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New co-owner plans to change Charleston School of Law to nonprofit

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By Ashley Heffernan
aheffernan@scbiznews.com
Published Oct. 28, 2015

The Charleston School of Law has a new owner and will become a nonprofit in the near future, essentially ending any possibility that The InfiLaw System will purchase the school.

Attorney J. Edward Bell, founding partner of Bell Legal Group, in Georgetown, said in a phone interview today that he paid an undisclosed price to become one of three co-owners of the school along with Robert Carr and George Kosko.

Ed BellBell

Bell said he will be inaugurated as president of the school on Thursday and will be managing partner of Charleston School of Law LLC, which owns the for-profit institution.

“I think that we have crossroads in our lives that we never anticipate,” Bell said. “I would have never guessed six months ago that I’d be doing this.”

Bell said one of the first things he’ll do as president is change the school to a nonprofit institution. He could not provide a timeline for when the change would occur because he said he’ll need to research tax issues and regulatory requirements.

“We’ll start working on that, and as soon as we can, we’ll be able to do it,” he said, adding he wants to build a permanent campus in downtown Charleston.

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Bell said the original owners had a “great vision” for the school, but mistakes were made along the way that “everybody recognizes.” Carr and Kosko, the only two remaining original owners, have previously said they want to retire from the school.

“That’s why they were anxious and willing to make me the manager of the company and president of the law school. They do want to step back,” Bell said.

He also said any interaction with InfiLaw, a for-profit consortium that operates the Charlotte School of Law, the Florida Coastal School of Law and the Arizona Summit Law School, is now over.

“InfiLaw and Charleston School of Law are gone. They’re out. They’re not part of this school, and I can’t imagine they will be a part of it at all,” Bell said.

Dean Andy Abrams sent an email to students earlier today to introduce Bell as the new president.

Abrams described Bell as “one of the most outstanding trial attorneys in our state, region and nation.”

“He has spent the past three decades using the law to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and communities and, undoubtedly, he will make an equally profound impact on our law school,” Abrams said in the email. “His arrival at this pivotal time in our history signals what will assuredly now be a bright and exciting future for the Charleston School of Law.”

The school’s most recent leader, interim president Joseph Harbaugh, stayed at the school less than four months. He submitted his letter of resignation in late August and told the school’s owners he would try to remain in the position until Oct. 1. It’s unclear when he officially stepped down.

Former Charleston School of Law President Maryann Jones resigned from the position in November after only eight days on the job. Prior to Jones, Andy Abrams served as the school’s president from May 2013 to November 2014. He remains dean of the school.

Reach staff writer Ashley Heffernan at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyBHeff on Twitter.

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