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Charleston Law School Sale: An Alumni Perspective

By Kyle M. Hobbs and Carson C. Murray || As is well known, last summer the founders of the Charleston School of Law (CSOL) announced their intention to sell itself to InfiLaw. As the media often notes, this announcement created opposition among some alumni and students. What has gone unnoticed…

By Kyle M. Hobbs and Carson C. Murray || As is well known, last summer the founders of the Charleston School of Law (CSOL) announced their intention to sell itself to InfiLaw. As the media often notes, this announcement created opposition among some alumni and students. What has gone unnoticed is that there is also strong alumni support.

Change can create anxiety and breed speculation about the future, which is what seems to be driving the concern about the pending sale.

As lawyers we use facts to counter uncertainty and anxiety. So what are the facts and why do they point to a bright future for the Charleston School of Law?

If not for the vision of the Founders for a second law school in South Carolina, many of us would not have had the opportunity to earn a law degree and build a practice, which in turn would have deprived the state of talented legal advocates who are in positions of leadership across the state. You can also see the impact of CSOL on upper King Street, an area noticeably improved since CSOL moved in, which has meant financial growth for the City of Charleston.

This has created a feeling of ownership and fondness for our school that is so strong that some are fighting to preserve the past against the prospect of change. But we cannot hold back the future, just as those who originally opposed CSOL could not keep the future at bay.

But just as the Founders were visionaries and risk takers in their time, the future calls for new vision and risk taking because the legal profession is changing and so must legal education. As much as we love our school, it would be a mistake to think that it can continue with limited resources. CSOL must be prepared to educate lawyers for tomorrow or surely it will not flourish or perhaps even survive in the future.

Fortunately there is an alternative to the status quo. Through its ownership of three ABA accredited law schools, InfiLaw has developed the knowledge, experience and resources to help CSOL thrive. We know this because we work with several InfiLaw alumni and they are upstanding and knowledgeable attorneys. InfiLaw will also continue to increase the focus on recruiting a diverse student body to enrich the state with fresh perspectives and experiences. They will continue to provide many South Carolinians a chance to attend law school when the only other option is to go out of the state. In essence, InfiLaw will continue CSOL’s mission and maintain its culture while utilizing its vast resources and experience to grow the school into a more successful institution.

Most of us chose CSOL because we wanted to serve our community as lawyers and CSOL promised to give us the education to fulfill that dream. We knew the school was new and understood the amount of debt we would incur. We knew it was a difficult job market. And we should have known that the five founders could not own the school forever. But what some have forgotten is that the most important thing about CSOL is its students and alumni.

Under InfiLaw, we will be the same lawyers we are today. And will be proud graduates of a thriving law school rather than one that struggles to provide the technology and clinical-based education that is required today. We will still serve our clients to the best of our abilities and we will still love our profession. While we understand that this change has caused concern among some we must focus on using our legal training to improve our communities, not tearing down our alma mater. While we respect and understand the position of our peers in their uncertainty about the future, we urge all fellow alumni to dedicate our ideas and energy to supporting CSOL and InfiLaw in their efforts to make our law school better and ready for the 21st century practice of law.

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Kyle Hobbs and Carson C. Murray are alumni of the Charleston School of Law and attorneys practicing in South Carolina

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24 comments

tomstickler May 13, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Go ahead, pull the other one.

At the present time, anyone entering any for-profit law school needs to assess the employment success of that school’s recent graduates before they “invest” upwards of $100,000 in their education (which we hope will be adequate to prevent such howlers as “announced their intention to sell itself to InfiLaw.”)

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TontoBubbaGoldstein May 13, 2014 at 8:07 pm

As lawyers we use facts to counter uncertainty and anxiety. So what are the facts and why do they point to a bright future for the Charleston School of Law?

If not for the vision of the Founders for a second law school in South Carolina, many of us would not have had the opportunity to earn a law degree and build a practice, which in turn would have deprived the state of talented legal advocates who are in positions of leadership across the state.

*Sprays Sam Adam’s Cold Snap on keyboard*

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Hee Haw! May 13, 2014 at 8:47 pm

“Most of us chose CSOL because we wanted to serve our community as
lawyers and CSOL promised to give us the education to fulfill that
dream.”

LMAO! So much funny in one short sentence, I can’t take it.

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Jackie Chiles May 13, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Yeah, they wanted to serve their community so much, they paid an extra $20k per year for the privilege!

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Norma Scok May 14, 2014 at 8:47 am

Anyone who wants to be a lawyer has a hand problem. They look at their hands and they are empty, and they want them filled with money.
Some lawyers are honest about why they became lawyers–its the money, stupid.

