A 43,000-square-foot building on Jacksonville’s Southside now sits empty after Florida Coastal School of Law — once considered a respected, up-and-coming Jacksonville law school — closed its doors for good at the end of the 2021 spring semester.
The school had been declining in enrollment over the previous decade, and former students who spoke to News4JAX said their law careers took a hit because of it. ...
In 2021, regulators from the American Bar Association found the school failed to meet federal standards which are meant to protect student loan borrowers from taking on debt, for a challenge they might not be ready for.
David Frakt, a veteran attorney and law professor, noticed issues with FCSL’s admissions in 2014 when he was being considered to take over as dean at the institution.
“Those standards require that a law school not admit any student who does not appear capable of completing a J.D. program and passing the bar because, unlike many degrees, you can’t go out and practice law unless you pass the bar exam,” Frakt said. “The [FCSL] reputation was as a school that was churning out a lot of graduates, that had grown very quickly, but that they had a pretty solid educational program, but as I started to delve into the numbers, in preparation for my discussion as a potential dean, I started to be concerned, looking over the previous two or three years of the quality of the students that they were admitting.”
In April 2014, Frakt made his pitch for the dean position, but didn’t hold back his concerns.
The presentation he gave school leadership was titled: “FCSL: A Law School in Crisis.”
In his presentation, Frakt listed a host of troubling signs including fewer graduates passing the bar exam, fewer graduates getting jobs, fewer students applying to the school and students at the top of their class transferring to other schools.
The school was also lowing the application standards to allow more students in. ... In Frakt’s presentation, he showed school leaders that for the previous six years, the school was accepting higher and higher risk students.
“That was a big red flag because that sets off a vicious cycle, those students are going to struggle to pass the bar, the bar pass rate will decline,” Frakt told News4JAX. “That makes prospective students wary about coming to that school, it gets harder to attract good students, and so you end up where you have fewer students applying.”
Frakt told FCSL leadership that if he would be brought in as dean, he would recommend scaling the school back, letting some staff go, and reducing admissions to meet the reduced demand.
His presentation was not well received.
“Not only did I not get the job, I didn’t even get to finish my presentation because the president came in and asked me to leave and claimed that I was insulting the school. ...