Charlotte Law forced to close

With no access to federal student loans, no teach-out plan, and no license, Charlotte School of Law has been forced to close its doors.

Students and alumni first received notice from Lee Robertson, president of the law school’s alumni association, on Tuesday Aug. 15. After a conversation with the Interim Dean Paul Meggett, Robertson learned that the American Bar Association denied the Charlotte Law’s teach out plan, and the North Carolina Board of Governors declined to grant an extension of the law school’s license to operate.  The law school took down its website the night before.

“It appears that there is no path forward,” Robertson wrote. “Our law school, it seems, is closing, effective immediately.”

The American Bar Association placed Charlotte Law on probation in October 2016. In December, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Charlotte Law would lose federal financial aid after finding that the law school made substantial misrepresentations to students about its compliance with ABA accreditation standards. 

Initially, the ABA required Charlotte Law to create a teach-out plan to ensure students would be treated fairly while the school wound down operations. But Charlotte Law managed to maintain federal funding and remain open, causing the ABA to defer the teach-out plan.

This summer, the North Carolina Board of Governors, which handles state authorization and licensing, concluded that Charlotte Law was not in compliance with state standards regarding financial resources, planning or stability. As a condition to its state license, the UNC Board of Governors required Charlotte Law to submit an ABA-approved plan to improve the law school’s performance no later than Aug. 10.

Charlotte Law submitted proposed plans to the ABA, but approval of the plan did not come in time to meet the UNC Board of Governors deadline. With an expired operating license, Charlotte Law was no longer eligible to receive federal financial aide disbursements.

There were approximately 100 law students who were intending to return to Charlotte Law this fall to resume their legal education. Now, those students will need to transfer to other law schools. With classes starting at the end of this month, many may not be able to transfer in time.

“This is distressing news, especially for the students who were preparing to return to campus in two weeks,’ Robertson told the Charlotte Observer. “It’s very scary news for our faculty, who were relying on their jobs to support their families.

“For our alumni, this news is extremely frustrating. The value of our degrees — and out professional reputations — depend in large part on how our colleagues, and the public, perceive us. It is tremendously disappointing that our alumni will likely now have to explain that their law school is closed.”

Students received a second email from President Chidi Ogene and Meggett later Tuesday night. The email did not mention that the law school was closing, but stated that the school’s leadership wanted to clarify and supplement the different reports concerning the status of the law school.

“Discussions between school leadership and the Alumni Association President were not intended for general distribution to the Alumni Association or any other outlet and were not representative of all information,” the email stated.

According to the email, the UNC Licensure Unit decided that Charlotte Law had not met one of the conditions for continued licensure. The law school received a letter notifying them that the UNC Board of Governors declined the law school’s request for an emergency meeting to extend the deadlines set by the UNC Board of Governors’ prior decision.

As of now, Charlotte Law cannot perform “post-secondary degree activity.” To ensure that Charlotte Law does not inadvertently run afoul of state law, the law school’s website was taken down to “avoid any perception that [Charlotte Law] may be engaged in unauthorized conduct.”

Charlotte Law may continue to assist students in other ways, according to the email. For example, the law school may continue to confer degrees and post course credit to student records for students who complete degree requirements and coursework before Aug. 11. Charlotte Law can also continue to undertake non-degree related activities, such as processing transcripts and providing career-counseling services.