Joel Collins’ accomplishments both within and outside the legal profession require eight pages to list. Over a 50-year career he has appeared regularly on lists of America’s best lawyers, earned numerous awards, and founded scholarship funds at Clemson, Wofford, Radford, and The Citadel.
His proudest professional accomplishment, he says, is leadership of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). He served in a variety of roles, including trustee of the ABOTA Foundation and president of the foundation trustees in 2008. In 2015, he was elected national president of ABOTA.
Collins was born in Denmark, South Carolina, and raised in Chester, one of six children. “When I was a small boy, my father was the head football coach of Chester High School and I served as the team mascot,” he remembers. “I had a little football uniform and ran out on the field with the team for warm-up exercises. The players thought I brought them luck, so they would come to my elementary school class and get me so that I could be on the bus for all the away games.” The family was named Chester’s first Family of the Year.
A Clemson graduate, Collins’s three children followed in his footsteps, and his granddaughter Abigail began her Tiger journey this year. A USC Law School graduate, he became a JAG in the Army in Vietnam upon graduation and then went to work for a German law firm in Frankfurt before settling down to start his own firm in 1982.
He has spent the last 10 years teaching a course on the Constitution at SC Honors College and recently helped draw up plans for England’s celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.
And now he’s making some history of his own, in the South Carolina Lawyers Weekly Hall of Fame.