Charleston School of Law has already received 250 applications for fall
2004—for a first year class of 125, says John S. Benfield, assistant dean for
admissions. Still early in the admissions process, the school is sprinting for
provisional American Bar Association accreditation, including recruitment of new
faculty, development of a legal library and funding for financial aid students.
should accreditation elude them, the consequences for the students could be
serious—and seriously expensive.
Sanders, former president of the
school received conditional licensing from the state Commission on Higher
Education in September 2003. The next step, according to Sanders, is enrolling
students and working toward American Bar Association accreditation.
school will have its first classes in the fall of 2004, and then apply for
Gershon is the new dean of the law school, and was part of the final
accreditation process at
took Texas Wesleyan four years to get provisional accreditation and five more
years to achieve full approval, according to Gershon. Texas Wesleyan was started
as Dallas Fort Worth School of Law, Gershon says, on a wing and a prayer. “We
joke that there were three guys who wanted to start a law school in the worst
possible way, and that’s what they did. At the beginning they didn’t
understand what goes on in an
the founders of the law school in
the pieces in place
of the founders’ first tasks is to develop a strong law library and attract
top faculty. Over three years, the school expects to have 20 faculty members and
has already selected six professors for the first year. Two slots in criminal
and contract law remain to be filled this year. “So far, our teachers are very
excited about the potential of being part of building a new school,” Gershon
school has acquired the former Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce building on
much like building a bridge while driving on it, the new administration must
achieve accreditation, or the end of the road will come to an abrupt drop. “If
students graduate from a non-accredited school, they will not be able to sit the
Bar exam,” says Benfield. “Students are taking a bit of a risk because we
cannot guarantee any entering student that we will have it.”
American Bar Association prohibits any law school from saying it’s going to be
accredited. “We have disclaimers on everything we send out, and we are doing
everything that we know of to achieve that in time for the first class to
graduate in the fall,” adds Benfield.
he has faith in the mission of the school and in the experience of its founders.
“If you look at who’s involved and what they’re doing to get
accreditation, I think that people will achieve some comfort level. The students
are excited about being part of creating a new law school and about being the
Benfield himself left a tenured position is a mark of his good faith in the
project. “I was at USC for 13 years as dean of admissions. If I didn’t think
this place would have the accreditation, I wouldn’t have left. The faculty is
taking a risk just like the students.”
G. McC. Moïse covers law for the Business Journal. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.