If you haven’t been following along, InfiLaw, proprietors of Florida Coastal School of Law, Charlotte School of Law, and Phoenix School of Law (scratch that — Arizona Summit Law School, because even the University of Phoenix would be offended at the implication that it was affiliated), embarked on an effort last year to purchase the flagging Charleston Law School.
Don’t get too excited. Unlike Congress, dying in committee does not necessarily end InfiLaw’s efforts to add Charleston to its growing empire of “law schools.” Rather, the 3-1 vote of the Committee on Academic Affairs and Licensing opposing the sale will merely be taken into consideration by the full Commission when it makes a final vote — expected in early June. Still, this is the first indication that the powers-that-be have concerns about the takeover, and it may be a telling preview of the final vote.
A majority of the committee agreed with Natasha Hanna, a Myrtle Beach attorney who serves on the commission, that lawsuits against two of the company’s schools could pose problems for the entity down the road.
Faculty members at the company’s school in Arizona sued InfiLaw for breach of contract and defrauding students. Its school in Florida was sued for misrepresenting claims about its students’ success and job placement.
InfiLaw labels those allegations “baseless,” which is also what many people think of its positive job placement representations. Given that neither lawsuit has (yet) gone against InfiLaw, its representatives argued that neither should stop the sale. Given that the committee has “academic affairs” in its title, one would think the lawsuits wouldn’t be the only concern. There was, for example, Florida Coastal’s much-rumored dismissal of a candidate for the position of dean simply because he or she suggested that the cellar-dwelling ranked school had room for improvement. Or the fact that the post-graduate success figures at issue in the one lawsuit are entirely self-reported and unverified.
Matt Kelly, a 28-year-old second-year law student, took trips to two of the company’s schools at its behest and delivered a report on what he found. Kelly has helped rally the opposition to the sale and was in Columbia on Monday.
“It felt like big business, not a law school,” he said of his experience. Kelly said that InfiLaw’s statistics are self-reported and he plans to ask the higher education commission to order a third-party audit to ensure post-graduation job rates, among other numbers, are accurate.
Good luck getting a third-party audit when that would become Exhibit #1 in the ongoing suit!
While Charleston’s fate is undecided, one of the school’s founders offered his hope for the school if the InfiLaw sale is barred:
[Ed] Westbrook said an alternative future is possible for the law school. He told the commission that he’s willing to continue the school without his co-founders.
“I put up the money to start the school. If the school had failed, it would have been my financial loss. That would have been fine,” Westbrook said. “I was willing; I am willing to continue financially to back the school, and — if the license is not granted, or the ABA does not approve it, or InfiLaw decides it doesn’t want the school — to carry on with the school with a reconstituted board with community leaders and with support from the community to carry on the way we started, as a community-based law school for the students and not for the founders.”
Westbrook’s offer might annoy his co-founders looking to cash out and retire, but it’s nice to see there’s a Plan B for Charleston Law. Even if that Plan B is just going back to being the unranked law school it was before.
South Carolina committee rejects InfiLaw purchase of Charleston School of Law [The Post and Courier (Charleston)]
Law school founder offers alternative to InfiLaw [Charleston Regional Business Journal]
I Bet You Thought Going To Charleston Law Was Already Rock Bottom
Phoenix Law School Changes Name, Hopes That Stupid People Can’t Google
School Threatens To Call Security When Dean Candidate Suggests It’s A Crappy Law School