By Pamela Brownstein
On a beautiful Beaufort evening in early October, a crowd of family and friends gathered on Lady’s Island at the lovely home of Jean and Harvey McCormick. A live band played on the deck as guests danced and laughed, enjoying the company and the slight breeze off the waterway beyond.
When the band paused between songs, Harvey got on the microphone and gave a toast to his wife, Jean, of 25 years in celebration of her 50th birthday. He told a sweet story about her and how much she means to him, and even got a little choked up, before he led the guests in singing “Happy Birthday.” Then he joined the band on the drums during their rocking rendition of “Mustang Sally.”
Harvey said, “We met 26 years ago in Charleston one night that I was out with her brother. Have been inseparable since. I fell in love with her because she makes me laugh, among other things.”
“I met my husband the summer after my first year of law school when I went home to the Isle of Palms. My brother introduced us and we discovered that during college our fathers lived on the same hall at Clemson and worked as nuclear engineers in the same division at The Charleston Naval Shipyard,” Jean said. “That night Harvey told my brother he was going to marry me. Six months later we were engaged and six months later we were married.”
She said one of the things she loves best about Harvey is his zest for life.
It doesn’t take long to be in the presence of this couple to feel the genuine love and respect that they have for each other. They are friendly and warm and good-natured — traits perhaps that don’t always come to mind when describing members of the legal profession. But Jean is an attorney with the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office and Harvey is the sole practitioner at McCormick Law Firm.
The two were born and raised in Charleston and both said they knew from an early age that they wanted to be lawyers and to try to help people.
Harvey attended the College of Charleston for his undergraduate, with a double major in Business and Economics, while Jean attended Winthrop College and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Government and Public Service. They both graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and came to Beaufort shortly after.
Jean said, “Although from Charleston, I never visited Beaufort until I received a job offer. I accepted the offer. The initial plan was to eventually return to Charleston, but once we moved to Beaufort we never wanted to leave.”
As the sole practitioner at his own private law firm, Harvey is in charge of general litigation practice, primarily personal injury, criminal, worker’s compensation and construction. He is also a certified mediator in civil court.
“I feel that hard work, full communication with our clients and ethical integrity are the three most important traits of an attorney,” Harvey explains.
Jean has worked as a public defender and also as the general attorney with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Savannah. She worked alongside her husband at the McCormick Law Firm from 1998 to 2006 before joining the Office of the Solicitor, 14th Judicial Circuit, and the team behind Duffie Stone in 2007. She is currently an assistant solicitor and the Minister of Justice who is in charge of the Beaufort County Juvenile Division.
“I advocate for the safety of the citizens of Beaufort County while insuring that individuals charged with criminal offenses are accorded procedural justice,” said Jean, describing her job. “I prosecute cases by trial or plea, handle appeals and juvenile matters.”
“I work with very dedicated people who have an extremely difficult and stressful job,” she said.
Although practicing law can be hectic and involve long hours — especially while raising three boys ages 22, 18 and 13 — the McCormicks believe the rewarding aspects of their jobs make all the hard work worth it.
Harvey said it’s important “really just helping people who are unable to help themselves.”
Jean said the most rewarding aspect of her job is “the opportunity to make a decision that has the potential to change the course of one’s life.”
She has received numerous honors throughout her career, and was recognized as one the Top Lawyers of the Lowcountry in 2013.
When it comes to community service, Harvey was a past member on the board of directors for the Beaufort Chamber of Commerce, a graduate of Leadership Beaufort, and a member of Sea Island Rotary for about 20 years. Jean has participated in the Beaufort County Choices Program for the past five years.
As for the future, Jean and Harvey said they plan to continue working in the legal profession while remaining active and trying to make a difference in the community.
Harvey said, “I love the fact that Beaufort is a small and close knit community. I like walking down the street and knowing almost everyone that we pass.”
“To name a few of the many things I like best about Beaufort,” adds Jean, “the smell of pluff mud, the history, the beauty, the community looking out for your children, the beach, the river, the farmers market, the excellent restaurants, shops, and seeing a friendly face wherever you go.”
The philosophy behind her work — “to treat all with respect, understanding and compassion” — shines through in all facets of Jean’s life and explains why the McCormicks serve as such an inspiring example of what makes this community great.