As a first-generation college student Emily Ledford ’19 set her sights on law school even before she enrolled at Wofford. Now after four years of preparation and support from faculty, peers and alumni, she’s ready to take the next step toward a career in the law.

“At Wofford people are in your corner,” says the government and psychology double major from Lyman, S.C. “My professors know me and know my story, and they’ve been supportive every step of the way.”

That support includes comprehensive programming through the Edward K. Hardin Pre-Law Society and the college’s pre-law program: special events, speakers and panels, LSAT practice tests, course advising, professional development and school application guidance and alumni networking opportunities.

“The program gives students insight into the profession as well as the skills needed to make them better law school applicants,” says Creighton Knight ’19, president of the Edward K. Hardin Pre-Law Society and a finance and international affairs double major from Gainesville, Ga. The program is inclusive and comprehensive, which, according to Knight, makes it successful and has helped build Wofford’s reputation for producing attorneys and judges.

The college’s LSAT Boot Camp, offered at a steeply discounted rate for Wofford students, is also a boost to the pre-law program. The intensive program, held for a week before classes begin in the fall, is taught by Dr. Jeremy Henkel, associate professor of philosophy.

“They could have charged an arm and a leg for the course,” says Ledford. “I learned so many tips and tricks and the right way to study for the LSAT.”

The college also offers a pre-law Interim each January in which students spend several weeks shadowing attorneys, visiting the state Supreme Court, attending seminars, touring law schools and learning about the realities of the law profession.

Rebeka Parent ’19, vice president of the pre-law society, participated in the Interim during 2018. She spent several weeks with attorneys Pete Diamaduros ’83 and Sammy Diamaduros ’87 in Union, S.C. Parent, a psychology major from Hilton Head, S.C., and the other students in the class also participated in a condensed version of the boot camp and met with representatives from law schools. During Interim and throughout the academic year, law schools also send admission representatives to Wofford.

“They broke down the application process and gave us insights into what law school will require and the realities of becoming an attorney,” says Parent. “I’d never thought about where I want to live and practice after I graduate from law school, but that matters when you’re choosing where to apply.”

Knight, Ledford and Parent all agree that the faculty who work with students interested in careers in the legal field are part of the reason for the program’s success. Dr. David Alvis, associate professor of government, approaches the law from an academic perspective; his areas of expertise include political theory, constitutional law and American politics. Alvis’ role with the pre-law society involves alumni development and programming. Dr. Dawn McQuiston, associate professor of psychology, runs point on programming, planning and scheduling events. She also brings expertise in the sciences, something more and more valued in the profession. McQuiston does nationwide consulting and speaking in the areas of jury decision making and eyewitness testimony. Dr. John Fort, who has worked with the program since 2002, is the resident attorney. His background is in economics. He maintains relationships with law schools and stays current when it comes to the law school application process.

According to Alvis, during the 2017-18 academic year 30 Wofford students interested in careers in the law attended an event hosted by the University of South Carolina School of Law. More than 50 Wofford alumni who now are working in the legal field attended along with admission representatives and faculty.

“Our students were very efficient in making connections in the Wofford legal network,” says Alvis. “Many alumni remain in touch and help our students find legal jobs, fellowships and clerkships.”

Don Wildman ’71, a partner in the Johnson Smith Hibbard and Wildman law firm in Spartanburg, has been active in the support of Wofford’s pre-law program since shortly after he started practicing law in 1974.

“I became involved because they asked me to,” says Wildman. “I was spending 60 to 70 hours a week practicing law and learning how to practice law better, but you make time for what’s important to you.”

Now each January, Wildman and his firm bring in Wofford students through the Pre-Law Interim. The firm also hires runners from Wofford.

Mayleng Streett Watson ’98, who has enjoyed a successful private practice with McGuireWoods in Charlotte, N.C., was one of Wildman’s student interns.

“She was one of ours, and we still stay in touch,” says Wildman. “John Fort and the others working with pre-law students at Wofford have always done a good job pairing students with local firms.”

Wildman says he enjoys working with Wofford students, recommending readings, exposing them to court, assigning relevant tasks and sitting across the desk from them to learn more about their motivations for pursuing a career in the law.

“We’ve had really good people from Wofford come through our office, people who have gone on to wonderful legal careers,” he says.

Ledford worked with David White ’77 and his partner David Sereque over Interim. She had several important takeaways.

“I learned a lot about being an adult and what it takes to do things like purchase a home, get a mortgage or transfer a deed. It was intriguing to watch them help individuals start a new chapter of their lives, and I know that I will be more capable of understanding the ‘adult stuff’ when it comes time for me to do these things as well,” says Ledford. Ledford says she learned that real estate law is not the field for her, but White and Sereque have offered to write letters of recommendation for law school and other internship opportunities. “They made me feel like they really enjoyed mentoring me as much as I enjoyed being mentored during that time.”

By Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington '89