South Carolina Panel Rejects Sale of Charleston School of Law

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by Andrew Coffman Smith, Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. ― A committee of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education is recommending that the sale of Charleston School of Law to a for-profit company be denied.

The commission’s Committee on Academic Affairs and Licensing voted 3-1 on Monday against the sale over concerns that Florida-based InfiLaw’s lower standards and pending lawsuits would devalue the school’s education and pose a risk.

For the past year, InfiLaw has sought to purchase the 10-year-old, private law school. The sale faces opposition from students, alumni, faculty and one of the three remaining co-founders who does not wish to sell. InfiLaw owns three American Bar Association-accredited law schools at Arizona Summit (formerly Phoenix), Charlotte and Florida Coastal.

“This isn’t in the best interest of South Carolina,” said committee member Natasha Hanna, who put forward the motion to deny the license application.

Hanna said she has concerns over InfiLaw’s lower entry requirements, bar rates, attrition rates, the risks posed by pending lawsuits against InfiLaw and the reputation and character of the for-profit law school provider.

The lone dissenting vote was Admiral Charles Munns who disagreed with Hanna’s criteria for denying the acquisition.

“These all point to speculation of future events and what we have in front of us is a license application … with a school with an existing curriculum,” Munns said.

Munns said he believes that the pending law suits against InfiLaw do not pose a significant risk to the operation of Charleston School of Law and that he also doesn’t see any change in curriculum to warrant rejection.

“If you have operated a company like I have, in any case, lawsuits come,” said Munns. “To deny a license because of a few of those, I think is wrong.”

Among the alumni and students who spoke out against the acquisition was Madeline J. Trilling, 26, who had graduated from the Charleston School of Law eight days earlier.

Trilling said that the purchase of the Charleston School of Law by “Law-mart,” as the students refer to InfiLaw, would devalue her degree and hurt her ability to secure employment.

Trilling said she and the rest of the alumni are concerned that employers will now associate her degree with sub-par bar pass rates and performance as a result of what she referred to as a hostile takeover.

The commission, which licenses nonpublic postsecondary institutions within the state, will consider the committee’s recommendation when it votes on June 5.

The sale also requires the approval of the American Bar Association.

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