Charleston School of Law enters into management services agreement; is sale next?

Charleston School of Law on Meeting Street is shown in this 2009 file photo.

The Charleston School of Law has entered into a management services agreement with InfiLaw System, an arrangement that sometimes can be the first step in a sale.

InfiLaw currently owns three other law schools: Charlotte School of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law and Phoenix School of Law.

The Charleston School of Law on Thursday evening released a statement about the plan, about which speculation had been swirling all day in the local legal community.

But the release did not describe what the law school’s future might look like, and spokesman Andy Brack said he could not elaborate due to regulatory reasons.

According to the release, the “alliance” with InfiLaw would give the school “access to pioneering programs and tools that will help it continue to provide students with excellence in teaching, strong faculty relationships, as well as opportunities for public service and community involvement.” Alex Sanders, one of the founders of the school, said that as of two days ago he no longer is chairman of the board, a member of its board or a co-owner of the school.

He doesn’t know specifically what is happening there or whether the school ultimately will be sold. But, he said, “to sell a law school is a complicated thing. It could take months or years. It’s not like selling a loaf of bread.”

Talk of the school possibly being sold sent new students into a tailspin Thursday, said Kelly Barnes, who had planned to start school there next month.

Barnes is moving to Charleston from Daytona Beach, Fla., today to attend the school. “I’m on pins and needles,” she said after hearing that the school might be sold.

She liked the school when she came for an interview. “They stressed that they were a smaller school that helped students,” she said. “I got a good feeling.”

Her final decision to attend was sealed when the school, with about 600 students, offered her a $10,000 scholarship. Tuition for the 2013-14 school year is about $38,000.

First-year students have a closed-group, interactive page on Facebook, she said, and all day Thursday students were expressing alarm at the possibility of the school being sold, and expressing anger at the school for not giving them more information and not disclosing to them that a sale could be pending. “This didn’t happen overnight,” she said.

Barnes is married and has two children. “Moving to Charleston is a huge deal to us.”

She’s not yet sure what her next steps will be, or if she ultimately will follow through with her plan to attend the school.

The law school had become an important part of downtown Charleston since it opened in 2004, and even has been mentioned in discussions on being part of a larger, public research university in Charleston.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and other higher-education and community leaders held discussions in the spring about merging the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina to form a more comprehensive research university in the city. Including the Charleston School of Law in that merger came up during those discussions, but law school leaders said at the time that they were not part of those talks.

Post and Courier reporter Schuyler Kropf contributed to this report.

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