Opinion: Charleston School of Law deserves better than InfiLaw
In their Dec. 14 op-ed, "InfiLaw is the right fit for Charleston School of Law," Robert Carr and George Kosko, two of the three law school owners, claim that InfiLaw schools are comparable to the Charleston School of Law, and that there were no alternative buyers for the law school. The actual operating results of CSOL and the three InfiLaw schools (Florida Coastal, Phoenix and Charlotte) tell a quite different story.
The American Bar Association report on percentages of 2012 graduates who were able to obtain full-time, long-term jobs requiring a law degree shows the following: Charleston School of Law, 54 percent; Florida Coastal, 36 percent; Phoenix, 44 percent; and Charlotte, 38 percent.
Additionally, each of the InfiLaw schools admitted students with lower GPAs and LSAT scores than CSOL, and all had a higher acceptance rate than CSOL. (Phoenix School of Law accepted 73 percent of those who applied in 2012.)
Not surprisingly, the class size at schools owned by InfiLaw is typically more than double the class size at CSOL. Florida Coastal recently ranked at the bottom of the U.S. News and World Report list of which schools result in the best return for the investment. Florida Coastal also appeared on a list of law schools most likely to yank merit-based scholarships.
A particularly worrisome aspect of Florida Coastal's record is its failure to achieve promised results. An article titled, "Law school has high hopes for sale," in the Florida Times-Union of Sept. 6, 2003, noted that InfiLaw envisioned moving the law school "to among the nation's best law schools."
At that time, representatives for InfiLaw stated: "If the school is going to get beyond the founding stage, it's going to need new owners."
Based on recent rankings, InfiLaw has not accomplished this goal.
Upon the announcement that InfiLaw had entered into a management agreement with CSOL, 32 students transferred from Charleston Law to other schools. The opinion of the CSOL students hasn't changed. A student poll conducted between Oct. 21 and Nov. 2, 2013 (in which 65 percent of students participated) showed that 96 percent of them oppose a sale of CSOL to InfiLaw, and 82 percent are considering transferring if the sale goes through.
A letter from current CSOL student leaders - including the president of the Student Bar Association and editors-in-chief of three student publications - was sent to the S.C. Commission on Higher Education on September 10, 2013. The students wrote that, "A sense of betrayal, mistrust, and disappointment now permeates our campus."
Former Judges Carr and Kosko claim that a sale to InfiLaw is the only practical alternative for the law school to survive and thrive. They have not outlined why the alternatives proposed by the third director, Ed Westbrook (which were outlined in his letter to the editor the Sept. 30 Post and Courier), are inadequate.
Why are Carr and Kosko unwilling to allow their ownership shares to be redeemed, as was done for Alex Sanders and Ralph McCullough, and then allow replacement board members to be selected from the local legal community?
While selling to InfiLaw is likely the most profitable option for the two CSOL directors pursuing that option, it is not in the best interests of the thousands of graduates of the CSOL, and current and future students, and indeed the state of South Carolina.
Megan Hunt Dell, a 2010 graduate of the Charleston School of Law, is the owner of Dell Family Law in Charleston.