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Jackie Chiles May 13, 2014 at 9:52 pm

And with Infinilaw’s help, hordes of future law graduates will further reduce the value of your degree and your employment prospects! Thanks Infinilaw!

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Amazeballs May 13, 2014 at 10:20 pm

There are so many problems with this, I don’t know where to start. Faulty assumptions, other fallacies. Who wrote it–Infilaw? Carr? Kosko? Gopelrud? Andy Brack? Don’t be delusional. CSOL didn’t have a resource problem. Four men were greedy. The one who isn’t doesn’t want to sell.

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Infilaw Stain May 13, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Congrats on the money, Kyle and Carson!!!!

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big_mo May 14, 2014 at 7:06 am

“Deprive” the state of more blood sucking lawyers?

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Fresh May 14, 2014 at 8:06 am

Indeed, the facts are obviously important. Unfortunately, scarcely any of your article contains fact, but rather is made up of terribly misguided, uninformed, and inaccurate opinion.

By my calculations, you gents graduated from CSoL in 2009-ish which would make you the third class to graduate. CSoL graduated its eighth class this past weekend, five years later, and clearly quite a bit has changed. As a member of the most recent graduating class, with a boots-on-the-ground perspective having lived through this past year at CSoL, here are a few thoughts that to (re)consider.

While CSoL was no Harvard, the institution was undeniably making forward-progress until the very moment the InfiLaw transaction took the wind out of all of our sails.

In 2011, CSoL was officially accredited by the ABA, which, until now, has had many positive effects including an improved national reputation, enhanced ability to draw and keep quality professors, and increased enrollment of high-caliber students.

During my time at CSoL, I’ve enjoyed casual lunch discussions with The Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (ret.), had the opportunity to learn from nationally recognized professors in a broad range of disciplines, and have gained a significant amount of practical, on the job experience. I’ve watched my classmates make a name for themselves on a national level, traveling all over the country to win competitions in trial advocacy and moot court hand over fist. They consistently outperform teams from Ivy League schools, and bring both team and individual awards in a variety of topic areas. As a technology guru I assure you despite your recollection, my class never suffered from a lack of modern conveniences, as our equipment was at least comparable to or better than that used by my colleagues at other law schools. I have no complaints about the facilities, except perhaps that the air conditioning is always on too high.

I’m sure CSoL has come a long way from five years ago.

While the article specifically, repeatedly, and close-mindedly claims that InfiLaw would confer numerous benefits on South Carolina, and how InfiLaw “will continue to provide many South Carolinians a chance to attend law school when the only other option is to go out of the state,” there is no factual basis for those claims. For example, to say that “[i]n essence, InfiLaw will continue CSOL’s mission and maintain its culture while utilizing its vast resources and experience to grow the school into a more successful institution,” is completely devoid of any factual basis. InfiLaw does not own a SINGLE school which has ‘culture’—going to Charlotte School of Law’s library is sterile and devoid of personality—the equivalent of going into a hospital. A mark of InfiLaw, which stands in stark contrast to the Sol Blatt Jr. Law Library, which has a history dating back the Antebellum years, where it served as a train station. What’s more, InfiLaw does not own a school more successful then our own. In fact, there are no facts in your article to back up your statements because there are no such facts that exist—any way you slice it, we lose in a deal with them. Money can only buy so much, and I’d rather sit on the floor in a classroom then accept the money off a corporation who profits from intentionally placing others in crippling debt, and then purporting to help them. At least we used to know who was pulling the strings.

I would expect you, two gentlemen who make it painfully clear that you have graduated from high school, college, and law school in South Carolina, to see the glaring reality that InfiLaw has no discernible ties to CSoL, Charleston, or South Carolina whatsoever. As a result, there is no basis for the sweeping statements regarding InfiLaw’s intent to preserve the ‘culture’ at CSoL, nor any incentive to spend any time or money doing so. Culture requires context and understanding, neither of which InfiLaw has. Like a broken record, we are repeatedly told that our culture will be preserved, and diversity will be increased, two statements made in an obvious attempt to pacify the masses.

Furthernore, your gentlemen are completely remiss in failing to mention the significant number of CSoL students and alum from out-of-state who, as the article does manage to point out in a pathetic attempt to find a silver lining, confer an economic benefit on upper King Street and Charleston, not to mention providing a boost to CSoL’s academic bottom-line. Your feelings about those from out-of-state are your own, but they are an alumni of CSoL every bit as much as yourselves. The completion of the sale of CSoL to InfiLaw does matter, especially to those of us who intend to move outside of South Carolina where job markets are more competitive and employers don’t know the back story behind the transaction. While in the Class of 2014, 63% of students were from the State of South Carolina [http://www.charlestonlaw.edu/Alumni/Alumni-Association-welcomes-new-members-of-the-Cla.aspx], in the Class of 2016, only 45% of the incoming class are in-state residents. [http://www.charlestonlaw.edu/Prospective-Students/Class-of-2016-Profile.aspx]. That 20% shift in the makeup of the incoming class—a mere two years later—serves as further proof that it’s not just about South Carolina anymore. The focus of this article exclusively on this state and its residents, students, and alumni, is both misguided and naive, as neither the majority of the incoming class, NOR the diploma-mill which you encourage us to support, have any connection to this state.

