National Jurist - March 2007 - 27
S tephanie Noble thought hard before she traded her native California for the Windy City, transferring from UC Davis King Hall School of Law to the University of Chicago Law School. After hours of research, some doubts and a healthy exchange of e-mail and telephone calls with administrators at her new law school, she felt transferring made sense personally and professionally. “It was a very difficult decision to leave,” said Noble, who was drawn to Chicago Law because of the focus on economics. “I don’t think it’s for everyone. There are days when it’s hard — I miss the friendships I made during that first year. But Chicago has made it very easy to fit in.” In the end, transferring was the right choice for Noble, who is now in her second year. But if you’re thinking about ditching your law school in favor of another, there are pros and cons to weigh. The good news is that transferring is not as difficult as it used to be. It might be OK to relocate to another law school. Traavyestarted the transfer process as soon as he could, l planning Del ne knowing Dayton was not where he really wanted to be. Both of the schools he wanted to attend in Chicago told him he could send in his application as early as spring, after his firstterm grades were out. “I submitted everything by March and actually received a conditional acceptance from Illinois [pending] my secondterm grades in early May,” Delaney said. “It gave me far more time to prepare for my move to Urbana-Champaign. I also feel it helped my application get the time it deserved in review and reflected that I was serious about transferring.” Starting early is important. The application process for a transfer is almost as arduous as the initial law school application. And it costs money again, so that’s something to consider as well. The most important part of a transfer student’s application is the transcript, admissions and financial aid advisors say. Most schools ask for a transcript of first-year grades, as well as a letter of recommendation from a professor who can describe a student’s classroom performance. “The main thing we look for is how they performed,” said Sharon Pinkney, director of admissions at UC Davis, Noble’s old school. UC Davis has one of the smallest transfer classes — typically six to eight students come to Davis after first year. But Pinkney said the law school appreciates transfers, and that they bring a different kind of diversity to the classroom because of their experience at another law school. But do transfers appreciate their new law schools? After the time and money it takes to apply, students who are accepted for a switch might have some harsh surprises. At some schools, transfers may not be eligible for career-building extracurriculars like moot court or law review. They may find they’re no longer eligible for the same scholarships and grants they had before. Or a transfer may have trouble registering for full classes. And some schools have a residency requirement, so if they make a transfer decision until too late, they may end up having to stay for an extra semester or even a whole year. It can also be hard to make friends or find a study group. Transfers are joining an already established class of students who have survived the first year together, so their new faces stand out from the crowd. “It takes a special kind of person to jump into that and make a place for themselves,” said Susan Krinsky, associate Traadinisga up way to spend three years of your L w school tough life, and if you’re not living where you want to be, it can be even harder. Moving closer to friends, family or spouses for emotional and financial support is one reason students choose to transfer. Others have family issues arise, such as illness or death, that require them to change locations. Still others transfer for more calculated reasons. Collin Delaney moved from the University of Dayton School of Law, in Ohio, to the University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign. Now a 2L, he made the move to boost his chances of finding a job in Chicago, where he hopes to settle after graduation. “A rather unknown, tier-four school in Ohio isn’t the best place to launch a career in a city that has six law schools — two in the top 14,” said Delaney. “I knew Illinois had a sterling reputation and would open far more doors for me down the road.” Delaney didn’t get in to any of those six Chicago schools when he first applied to law school, so a transfer after first year was his only hope, assuming his grades held up. That’s a reason for a lot of transfers: students who didn’t make the cut at their first-choice school often go to a second-choice school and work hard to get good grades. After they prove they’ve got what it takes to do well in law school, their firstchoice school may make room for them. March 2007 THE NATIONAL JURIST 27
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