Charleston School of Law founder and board member Edward Westbrook says there are at least three options for the future of the school that would be better than selling to the for-profit InfiLaw System.
Westbrook presented the details of those options in a letter last week to retired U.S. magistrate judges George C. Kosko and Robert S. Carr, the other two remaining founders and board members. The alternatives include the school:
Paying Kosko and Carr a portion of the value of their shares, and remaining a limited liability corporation while the school stabilizes. Kosko and Carr could stay on as board members, but the school also would have respected members of the legal community join the board. Kosko and Carr could redeem the rest of their interests after things have calmed down.
Redeeming all of Kosko’s and Carr’s interests, just as it did for Alex Sanders and Ralph McCullough, the final two of the original five founders.
Exploring transferring ownership of the school to the College of Charleston. Westbrook said that if that option were selected, he would be willing to donate his entire one-third ownership interest to the college.
Leaders of the for-profit, 9-year-old law school announced in July that they had entered into a management services agreement with InfiLaw, which often is the first step in a sale. Then, they announced last month that a sale was in the works. Westbrook has said he was opposed to a sale to InfiLaw, but was outvoted by Kosko and Carr.
Many students, alumni and members of the local community have expressed outrage at the potential sale to InfiLaw, which they think could diminish the value of a Charleston School of Law degree. The company owns three other law schools, which many consider to be “diploma mills.”
Westbrook could not be reached for comment Monday. But in his letter to Kosko and Carr, he said. “The school has suffered since the InfiLaw process began, and I hope you will carefully consider whether something better can be done for everyone.”
In an email response to questions from the newspaper about his reaction to Westbrook’s letter, Kosko said, “The deadline for submission of alternative proposals that are well thought out, comprehensive, financially viable and demonstrate a serious interest in an acquisition is Oct. 1. It would be premature for us to comment on any potential proposals before the expiration date.”
Westbrook also sent a letter Monday to the state’s Commission on Higher Education asking to group to waive for 90 days any prohibition against law school and College of Charleston leaders discussing a possible merger. The law school’s license prohibits it from pursuing such a merger with the college. But in his letter, Westbrook said the college has expressed interest in ownership of the law school.
College of Charleston spokesman Mike Robertson said President George Benson and Board of Trustees Chairman Greg Padgett were not available for comment Monday.
Daniel Cooper, president of the Charleston school’s Student Bar Association, said he and many students would like more information about InfiLaw and other options. “I hope we can at least have a discussion,” he said.
John Robinson, president of the school’s Alumni Board, said his group was thrilled that options besides a sale to InfiLaw could be possible. And they appreciate Westbrook pushing for a discussion. “We concur with him that there might be better options for the school,” he said.
The Commission on Higher Education and the American Bar Association must approve the sale of the law school The commission will discuss the matter at a meeting Thursday.
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.