I have listened over the past six and a half months as many individuals whom I deeply respect have expressed, often strongly and sometimes persuasively, their views and preferences regarding the future ownership, structure and operation of the Charleston School of Law. As is my custom, I have taken the time to conduct my own due diligence and to study the issue in depth. And, as I told our community earlier this week, I have concluded that the acquisition by InfiLaw is by far the best option to secure the future of the school that many of us have come to love.
Legal education is at a crossroads today. Law firms and other employers are demanding that new graduates be able to hit the ground running when they begin work. It is not like the old days where new graduates learned practical skills on the job. And graduates who are "practice-ready" will be attractive to employers in a highly competitive market.
InfiLaw has a strong track record of providing practice ready education, as each of its schools offers multiple clinics and a wide variety of externships. Legal clinics give students real-world experience, but also provide a benefit to the community as they represent clients who might otherwise be unrepresented. Clinics are expensive to operate, which is one reason we have not offered any at Charleston School of Law.
As the owner of three ABA-accredited laws schools, InfiLaw has the resources to enable us to offer a more practice ready curriculum, enhance our technology and improve our facilities. I met with InfiLaw's CEO to have a candid conversation about our future. And I came away firmly convinced of his passion and commitment to do all within his power to ensure a bright future for our law school.
But as important as financial support might be, I also wanted to ensure that we would have a good cultural fit. Having been a part of the law school since its founding, and having spent nearly three decades as a professor and senior administrator in higher education here in Charleston, I love Charleston and the Charleston School of Law - its people, its values, and its mission to have a positive impact on the lives of individuals and communities. As members of my team and I met with our counterparts at InfiLaw, we were struck by how similar our schools actually are and by InfiLaw's consistent, strong and compelling commitment to employ their resources and collective energies to make a difference in the lives of students and communities that they serve.
My visits to two InfiLaw schools confirmed that, above all else, they are student-centric and have a passionate commitment to students, which has always been the hallmark of the Charleston School of Law. Like us, they regard the success of their students as their highest priority. The positive, open relationship between their students and the faculty and staff is readily apparent in the classroom and out and is immediately identified by everyone as the best part of their respective institutions.
As importantly for our law school, InfiLaw schools are not cookie-cutter replicas of one another. Each has its own distinctive feel, and the curriculum and programs have been developed by the schools themselves, playing to their own particular strengths, opportunities, and interests, rather than being imposed from on high. The schools regularly discuss their common issues and challenges and share their best practices and ideas, but ultimately the running of the school is the responsibility of each individual institution. InfilLaw recognizes that the personal-touch, student-centered, collegial culture that has been the centerpiece of the Charleston School of Law must remain at the core of our institution, because it is in many ways both our most important as well as our most distinctive asset.
It has been a challenging and emotional time for all of us who care deeply about the Charleston School of Law, but now it is time to move forward. I have asked members of the law school community and will soon also be reaching out to the local and state legal communities to work with me to help shape our future under new ownership. We continue to control our destiny and now have a partner who can help our vision become a reality.
Andrew L. Abrams is president and dean of the Charleston School of Law (www.CharlestonLaw.edu).
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