Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

IN THE RIGHT PLACE: As the first female executive director of the SC Bar Association, Emma Dean sees an opportunity for service 

By: Haviland Stewart//March 24, 2023

IN THE RIGHT PLACE: As the first female executive director of the SC Bar Association, Emma Dean sees an opportunity for service 

By: Haviland Stewart//March 24, 2023

Walking through the Court of Appeals, side by side with respected judges, the rush in Emma Dean’s chest confirmed she was in the right place. Dean grew up in the small town of Due West, S.C. There was a four way stop and no traffic lights. She inherited a passion for service to her community from her parents, both of whom worked as college educators.  

After 16 years of public service through various legal platforms, Dean became the first woman to hold the position of executive director of the South Carolina Bar Association in January 2023. Dean attended Washington and Lee University where she double majored in politics and economics, and then went straight to law school at University of South Carolina School of Law.  

 After graduating, Dean began working as a staff attorney at the Court of Appeals and immediately confirmed her decision to practice law. 


 “Working at the Court of Appeals was an amazing experience because I was fresh out of law school and didn’t know many lawyers,” Dean said. “And then here I was walking the halls with these incredible judges.” 

 Dean joined Judge John Kittridge’s chambers in the Court of Appeals shortly after and remained with him when he was elected to the Supreme Court. 

 “I suddenly found myself surrounded by mentors, who took an interest in helping me and helping me develop and it was just incredible,” Dean said. “It’s an awesome thing to know and to find people with similar interests in service and dedication to justice.” 

 Dean worked in civil litigation at Nelson Mullins before she went to work at the statehouse for the House Judiciary Committee, first as assistant chief counsel and later as chief counsel. 

 “I was really excited about working as chief counsel because I really got to utilize my interests those while working with the public,” Dean said. “I was helping members as they draft legislation and really trying to problem solve. Constituents or members would come to me with problems that they were hearing about in their communities, and we’d look at the law and look at ways to help solve these problems.” 

As executive director of the South Carolina Bar Association, Dean hopes to strengthen the member services to support attorneys, cultivate relationships with attorneys throughout the state, and continue to serve her community. “I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” Dean said. “It’s a huge opportunity for service. I believe in fairness, and I believe in serving this legal system that we’ve all dedicated our lives to. It’s a huge honor to get to do that.” 

 As the first woman to hold this position, Dean wants to be a voice for younger female attorneys. “Relationships are very important to me,” Dean said. “Communication is very important to me. I want to hear from them and hear what support they need in order to be the best advocates they can be.” 

From a young age, service, fairness, justice, and giving back to your community have been important to Dean.  

“The more you serve others, you get the opportunity to see them grow and make a difference in this world,” Dean said. “There’s no cooler thing than to see that.” 

As a first generation lawyer, Dean recognized the difference that having strong mentors made in the development of her career. Dean is now a volunteer mentor for first semester students at the University South Carolina School of Law and has fostered relationships with law clerks that have worked for her at the State House. 

“I think it’s very important to help the next generation,” Dean said. “My mentors made a huge difference in my life. Anybody who’s willing to have me as a mentor, I’m very interested in helping, just as I’ve been helped.” 

Since law school, Dean has remained in Columbia. She now lives with her husband and their four children. When she is not serving the law community, Dean spends her time coaching sports teams that her children play on or hiking in South Carolina State Parks.  

To hear more from Dean, check out the Q&A below. 

Q: As an avid hiker, what are your favorite trails in South Carolina? 

A: South Carolina has beautiful parks throughout the state, and we loved visiting the 47 state parks. We especially enjoyed feeding the fish and walking along the river at Jones Gap, hiking to the waterfall at Oconee Station, and taking a boat at Hunting Island to St. Phillips where we spotted a bald eagle family. 

Q: What do you consider the biggest perk of growing up in a small town? 

A: Growing up in a small town was so neat because of the independence it gave me. My mom would let me ride my bike around town, and this was before cell phones. I now know, Mom had tons of eyes in the village watching out for me, which leads me to awesome second perk, community.   

Q: What is a piece of advice you would give to those with a similar passion to serve their community? 

A: Keep working hard and serving the community. Good news does not always make headlines, but you are doing something more important, changing lives. 

Q: Who are a few of the most influential people in your life and what have they taught you? 

A: My parents are my greatest influence. My dad was a chemistry professor for 50 years, and my mom was a special education teacher for years and later became an assistant dean of students. They lost everything in apartment fire 6 months after moving to the United States. Instead of grabbing their possessions, they ran around the building getting everyone out. That was my parents. Service above self and bravely finding a way. 

Q: As the first woman to hold the position of Executive Director for the South Carolina Bar, what is the significance of you stepping into this role? 

A: I am grateful to everyone who has come before me, and I am honored by the amazing support I have received by attorneys across the state. I promise to do my very best to serve them well. 

Q: What has been the most fulfilling part of your career?  

A: Mentoring others. I have been so fortunate that others invested time in helping me as a young attorney, so it is a privilege to pay that forward to others.

Business Law

See all Business Law News


See all Commentary


How Is My Site?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...