Law school takes next step in pursuit of nonprofit status

Charleston School of Law has taken the first step towards becoming a nonprofit school. It is currently the last independent, ABA-approved for-profit law school in the United States.

Last week, the Law School filed an application with the American Bar Association seeking acquiescence in the conversion from for-profit to not-for-profit status. The American Bar Association’s Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is the national accrediting agency for law school programs leading to the Juris Doctor degree. A Juris Doctor from an ABA-approved law school in turn qualifies a graduate to sit for the bar exam in any state.

If the ABA acquiesces in the change, the Law School will then seek approval from the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education and the United States Department of Education. Acquiescence is not guaranteed, and there is no timetable for the ABA’s decision.

Conversion to nonprofit status will involve the current owners of the Law School donating the school to an existing nonprofit, the Charleston School of Law Foundation, Inc. The owners, including President J. Edward Bell III, have pledged not to take any money from the transaction. Instead, they will be donating the Law School in its entirety to the Foundation.

Larry Cunningham, the Law School’s Provost and Dean, said, “There are many benefits to students, faculty, alumni, and the community of a nonprofit law school in Charleston. We are excited about this possible next step in the Law School’s history and are ready to work with the regulatory agencies to achieve this important conversion to being a nonprofit school.”

Cunningham noted that a nonprofit school will be able to engage in robust fundraising, which can lead to increased support for student scholarships and a capital campaign for a new building on the Charleston peninsula.

Charleston School of Law is stronger than ever. Interest in the Law School is high, with a 38% increase in applications in the last five years. This heightened interest has allowed the Law School to be more selective, leading to significant increases in the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores and undergraduate grade point averages of new students. The Law School has established seven clinics in which law students work with organizations to gain practical skills while serving low-income populations in the greater community. This is in addition to the hundreds of externship placements that are available each year. Charleston School of Law has had record high bar passage and graduate employment rates. It also recently completed the construction of a new, modern, state-of-the-art library and student center.

“Becoming a nonprofit entity has been a key priority for the Law School since I joined the School in 2015,” said J. Edward Bell III, a prominent South Carolina attorney who also serves as the Law School’s President. “We look forward to the ABA’s decision on our application.”


The Charleston School of Law is an ABA-accredited law school nationally recognized for its student-centric culture. Our faculty and staff are committed to preparing you for success both in the classroom and in the legal profession.

  • The Princeton Review ranks Charleston School of Law professors sixth in the country for faculty accessibility and No. 12 nationwide in quality of teaching (2022)
  • Charleston School of Law faculty ranked among the top of The Princeton Review’s list of Best Professors in the nation (2016-2018)
  • Experiential Learning: Charleston School of Law students have access to more than 150 externship sites, creating opportunities for experiential learning in the legal field.
  • Community Service: Charleston School of Law students have performed more than 241,000 community service hours (2004-current).
  • Students have won the National Tax Moot Court Championship for seven consecutive years (2012-2018)