Charleston School of Law alumni want answers on possible sale of school to InfiLaw System
Lawyers who graduated from Charleston School of Law are lawyering up.
If you go
What: Charleston School of Law Alumni Board’s town hall meeting
When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St.
Who: Alumni, students or others concerned about the law school’s future
The school’s Alumni Board has hired Charleston lawyer Peter Wilborn to represent the group as it struggles to learn more about the school’s possible sale to InfiLaw System, a for-profit company that owns three other law schools.
Charleston School of Law leaders late last month announced that they had entered into a management services agreement with InfiLaw; such arrangements sometimes are the first step in a sale.
Since then, law school leaders and InfiLaw representatives have refused to answer questions about whether a sale is in the works.
John Robinson, president of the Alumni Board, said the group will hold a town hall meeting Tuesday at the Charleston Music Hall. He had hoped law school leaders would attend to address graduates’ fears that a sale to InfiLaw would diminish the value of their degrees.
Robert Carr, one of the school’s founders and a member of its board, said in an email to alumni that he would not attend the meeting. “I want you to know that while there has been some talk of an alumni town meeting on Tuesday, August 6, 2013, at this busy time, we cannot bring all of the pieces together to provide the satisfying meeting you deserve,” Carr stated in the email.
“It troubles us because we would like information,” Robinson said. People are asking Alumni Board members questions, he said, but they can’t answer them because they are not getting information from law school leaders.
He wants to see a copy of the agreement between the law school and InfiLaw, he said, so he will have a clearer picture on the future direction of the school. “We want to know more about the nuts and bolts of this sale.”
Law school spokesman Andy Brack said the agreement between the law school and InfiLaw is private and he cannot release a copy of it.
Wilborn, a graduate of Tufts University and the University of Michigan Law School, said alumni need to see the agreement. “What are they hiding?” he said.
Wilborn works for the Derfner, Altman & Wilborn law firm. In recent years he has focused on cases of serious injury, civil rights and labor law. Armand Derfner, a well-known civil rights lawyer, is a faculty member at the Charleston School of Law.
Wilborn said the Charleston School of Law was launched and promoted to students as a school that was centered in the community and had a public-service mission. Many students enrolled because the founders of the school had strong ties to the legal community in South Carolina, he said. And that’s important when it comes to students landing jobs, he said.
“To get a job in this market, it’s all about reputation and networking,” he said. “A legal diploma without the other stuff is not worth the tuition.”
Wilborn said he’s not weighing in on the quality of InfiLaw schools. But changing the Charleston school’s community focus now would be “a massive slap in the face and a massive step backward,” he said.
“This law school was set up to be something different,” Wilborn said. “The legal community embraced that vision. Now that vision isn’t being realized.”
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.