CLEMSON – When Chris Loebsack came to Clemson University, he was more interested in the land than the law.
A first-generation student from the Cleveland area, Loebsack went on to graduate summa cum laude from what was then the College of Agricultural Sciences, also earning senior departmental honors from the Calhoun Honors College.
He had been drawn to the emerging field of environmental science, but as Loebsack dug deep into his honors thesis, one of his faculty mentors planted a new seed. “He told me I should think about going into the law because of how I thought and how I communicated,” Loebsack said.
That seed took root and set him on a new path, one that led him to where he is now: the founder and managing principal of the law firm Loebsack & Brownlee, PLLC of Charlotte, North Carolina.
“By going to law school, you realize communication is the most important form of education,” Loebsack said. “Learning to think and learning to communicate are the most important ways that education gets passed down in any form or fashion… It’s all humanities-related.”
Loebsack has served on the Humanities Advancement Board at Clemson University since 2015. He is focused on giving back to the university that changed his life so it can continue to change the lives of others.
To enhance Clemson’s ability to provide that educational fuel to interested students, Loebsack has established the “Lectures in Law and Humanities Series, Endowed by Loebsack & Brownlee, PLLC.”
The series will contribute a significant annual event to the Humanities Hub’s public programming at Clemson University.
“Chris Loebsack’s remarkable gift establishes a valuable legacy for Clemson students, faculty and community members to learn about the many broad and often personal impacts of the law – how law and the humanities intersect,” said Lee Morrissey, founding director of the Humanities Hub.
Pulitzer-winner Desmond to speak
The “Lectures in Law and Humanities Series, Endowed by Loebsack & Brownlee, PLLC” will host its inaugural event on Thursday, March 26, 2020, with special guest Matthew Desmond.
Desmond is the author of “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” a New York Times Best Seller published in 2016 that won a Pulitzer Prize the following year.
Desmond is a recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and serves as the Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. He is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and has written three other books. Desmond’s articles for the Times include a widely discussed piece from August, “In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation.”
The free, public talk by Desmond will launch the “Lectures in Law and Humanities” series at 5 p.m. March 26 in the Watt Family Innovation Center Auditorium at Clemson University.
Creating legal leaders
Loebsack believes his endowed lecture series will help create a more vibrant pre-law community at Clemson. “One of the ways to do that is to provide information about what the law looks like in the real world,” he said. “That’s what the series, to me, is really about.”
Morrissey said the series will be an extension of the Humanities Hub’s commitment to the humanities at Clemson and will draw visibility to law-related resources and opportunities in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. As examples, Morrissey points to the Howell Pre-Law Society; the Law, Liberty and Justice program; and the pending appointment of Clemson University’s only full-time pre-law adviser.
“As a result, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities is very well-positioned to inform all Clemson students of any major interested in the law and a career in the law,” Morrissey said.
Even as an institution without its own law school, Clemson University is an important training ground for lawyers, Loebsack stressed.
“Great legal work gets done by people who went to this university,” he said. “Careers in the law are a real thing for Clemson students. Law is a real, tangible career that Clemson University students go on to do.”
Raising the Bar
Looking back, Loebsack describes himself as “a blue-collar kid.” “We didn’t have any lawyers in my family,” he said. “I was the first one to graduate from college.”
“Clemson genuinely changed the whole course of my life,” Loebsack said. “I never would have done any of these things. I would have been something totally different if I’d stayed in Ohio and gone to Ohio State or Michigan instead of Clemson.”
He offered high praise to his academic advisers at Clemson, Virgil Quisenberry and Stephen R. Chapman, both of whom are professors emeriti.
At the start of Loebsack’s junior year at Clemson, Chapman had just returned from a multiyear sabbatical after earning a law degree and was serving as a dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. Chapman saw law school as an option for his honors student before Loebsack had even considered it.
“I wouldn’t have gone to law school, but for Steve Chapman,” he said. “Everything flows from that. I never would have gone that way without him being so direct about it.”
A member of the class of ’93 at Clemson, Loebsack matriculated to and then graduated from Duke University School of Law in 1996.
Loebsack then moved to Charlotte and has practiced law there ever since. Once in practice, he went on to be named to North Carolina Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars” lists in 2009 and 2011 and was named a member of the state’s “Legal Elite” by Business North Carolina magazine in 2013. Beginning in 2016, Loebsack has been named to the North Carolina Super Lawyers list every year since.
A longtime resident of Gastonia and Charlotte, Loebsack is also an active volunteer in the community. He is president of the board of directors of Charlotte Preparatory School, has served on the board of the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association since 2017 and was appointed to the board of directors of the Apartment Association of North Carolina at the end of 2018.
Loebsack is a devoted father of two sons. Joseph is a first-year Clemson student studying general engineering and Thomas is a high school sophomore.
Loebsack hopes his eldest son will find his own Clemson experience an equally life-changing one.
“It’s quite a place,” he said.
“Some of the people I met in the very beginning on campus are my friends to this day. One of my roommates now works in my law firm with me,” Loebsack said.
“Clemson is, without question, one of the most important things that’s ever happened to me.”
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