Buzz in SC’s legal community is about huge gift to USC law school and possible renaming

The buzz in South Carolina’s legal community these days is not only about big plaintiffs’ wins and future judges.

It’s about how big an expected donation to the University of South School of Law will be, who the donor is and whether the school be renamed.

Some 10 judges and lawyers told The State newspaper they had heard the amount would be in the tens of millions of dollars, that the donor is a Charleston law firm or lawyer and the law school’s name may well get a tweak or be completely renamed.

Those who knew the specifics said they had been asked to keep the details confidential, and for the most part, they have.

University spokesman Jeff Stensland declined comment on Thursday afternoon.

“I’m stunned that the university has been able to keep it quiet up to now,” a member of the state’s legal community who knows about the donation told The State on Thursday.

An official announcement is expected Friday morning at the law school. A party is scheduled for Friday night in celebration of whatever it is.

USC officials aren’t talking.

The university has sent out “hundreds” of invitations to the event, said a state lawmaker who is a lawyer who got more than one invitation.

Invitations emailed to media don’t divulge what is happening except to say it is a “historic event.”

The invitation also says:

The announcement will be made at 11 a.m. in front of the law school at 1525 Senate St. “It will conclude with fanfare, photo opportunities and two unveilings,” the invitation said.

The media will be able to speak to university officials and “a prominent Lowcountry alumnus.”

Meanwhile, at the plaza in front of the law school in downtown Columbia, workers have been busy this week setting up hundreds of chairs and an enormous tent.

If the donation comes through, it will be a coup for law school dean William Hubbard, who was named dean in 2020 in part because of his promises to cultivate new sources of revenue for the law school.

If the law school is renamed, that will be in the tradition of naming other university structures for big donors, for example: the Darla Moore School of Business, the Arnold School of Public Health, the Swearingen Engineering Center and the Koger Center.

And of course, the Rice Athletic Center, named for Charleston attorney Joe Rice and his wife, Lisa. Joe and Lisa Rice also gave $1 million to the law school’s Children’s Law Center in 2021.