Students question Charleston School of Law, InfiLaw leaders

By Liz Segrist
Published Aug. 29, 2013

Concerned students questioned law school and InfiLaw leaders Wednesday night about the reputation and caliber of InfiLaw’s schools, as well as how an agreement to sell the Charleston School of Law to the consortium would impact the school.

Pending approval of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education and the American Bar Association, the Charleston School of Law will be sold to InfiLaw unless another viable offer emerges by October, the school’s owners announced Wednesday.

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The law school entered into a management services agreement with InfiLaw late last month. For weeks, the school did not say whether it would be sold. InfiLaw manages three other for-profit schools: the Charlotte School of Law, the Florida Coastal School of Law and the Phoenix School of Law.

Judge Robert Carr, one of the school’s founders, said the move to sell was part of a succession plan to ensure the law school would sustain and thrive for the long term after a majority of founders expressed a desire to retire or scale back responsibilities.

Charleston School of Law Dean Andy Abrams said he plans to stay on as dean and that no changes to faculty have been discussed.

“This is where I want to be. This is where the faculty and the staff wants to be,” Abrams said. “First and foremost, we want it to be a place where students want to be.”

Student after student stood up Wednesday night to express concerns about how InfiLaw would impact entrance requirements, reputations, class sizes, student-teacher ratios and community involvement.

Peter Goplerud, president of InfiLaw Partners and liaison for the Charleston school, said the some of the law school’s strengths are its focus on students, faculty availability and commitment to the community.

“It would be the worst business decision in the world to do anything to dismantle that,” said Goplerud, who will have a presence on campus during the transition.

Some students were concerned about the Charleston School of Law becoming a “diploma mill” based on reports of InfiLaw increasing student bodies and being less selective during the admissions process.

Other students said they felt “betrayed” and “caught off guard” by news of the sale. Carr said the relationship isn’t random and that the school’s founders have been in contact with InfiLaw for more than a decade, stemming from when the local founders wanted to learn more about Florida Coastal’s business model.

Submit offers to:

Edward Hughes at Nexsen Pruet law firm
400 Main St., Suite 100A
Hilton Head Island, SC 29925-3526

The directors have expressed a willingness to consider other buyers but said neither public nor private suitors have approached them about taking ownership.

ABA approval of the sale isn’t expected until June, said Goplerud. The price of the sale was not disclosed. The directors will continue to own and operate the private law school until the transition is complete.

The directors considered other options, such as selling to a current owner or becoming a nonprofit institution. They also contacted private institutions, but none was interested in talking seriously about buying the school, Carr said.

“InfiLaw was the only viable option out there,” Carr said. “It is the only one that would work and the only one that we have confidence in.”

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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