Hundreds of Charleston School of Law students and alumni attended a town hall meeting on the school’s possible sale to InfiLaw System, hoping for some answers about its future.
But after the Tuesday night meeting at the Charleston Music Hall, many said all they got were vague responses at the gathering, which was often hostile and combative.
Leaders of the private law school called for the meeting, which included presentations by law school and InfiLaw representatives.
The law school released a statement last week stating it had entered into a management services agreement with InfiLaw, a group that owns three other for-profit law schools. Such arrangements sometimes are the first step in a sale. But law school leaders continue to refuse to respond to questions on whether the school will be sold.
Gabe Hogan, who will graduate from the law school in December, said he was very disappointed in the meeting. He’s from Fort Worth, Texas, and chose Charleston School of Law because it was “local and organic, not corporate.”
The school is taking a step backward, he said. “It will lose the support of the legal community because of this.”
Jonathan Miles, who will begin his third year of law school in August, said InfiLaw representatives danced around the questions. “I feel betrayed and lied to,” Miles said.
Peter Goplerud, president of InfiLaw Management Solutions, also would not answer direct questions about whether the group intended to buy the school.
He said the management services agreement was “an opportunity to provide resources and advice to Charleston School of Law.
Goplerud also said a law school can’t change control without the approval of the American Bar Association, and that changes in control of the school also would require approval from the state’s Commission on Higher Education.
Goplerud, who has been dean at several public and private law schools, including a 9-year stint at InfiLaw’s Florida Coastal School of Law, said the Charleston School of Law would remain the same this year. The school would honor scholarship commitments and retain its core values.
He said he was aware students are concerned about a change in culture at the school but he doesn’t think that will happen.
Goplerud said InfiLaw schools promote a focus on students, “serving the underserved,” and providing a strong level of professional preparation, and that InfiLaw schools’ core values are consistent with those of the Charleston School of Law.
Goplerud said he’s aware that students have contacted Dean Andy Abrams to discuss transferring to other schools.
Kathleen Chewning, president of the school’s alumni association, attended the meeting but said she still has a lot of unanswered questions. InfiLaw’s answers to students’ questions at the meeting were “not very clear and not very direct,” she said.
She’s not sure whether the association’s board will decide to take any action about the sale. The group will meet soon to discuss the matter, she said. But last week, the general response from alumni was to explore ways to block the sale.
Matt Pegler, who was planning to begin classes at Charleston School of Law next month, said he’s had second thoughts. He likes and respects Abrams, but he didn’t think InfiLaw adequately addressed students’ questions. He reached out to the University of South Carolina School of Law, to which he also had been accepted, when he learned about the possible sale to InfiLaw. USC reviewed his file, he said, and told him he could enroll.
He’s now making his final decision on where he will attend law school next month. “I’m going to sleep on it.”
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.