The Charleston School of Law will soon join the InfiLaw consortium of for-profit law schools.
The owners of the law school announced Wednesday that they have reached a preliminary agreement to sell to The InfiLaw System, which is owned by a private equity firm and operates the Charlotte School of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law and Phoenix School of Law. The parties did not disclose the sale price.
The ownership transfer was not unexpected. The two entities announced in late July that they had reached an agreement under which InfiLaw would assume management of the law school, which sparked speculation about an eventual sale.
“We made this decision because a majority of the founders had expressed a desire to pull back and retire,” Robert Carr and George Kosko, two of the five local attorneys who founded the for-profit school in 2003, said in a joint statement. “As a result, the transaction is part of a necessary succession plan that ensures that the Charleston School of Law will be viable and thrive over the long term.”
The sale is not a done deal. Carr and Kosko have told faculty and students that they would consider alternative offers and even went as far as to direct offers to their lawyer at Nexen Pruett. (This led to the creation of a satirical Craigslist ad touting one law school for sale, complete with off-street parking and a student body that “has been used.”)
Additionally, the ownership transfer will have to pass muster with both the American Bar Association and the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. That process is expected to take months.
Many students and alumni were unhappy to learn that InfiLaw would take over management of the law school. Students who attended a question-and-answer session about the sale Wednesday worried the school would become a “diploma mill,” according to a report by The Post and Courier in Charleston. One student complained of receiving only “PR lines” when asking questions about the school’s future, the newspaper reported.
The InfiLaw announcement last month also prompted some state lawmakers to call for the public College of Charleston to take over the law school. However, Carr and Kosko said that no public colleges or universities have approached them about a purchase. Even the private institutions they contacted weren’t interested, they said.
It’s not terribly surprising that a law school—particularly one unranked by U.S. News & World Report—isn’t a hot property right now. The number of applicants to ABA-accredited law schools has declined by 34 percent since their 2010 peak. The tight legal job market for new graduates and high tuition have turned off many would-be law students. A growing number of law schools, including the InfiLaw-owned Florida Coastal, have shed staff or faculty to adjust to shrinking class sizes and tuition revenue.
For now, however, control of the Charleston School of Law remains with the original owners.
“We want everyone to understand that until a transition to new ownership is complete, the director will continue to own and operate the schools,” Carr said. InfiLaw will provide consulting services to the school until the deal closes, but “won’t make any operational decisions.”