Sterling buys Florida for-profit law school

Sterling Capital Partners is backing the nationwide expansion of Florida Coastal School of Law, a for-profit law school.

The school is one of only two for-profit law schools in the US to have received full accreditation from the American Bar Association.


According to news reports, Sterling Capital, a private equity firm based in Baltimore and Chicago, has declined to disclose the value of the transaction.


Florida Coastal, based in Jacksonville offers a range of legal courses, including academic preparation for the Florida Bar examination, which certifies people to practice law in the state.


Sterling Capital plans on moving the school’s campus to a larger facility in downtown Jacksonville, Florida. The firm also plans on opening related campuses in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Phoenix, Arizona, as well as additional future campuses, according to news reports.


Florida Coastal is co-owned by its chancellor, Don Lively. The company was founded by a group of investors in 1996 with a $1.5 million (€1.2 million) investment. The school’s initial attempt to gain accreditation failed, according to reports. “Mainstream lawyers thought it was a joke,” Lively told the Florida Times-Union.


Florida Coastal students pass the state bar exam at a rate of 75.8 percent, similar to the state average, according to reports.


Other US private equity firms have lately seen success in the for-profit education space as adults flock to training and education programs with the hopes of advancing their careers. Last year, New York-based Leeds Weld, in partnership with JW Childs Associates, realized a five-times gain with the sale of medical and veterinary school operator Ross University to DeVry.


Similarly, New York-based New Mountain Capital's 2001 investment in publicly traded Strayer Education has proven a big success.


Sterling Capital, which also manages a related venture fund, was founded in 1983. Its most recent transaction was the acquisition of a US printing and packaging services division of UK-based retailer GUS.