Charleston School of Law’s big win

Students enter the law library building on the first day of classes at the Charleston School of Law Monday August 18, 2014. (Grace Beahm/File)

Lawyers have to handle some tough cases. They have to persevere even when the odds are slim that their clients will prevail.

So the last two rocky years at the Charleston School of Law might prove ironically helpful to students, who have seen their alma mater dig in against what many faculty members, alumni and even Mayor Joe Riley were convinced was a toxic takeover of the school by InfiLaw, a Florida-based for-profit system of law schools.

Last week, the law school announced that Georgetown lawyer Ed Bell will take over as president and managing partner of the law school. InfiLaw is out of the picture.

The contractual details have not all been released, but alumni and the school’s administration say they are delighted that Mr. Bell intends to pursue the school’s original goal of preparing lawyers to direct their practices “for the good of the people.”

He is committed to making the School of Law a nonprofit school as soon as it is possible to do so. Doing that will encourage people and businesses to give tax-deductible scholarship money to the school, allowing students to avoid accruing such heavy debt loads.

Mr. Bell also will continue the law school’s partnership with the College of Charleston to offer a dual MBA/JD degree program, and will put his energy behind ensuring that students receive excellent instruction.

There might still be jurisprudence lessons to learn from the school’s situation. It is unclear what will happen in breach of contract lawsuits filed against the school by two professors who were among seven laid off in May, and another lawsuit filed recently by two current employees claiming the school threatened the faculty into supporting the InfiLaw transaction.

Mr. Bell is known as a very skilled lawyer. Perhaps he can find a way to make those lawsuits go away, along with InfiLaw.

Watching Mr. Bell’s next moves on behalf of the School of Law — including moving the school from for-profit to non-profit will be educational in themselves.

The Charleston School of Law, founded in 2003, has played a productive role in the legal community and the community at large. As the region works to attract high-tech industry and jobs, it is important to have successful institutions of higher education.

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The school began with five founders. Former judge and College of Charleston president Alex Sanders and former USC School of Law associate dean Ralph McCullough left in 2013 with retirement pay loaned to the college by InfiLaw. Ed Westbrook, one of the school’s largest financial supporters who opposed the InfiLaw deal, decided to donate his interest in the school to charity and resign as a director.

Robert Carr and George Kosko, the main proponents for selling to InfiLaw, remain as co-owners. They have said they welcome Mr. Bell (who will be paid $1 a year) and the financial support, vision and stability that he will provide the school.

Former dean and former president Andy Abrams said he is “absolutely ecstatic” over Mr. Bell’s decision. Local attorney John Robinson, who is president of the school’s alumni board, called the new managing partner a “white knight” who will put the school back on track.

The community, too, should be pleased and relieved to know that this commendable institution now has another opportunity to remain so.

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