Charleston law school suitor gets thumbs up

04/30/2014 8:50 PM

04/30/2014 8:52 PM

The Florida law school operator that wants to buy the private Charleston School of Law got a boost Wednesday when the staff of the state agency that regulates higher education recommended granting a license to the potential new owner.

The thumbs up came a day before the S.C. Commission of Higher Education plans to vote on whether to grant a license to InfiLaw, which operates three other schools.

The company has an agreement to buy the Charleston school from its founders, retired judges and attorneys. Obtaining the license is a key part of the deal.

The staff report, released Wednesday, said a review found that InfiLaw met the academic, facilities, financial and reputation standards set forth in state regulations.

The sale of the private school has been opposed by some students, graduates and Charleston officials who have decried the for-profit InfiLaw as a diploma mill.

InfiLaw already works as a management consultant for the Charleston School of Law, which opened in 2004 and received American Bar Association accreditation in 2011. The school has more than 500 full- and part-time students.

In a statement, InfiLaw said it was pleased to get staff regulatory approval, but “it is not the final step, and we look forward to what we expect to be a full and robust discussion of the recommendation at the upcoming (Commission on Higher Education) meeting. ... We continue to believe the addition of the Charleston School of Law ... is in the best interest of InfiLaw and Charleston.”

The state has one other law school at the University of South Carolina, which has more than 600 students.

Critics of the Charleston law school sale think either USC or College of Charleston, both public universities, should run the Charleston school, instead of a private company. However, the charter founding the Charleston School of Law barred its subsequent merger into a publicly supported school.

The USC system could operate a second law school if state regulators think South Carolina needs that, USC spokesman Wes Hickman said.

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