Charleston School Law gradually should be converted to a nonprofit institution instead of being turned over to an out-of-state corporation, such as InfiLaw System, says Edward Westbrook, one of the school’s founders and a member of its three-person board.
Leaders of the for-profit, nine-year-old law school announced late last month that they had entered into a management services agreement with InfiLaw, which sometimes is the first step in a sale, but they since have refused to answer most questions about the agreement or the future of the school.
Their silence has caused an uproar among alumni, students and others in the local legal community who think a sale to InfiLaw, which owns three other for-profit law schools, could diminish the value of a Charleston School of Law degree.
In a letter on the Opinion page of Tuesday’s Post and Courier, Westbrook said he was opposed to entering into the agreement with InfiLaw, but was outvoted by retired U.S. magistrate judges George C. Kosko and Robert S. Carr, the other two members of the board.
Kosko and Carr “now effectively control the school through their two-person majority,” Westbrook stated in his letter.
Members of the school’s Alumni Board said they greatly appreciated Westbrook’s statement, and they hoped it would help convince the other board members to consider other options.
Westbrook, Kosko and Carr did not return calls for comment Monday.
“If my view had held sway,” Westbrook wrote, “CSOL would have remained in local hands with the possibility of eventual conversion to a nonprofit institution.”
He also said the process of entering into the agreement should have been more transparent because it impacts students and alumni.
Westbrook said his disagreement with other board members was not specific to InfiLaw but to the concept of selling to a large corporate interest. Others have raised questions about the reputations of InfiLaw’s schools, with some even calling them “diploma mills.”
Although Charleston School of Law is a for-profit school, students and alumni have said it is different than InfiLaw schools because it has local roots, offers connections to the South Carolina legal community and has a public service mission.
John Robinson, president of the school’s Alumni Board, said he appreciated Westbrook’s candor. “We want to help find better options for the school if they will let us do that,” he said.
Brittany Boykin, the Alumni Board’s vice president, called Westbrook’s letter refreshing. There has been a great deal of talk about the school by many groups since the board made the announcement about InfiLaw, she said. But there have been few answers to critical questions.
Kosko and Carr met with some members of the Alumni Board last week, she said, but they continued to refuse to answer questions. “We left feeling the same as we did when we walked in,” she said.
She’s feeling more hopeful after she learned about Westbrook’s letter, she said. “It’s a somewhat different tune than we’ve heard all along, that InfiLaw was the only option,” she said. “Perhaps there are alternatives and we can explore those.”
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.