After months of research, the state's Commission on Higher Education will decide Thursday whether to grant InfiLaw System a license to operate the Charleston School of Law.
Law school owners in July announced that they had entered into a management services agreement with the private, for-profit company, which owns three other law schools. They subsequently announced that a sale was in the works.
But before the sale can move forward, InfiLaw must obtain a license to operate in South Carolina.
Many people with connections to the school are strongly opposed to a sale to InfiLaw including: students, some faculty members, legal professionals and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. They have said that a sale to InfiLaw, which owns three other law schools, could diminish the value of a Charleston School of Law degree because InfiLaw schools are considered by some to be "diploma mills."
The commission's Academic Affairs and Licensing committee will take up the issue at 9 a.m. The full body will vote on it during its meeting, which begins at 10:30 a.m.
InfiLaw spokeswoman Kathy Heldman said the company is committed to bringing the Charleston school into the InfiLaw consortium, and the upcoming commission meeting is an important step in that process. "We think the Charleston School of Law is a great school that shares the values and goals of the InfiLaw schools," she said.
She also said that InfiLaw has resources and best practices to share, and the Charleston school has much to share in return. "We are looking forward to the upcoming meeting," she said.
The full commission doesn't often vote on a matter the same day it is taken up by a committee, said Julie Carullo, the group's deputy director. But it will in this case. "We're doing that in the interest of students, so they can make plans."
Commission staffers have been reviewing InfiLaw's application for months, Carullo said. And they will make a recommendation to the licensing committee on whether they think it should be approved.
But it remains unclear what their recommendation will be.
The agendas for both the licensing committee and full commission meetings are posted on the group's website but no supporting documents for the InfiLaw decision are included.
Carullo said commission staffers are still gathering information, but they will post their report, including their recommendation on whether to grant the license, at least 24 hours before the start of the meeting.
The commission usually follows the staff's recommendations, she said. But there have been instances where they have made changes to them, or deferred decisions based on them.
Andy Abrams, Charleston School of Law's president and dean, said he is not involved in the licensing process. That falls to InfiLaw.
But, Abrams said, InfiLaw also needs approval from the American Bar Association "to allow the transfer of the law school's ownership."
He is involved in that approval process, which also is in the works, he said. No date has been set for that decision, but it could come as early as the summer or fall.
"We're hoping for an early determination" from both the commission and the ABA, he said. "Everyone would like an answer sooner rather than later."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.
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