Many of us came to CSoL due to the promise of obtaining an excellent education, along with the unique opportunity to have an impact on the formation of CSoL as a younger school—to be in the 8th graduating class rather than the 180th, for example—and we certainly have made it our own! You’ll never hear me throwing a pity-party like this article, whining about the newness of the school, the debt, the job market, etc., because I’m a capable human, and I will be a great attorney. Through academic success and hard-work I have graduated with honors while working a significant amount throughout the week—and in the words of one of the greatest professors at CSoL just yesterday, “[t]he market always has room for talent.” While CSoL has made good on the education that was promised to me, future classes will not be so lucky if the deal goes through. While, yes, as you stated (the obvious) in the article, “we will be the same lawyers we are today,” those who come after us will no doubt suffer due to the repetitional harms our school is suffering—which result solely from the association with InfiLaw—and will continue to experience as a result of the the inevitable lowering of standards. Just as this issue is not only about South Carolina, it also involves more than just current alumni. The selfishness of the InfiLaw vision pervades every poorly-organized segment of this article.

Furthermore, while you are clearly entitled to your opinions as humans, alumni of CSoL, and as practicing attorneys, I would suggest to you that perhaps this website—which is notorious for trash-talking, rumor-mongering, and bullying CSoL just to get a reaction—was not the best forum for your message if y’all had actually hoped to “reach out” alumni and change minds about this vile transaction. At any rate, it is both shameful and dishonest to describe the alumni support for the sale as “strong”—and I defy you to prove me otherwise—but ironically, that description ultimately serves to undermine your credibility in the eyes of readers by the time they reach the end of the first paragraph. Not only was the content of this article selfish, ignorant, and a misrepresentation, but the forum chosen to convey the flawed message completely undermined your stated purpose by alienating alumni, and rendering your message dishonest before it even began.

I’m sure both of you who authored this piece are strong supporters of CSoL to this day. Despite the fact that neither of you are members of the Board of Alumni, unlike several your ’09 classmates, I’m sure that nonetheless, you’ve each made the effort to leave your locations in Florence and Greenville to journey to Charleston during this difficult time. You’ve probably attended several of the constant stream of Town Hall Meetings, CHE Public Hearings, ABA Fact-Finding Sessions, and numerous other battles that are being fought every single day.

Ha—let’s be honest. You haven’t done a single one of those things, because if you had, you would feel differently. You’d know what it feels like to fight for a school you love which now has a tarnished reputation. You’d have heard one of the Founders tell a 2L at a Town Hall that he didn’t even consider releasing news of the sale before the 2L transfer deadline because he had no idea when the deadline was—and frankly, he didn’t care. You would know what it’s like to fight for something you believe in, with an optimistic yet realistic belief that maybe it was possible. And what it is like to hear about another great professor leaving, or the all-too-familiar feeling when your stomach drops as you open the next in a stream of emails which fails to hold the answer we’ve all been working and hoping for. You would understand the feeling of being in a hostile takeover, gorilla warfare, so tense that it makes your skin crawl to even ride the elevator with Goplerud and his cronies.

But more—you would understand what it feels like to come together as a group of people who have been completely blindsided and disrespected, to fight for something, in a profession which rarely agrees on anything. You’d know the pride that comes from seeing your classmates fearlessly stand up and take the microphone at a Town Hall in order to ask the hard questions, or to challenge statistics regarding bar passage or attrition rates when they are presented as facts. To watch the InfiLaw leadership stutter and make excuses because they know they’ve been caught yet again by a student body who, hard as they may try, will not roll over and comply. You would understand the small victories in acts of defiance, and beam when faculty compliment the purple ribbons at graduation, a way to show them that we’re still here fighting the fight for something that money can’t buy—a concept that they can’t understand. The feeling of walking into a public hearing full of students, staff, alumni, and supporters, to show our steadfast belief that what we have at the Charleston School of Law is very special, and that we are so much more than another diploma-mill. I’ve never been so proud of my classmates and colleagues as I have been during this fight the past year—We’ve never given up, everyone has done what they can to assist, and has come together to stand for something we believe in. Our school means so much more to us now because we’ve had to fight for it.

Have some pride in yourself and your school. Do better.

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Norma Scok May 14, 2014 at 8:52 am

You win counselor, through attrition.
TL; DR.

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TontoBubbaGoldstein May 14, 2014 at 9:04 am

Seconded from TBG.

Made it about a third of the way through and thought, “This guy’s good.”

Then TBG’s ADHD kicked in and he started scrolling down to see how long it….

SQUIRREL!!!!

*Darts from keyboard*

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You suck May 14, 2014 at 11:02 am

TL; DR.

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Sam Adams 1772 May 14, 2014 at 8:12 am

Will that be fries with your degree. Can we super-size that order?

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Charleston School of Poop May 14, 2014 at 8:46 am

Lolz

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junior justice May 14, 2014 at 10:11 am

“the opportunity to earn a law degree and build a practice, which in turn would have deprived the state of talented legal advocates who are in positions of leadership across the state”
——————————
Now I know exactly what SC is lacking; thanks for bringing this to our attention.

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Graduate of a real law school May 14, 2014 at 10:24 am

Clueless, just clueless. They obviously aren’t afraid to be the butt of jokes or they wouldn’t have gone to CSOL in the first place.

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shouldvebeenaFlightAttendant May 14, 2014 at 10:47 am

Where, exactly, are these two practicing? They should really post their resumes. Let’s see how much success they have had with their CSoL degree…how much service to their communities they are provding…
–But that’s besides the point. I don’t know about the authors, but I could have gone to an Infilaw school instead of attending CSoL. I know that several of my classmates, myself included, received “scholarship” offers from these schools, along with a garbage DVD filled with idiots studying on a dock in Jacksonville, without even applying to the school. Apparently an LSAC account gets you a 35k scholarship that becomes nearly impossible to keep past 1L year.
Point is – CSoL was not our only choice. We chose it because of the character, the culture, the professors, and the underlying notion that the students could build the type of law school that suited them – when I first started we could start any organization, fundraiser, or program that we wanted – we had an impact on what that school was going to be come. And we saw great results.
Until now. If I wanted to go into debilitating debt for a school that advertises with pop up ads and crap dvd’s, I would have gone to Florida Coastal. Pretty sure Jacksonville is a bit cheaper to live in, and hell, Florida is chock full of criminals to “defend.”
We all took a huge risk. We trusted greedy, selfish, and careless individuals with our futures. I’m horrified by all of this, but not surprised. The good ol’ boys made their money, and the alumni get to pay it back, for the rest of our lives.
And to the authors: Did infilaw send you a free coozie for writing this? Shame on you.

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Jackie Chiles May 14, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Google them. They do not appear to have had much success.

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35TWW May 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm

I find this entire thing amusing. The idea that anybody went to CSL because they wanted to “do good” and “perform public service” is nuts. They went there for one reason: They couldn’t get into a mainline law school. I guarantee you that they would have snapped up a spot at USC had one been offered to them.

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CSOL May 14, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Carr was soliciting any student willing to publicly back the infilaw sale a few months back……looks like he was able to find 2 people! This should tell you all you need to know about this isolated perspective on the infilaw deal. This article was bought and paid for by the same founder(s) who should be ashamed of themselves for their complete lack of concern to the students they have taken advantage of over the years.
There is no way Mr. Hobbs or Mr. Murray actually believe the nonsense they posted, they should be embarrassed of how easily they caved to the request to back this sale. It is one thing to have a friend in a few retired once prominent figures in the legal community, but I highly doubt it is worth it to alienate yourselves from roughly 9 classes of CSOL alumni. Well played gentlemen, hope the kickback was worth it.

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Infilaw $$ At Work May 14, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Kyle Hobbs is a partner at Hobbes and Broome. His partner, Joel Broome, was arrested and charged with criminal sexual conduct in September 2013 so he is obviously a great judge of character, ethics, etc, etc. Read the story here: http://www.scnow.com/news/local/article_b466601c-278e-11e3-889b-001a4bcf6878.html

Additionally, Hobbs practices in Florence – no one who chooses to live in Florence can be taken seriously. Ever.

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Living in Infilaw's wake.... May 15, 2014 at 7:55 am

I graduated near the top of my class from Florida Coastal in 2008. Since that time, my life has become an almost unbearable free fall into financial calamity. I cannot get an average legal job because NO ONE will hire a graduate of Florida Coastal. I used to be above this sort of thing, but by now my resume is so full of lies made to hide my connection to FCSL that I sometime forget what the truth really was. I have kept in touch with five or six friends that I graduated with. FOUR of us have filed for bankruptcy. All of us live in a professional hell I would not wish upon my worst enemy. Don’t do it Charleston……

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Hmmmm May 17, 2014 at 11:38 am

Didn’t it take one of this article’s authors, Carson Murray, about 4 or 5 times to pass the Bar Exam?

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