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Charlotte without a Law School
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Charlotte School of Law closed

Summary: With the permanent closure of Charlotte School of Law, the city will be without a law school for the foreseeable future.

This year has been a tough one for law schools. After missing deadlines set in place for the school to remain open, Charlotte School of Law has been forced to close their doors permanently, making them the second accredited law school to close this year. Whittier Law School announced it was closing after its current students graduate.

  
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Charlotte Law never made a formal closing notice. Their website simply disappeared and no other actions to save the school or its students were made. A confirmation from North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein was the only real signal that the school was done.

As of fall 2016, the law school had 700 students enrolled. Between 2010 and 2016, the school received $337.1 million in federal student loans. The students’ loans went towards tuition and living expenses. Those students that were recently enrolled as students at the school are entitled to complete loan forgiveness. Stein contacted education secretary Betsy DeVos. He said, “I urged her to declare that exceptional circumstances exist with this closure – a move that would expand loan forgiveness rights to all the students who left Charlotte School of Law during or after the 2016 fall semester.”

Currently, students who withdrew from the last in the last 120 days are entitled to having their debt discharged. For students who withdrew over 120 days ago, they are not yet eligible. This is what Stein hopes can change to give these students a break.

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Critics of the law school argue that InfiLaw dragged its feet in closing, repeatedly pushing back the closing date in order to lower the student loan discharge amounts they would have to pay. Students were not informed of the school officially closing by the school. Alumni had to hear it from the president of the alumni association in an email and then word got out from them.

With the law school closed, Charlotte has no other law school in a city of over 842,000. With what may appear as a great opportunity to open up their own law school to serve the city, UNC Charlotte declares they have no plan to open one. Chancellor Phil Dubois said they will not open one because “There is simply no employment market at the moment for students who have earned the J.D. degree.”



Nancy Roberson, executive director of the Mecklenburg County Bar Association said, “I just don’t know of a lot of interest now in another law school in Charlotte. It’s expensive, really expensive (to start one). A new school has to prove itself and we already have some excellent law schools in North Carolina. Going through the process in an ‘up’ market, that’s hard. Doing it during a soft market, that’s really difficult.”

Jay Perry of Perry Placement Inc. said, “The market for graduates is still not good. It’s still not good at all. Demand is shrinking. There are more law schools going to go under. Thank goodness Phil Dubois and the other people at UNCC are wise enough to say, ‘We don’t need one.’”

The job market for law students is still weak. There are over 200 law students spitting out tens of thousands of graduates each year. The American Bar Association reports that around 37,000 students graduated from law school last year. Less than 62 percent of them found full-time work requiring a law license. There are fewer jobs to fill so law firms are able to be more selective on the associates they pick up.

The only thing UNC – Charlotte is considering is a partnership with UNC-Chapel Hill to start a graduate-level degree in legal studies. The focus would be on government or human resources workers in highly regulated institutions like financial services, energy, and healthcare. Even then, this possibility won’t be in the near future.

Do you think UNC – Charlotte is making the right choice by not opening their own law school? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about Charlotte School of Law and their recent issues, read these articles:

Photo: flickr.com



 

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