Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Following up on my previous posts (links below): Potential Sale of Law School Raises Debate Over Who Should Profit, by Steven M. Davidoff (Ohio State):
The notion of legal education is colliding with the profit motive in Charleston, S.C., where “for profit” and “private equity” are being tossed around as dirty words in the fight against the acquisition of a regional law school.
The battle centers on the proposed acquisition of the Charleston Law School by the InfiLaw System, which runs three for-profit law schools and is owned by the private equity firm Sterling Partners. Opponents are skeptical of InfiLaw’s for-profit business model. The irony is that the law school’s current owners have taken out more than $25 million in profits over the last few years without protest. It all may just boil down to snobbery and who should be allowed to attend law school.
InfiLaw will not be Harvard, but for those who go in with open eyes, it may be a path to being a lawyer. The point is really to make sure that students know the costs and benefits before they matriculate so they can make a sound judgment about whether to attend. In other words, if InfiLaw or Charleston cannot provide an education that helps students obtain jobs, then presumably students will know and not attend. That is really what legal education these days is about at the regional law schools — perhaps they should just acknowledge that they can’t be Harvard and provide students the training they need.
The full commission is meeting on the InfiLaw petition on Thursday. Instead of arguing about who will profit from them, Charleston’s students may instead want to ask who will give South Carolina’s residents the best opportunity to succeed as lawyers at an acceptable price. It’s probably something that would work well for all law schools these days.
Prior TaxProf Blog posts:
- Charleston Law School Signs Management Agreement With InfiLaw. Is Sale Next? (July 27, 2013)
- Charleston Law School Agrees to Buyout by InfiLaw, but Solicits Other Offers (Aug. 28, 2013)
- ABA-Accredited Law School Listed for Sale on Craigslist (Sept. 10, 2013)
- Charleston Law School Faculty Oppose Sale to InfiLaw (May 15, 2014)
- South Carolina Committee Rejects InfiLaw Purchase of Charleston Law School (May 20, 2014)
- Charleston Law School Founders Withdrew $25 Million in Profits, Leaving School in Precarious Financial Condition (May 25, 2014)
- Charleston Law School Founder Opposes InfiLaw's Proposed Acquisition, Offers to Donate His 1/3 Interest to Create Nonprofit Law School (May 30, 2014)
(Hat Tip: Mike Talbert.)
Update #1: Dan Filler (Drexel) reports that the South Carolina Attorney General's office has issued an advisory opinion stating that the Commission of Higher Education lacks the authority to deny the proposed acquisition for reasons outside of the statutory criteria.
Update #2: Steven J. Harper (Northwestern) criticizes Davidoff's article in The Battle for Charleston: "Why should anyone profit at all when non-dischargeable student loans are the source of those profits?"