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Are InfiLaw’s for-profit law schools succeeding? Plan to buy fourth school spurs concerns

Posted Oct 22, 2013 5:44 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Clarified: A group created by a private equity fund now owns three private law schools, but its planned acquisition of a fourth law school has spurred objections from alumni and faculty.

The group is InfiLaw, created in 2004 with the backing of Chicago-based private-equity fund Sterling Partners, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. InfiLaw owns the Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, the Phoenix School of Law in Arizona, and the Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina. Tuition and fees are about $40,000 at each school.

The schools target students who don’t qualify for the top schools and emphasize hands-on learning. “Some in the academy think InfiLaw is compounding the problems in legal education, which is graduating far more students than there are entry-level jobs for lawyers,” the story says. “Others think criticisms of InfiLaw are based on elitism embedded within the legal academy, and that it could increasingly play the role of white knight for law schools seeking a deep-pocketed investor or buyout partner.”

Florida Coastal and Charlotte are among the nation’s larger law schools, with enrollments above 1,200 students. But their fluctuating bar passage rates have often fallen below state averages, and job placement is also a challenge, the story says.

InfiLaw had planned to buy a fourth school, the Charleston School of Law in South Carolina, but the sale has been delayed, for the moment, amid concerns raised by faculty and alumni, the Wall Street Journal reported. Many feared InfiLaw would be less discriminating in admissions, resulting in a diminished reputation for the school.

InfiLaw has said it has a binding agreement to buy the school, but it is allowing discussions with other would-be suitors, the Post and Courier reported last week.

An InfiLaw spokesman tells the ABA Journal that it's incorrect to say the sale has been delayed since InfiLaw is pursuing its application for a license with the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. The spokesman quotes Peter Goplerud, president of InfiLaw Management Solutions, an InfiLaw subsidiary, who says the license application process "is moving forward with no delay."

The Charleston City Paper also covered the controversy.

Clarified at 2:15 p.m. to include InfiLaw statement that the contract has not been delayed. The headline and lede were also changed to remove reference to delay.

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