The Charleston community prides itself on local sustainability, encouraging its citizens to buy from and support local merchants.
Why shouldn’t these principles extend to higher education as well?
The Charleston School of Law (CSOL) community has been in a tailspin since the board’s decision to enter into a management agreement with Infilaw, a company about which there are many questions. Efforts by the school’s founders and representatives of Infilaw have done little to ease the concerns, causing both alumni and current students to seek options to regain its credibility and momentum. One possibility exists in the effort to merge the College of Charleston and CSOL.
There is much to be gained from a merger between these two schools.
It will preserve the legacy of a law school that — while only 10 years old — is beginning to create a strong alumni network dedicated to making this a successful and reputable institution which will strengthen the community that surrounds it.
Further, it would end CSOL’s “for profit” model, a term that has continuously stigmatized the school and detracted many from regarding it as a serious law school option.
A merger would solidify the law school as an institution dedicated to serving the Charleston community. Students are required to perform 30 hours of pro bono service before graduation.
The school partners with local organizations, including Crisis Ministries and Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services, and CSOL student organizations annually organize fundraisers that donate thousands of dollars to local charities.
A partnership with the College of Charleston would not only maintain these endeavors but substantially create a larger scale of opportunity to donate money and services to people in need in the Charleston community.
This merger would also strengthen the reputation of the College of Charleston while offering the benefits of additional graduate study opportunities.
With the influx of companies relocating to South Carolina and the transformation of Charleston into a hub of technology startups, the graduates of College of Charleston/CSOL will be ready to provide the wide range of services “Silicon Harbor” will need to flourish and strengthen the economy in the Lowcountry, continuing the “buy local” mentality Charleston aspires to.
CSOL prides itself on training and preparing its students for the new era of law practice.
It understands that clients today want quality legal work performed on a cost-effective basis, and lawyers need to be “practice ready” upon graduation.
This topic is discussed at top law schools across the country, and CSOL has adopted it as part of its strategic plan.
The school continues to implement initiatives that prepare its students for real world practice while also learning core legal fundamentals.
The Charleston School of Law is poised to take important strides that would serve as a model for legal education in America, and a merger would bring it one step closer.
The CSOL community does not deserve to see its efforts to make a sustainable institution wasted because three men are looking to cash out.
This school needs to keep its promise to its students and the community — to create greater lawyers for the greater good — not to generate profits for a corporation that has no personal investment in South Carolina.
I urge the leaders at College of Charleston, the Commission on Higher Education and the S.C. Legislature to make this merger happen.
Let’s make the right decision for the law school and for Charleston.
Elizabeth F. Fulton, an attorney, is a 2012 graduate of the Charleston School of Law, where she served as president of the Student Bar Association.