked in Alaska for four and a half years and traveled quite extensively in the States in addition to taking a few trips to Europe. For three of those years I relocated to El Salvador and traveled to Alaska for two weeks at a time for work. In 2016, I accepted a job with Royal Caribbean based in Miami as Manager of Global Port Operations. Since joining Royal Caribbean, I have worked in various roles in Global Tour Operations and Destination Development. I have been able to travel extensively throughout the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

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

My 1L Contracts Professor, Martin McWilliams, filled me with tons of knowledge that I have taken to heart:

  1. "Debt makes the world go round."  I decided that whatever student loans I took out and used to study abroad, to improve my language skills and broaden my horizon, I could work harder to payback. I did exactly that.
  2. "Do whatever YOU want after your 1L year. I would be a lifeguard. You're gonna spend the rest of your life being a lawyer."  I immediately signed up to study in Madrid with St. Louis University and spent time in Europe and Africa for the rest of the summer.
  3. "Your family and friends are the most important things in life. Law school will always be here. Do what you need to do. We will be here when you get back."  I lost a good friend of mine early in my 1L year and was contemplating not going to the funeral because I did not want to miss any classes and fall behind. Professor McWilliams told me to take the time and looking back it was a great grounding of my thoughts.
What event or professional experience has given you the most satisfaction?

One of my proudest moments occurred during my 2L year of law school. It was Professor Seamon's Criminal Law class and we were taking about racial profiling for warrantless stop and searches. This was a few years after 9/11 and members of the class were saying that it was alright. Class ended. I went away from class aghast at the response of my colleagues. I asked Professor Seamon if I could have the floor to start class. I stood up on my soapbox and told everyone how I felt about the abhorrent discussion the day before. The room went dead silent. No one responded. For the next couple of days people came up to me and thanked me for what I said and when I went to my cubby, there was a handwritten note from Professor Seamon thanking me for what I said and saying he was proud to call me his student. I still have the note; it reminds me why I chose this profession.

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

Do whatever it takes to find the job that makes you happy. If you work hard and commit to learning, you can end in a place that is your dream job. There may be some tough jobs—and swallowing of your pride—but things do not always come easily.

What do you do for fun?

I love travelling and spending time with my family. I also love attending sporting events wherever I go. I have been to soccer games in Italy, Spain, Panama, England, El Salvador, and the United States. This year I was able to check-off a bucket list item and attend the Superbowl here in Miami.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.