South Carolina Chief Justice (Ret.) Jean Hoefer Toal has a saying, “if you get a little something, leave the ladder down and pull your sisters up the ladder with you.” She decided early on that as she achieved some prominence and broke barriers she would reach down and pull her sisters along. She has done just that. She became the first woman to serve as a justice on the South Carolina Supreme Court and then the first and one of the longest serving chief justices in South Carolina history. Earlier in her career, she served in the South Carolina House of Representatives representing Richland County for 13 years.
When she started practicing law in the late 1960s, less than one percent of attorneys in South Carolina were women. Chief Justice Toal is still active in her retirement and mentoring women. “It’s amazing how much of a difference you can make in young people’s lives when you get them to talk about their aspirations and their goals, and assure them that you’ll be there for them,” she said.
Her advice for a young people going into the legal profession:
“Establish those contacts and networks that can put you with other people who are aspiring to be participants in the legal profession … We have a unique talent at making democracy work that we learned in the atmosphere of law school.“