By Ashley Barker
Published March 17, 2014
The president of the Charleston School of Law has come out in favor of a deal that has drawn criticism from students, alumni and the community.
In a letter to faculty and staff this morning, President Andrew Abrams said he believes the InfiLaw System “presents us with the best opportunity to secure a bright and vibrant future for the school we care so deeply about.”
He said for the past six and half months, he has listened to the views and preferences of many individuals about the future ownership, structure and operation of the school.
InfiLaw — owner of the Charlotte School of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law and Arizona Summit Law School — agreed last July to provide management services for the school. By the end of August, InfiLaw had signed an agreement expressing its intent to purchase the Charleston School of Law. It’s now waiting for a decision from the state’s Commission on Higher Education about its application for a license to operate the school.
Abrams said he met with senior leaders of InfiLaw on four different occasions to discuss their goals, value and priorities.
“In each instance, I was struck by the consistent, strong and compelling commitment that they have to employ their resources and collective energies to make a difference in the lives of students and communities that they serve,” he wrote.
A group of senior leaders from the Charleston School of Law traveled to Naples, Fla., to meet with InfiLaw officials, and senior staff from InfiLaw visited Charleston, Abrams said. Feedback from the meetings was “not only highly positive, but often enthusiastic,” he wrote.
Abrams took matters into his own hands by flying to Florida to meet with InfiLaw’s CEO.
“The conversation was, as it had to be, candid, frank and, at times, brutally honest,” Abrams wrote. “And I came away from that meeting firmly convinced of his passion and commitment to do all within his power to ensure a bright future for our law school.”
He also took a road trip to Jacksonville, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., to visit InfiLaw-owned campuses. He toured facilities, attended classes and spoke with faculty and students, according to the letter.
Abrams said he learned three things during his trips.
“First, and in my mind most importantly, the fundamental values of InfiLaw and its member institutions are not only compatible with, but in most instances actually mirror, those of the Charleston School of Law,” he wrote. “They are clearly student-centric and share the same passionate commitment to students, which has always been the hallmark of the Charleston School of Law.”
Abrams also found that while there were common values at the InfiLaw schools, the institutions are “definitely not cookie-cutter replicas of one another.”
“Each has its own distinctive feel, and their curriculum and programs have been developed by the schools themselves, playing to their own particular strengths, opportunities and interests, rather than being imposed from on high,” he wrote.
He discovered that students, faculty and staff at each of the schools were excited about the future as well. Within the next few weeks, Abrams plans to initiate a series of discussions with key constituents to figure out the best way to shape the future of the Charleston School of Law, according to his letter.
The commission is expected to reach a decision on InfiLaw’s application in May or June.
Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.