The Lowcountry’s coastal location and its role as a key maritime hub affords the Charleston School of Law to offer a series of courses and programs emphasizing admiralty and maritime issues.
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The law school is elevating its seafaring curriculum even more by launching a master of laws degree in admiralty and maritime law, with its inaugural classes beginning next fall, officials said this week.
“This is a destination point not just for tourists, but maritime attorneys too,” Dean Andy Abrams said.
The new degree requires 24 credit hours to be completed in a year for $49,900, or $2,080 per credit hour. The scope of courses include international ocean carriage and payment systems, marine insurance, personal injury and death litigation, U.S. maritime regulation and the Federal Marine Commission.
The degree has been in the works for years, but got the green light after the law school received its full accreditation from the American Bar Association last year, Abrams said.
A master of law degree in such a niche market is important nowadays, he added.
“With the global economy it means this is even more important,” Abrams said. “Trade is not just national, but it’s international and we see a growing need for expertise in this area.”
The school’s new program will go head-to-head with a few law schools offering the same degree, including Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, which launched its master’s program roughly 30 years ago, officials said.
“The reason we did it is because we had a maritime program, but we just didn’t have a master’s degree,” said Robert Force, a professor of maritime law at the school.
“We offered more admiralty and maritime courses than any other in the U.S. and had major conferences that attracted hundreds of industry people, and we also had a maritime journal, so a lot of people were asking to take maritime courses here.”
As for Charleston School of Law, the new program adds to existing maritime courses for general law students and the recently established Sir Francis Drake Admiralty American Inn of Court, the charter of which was awarded in September 2011 by the American Inns of Court.
The Charleston inn is the only one in the country dedicated to admiralty and maritime law, school officials said.
The college also houses the Charleston Maritime Law Institute, which launched in 2004 to bring together students, professors, lawyers and industry professionals to study issues like ocean-transport law.
“This is exciting and a dream come true,” said Professor Randall Bridwell, who will lead the school’s admiralty graduate program through the Charleston Maritime Law Institute. “With as much as the Port of Charleston means to our community, it is a natural fit for us to be on the world stage of law schools that offer an advanced degree in maritime law.”
Some practicing maritime lawyers like Charleston attorney Douglas M. Muller lauded the program and its ability to give lawyers a one-up in the practice.
“Basically you otherwise would have to learn through experience,” said Muller, who is also a member of the maritime law institute. “It helps to have this training so you can hit the ground running when you start the practice instead of learning the facets of the law as you go.”
Follow Tyrone Richardson on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.