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Having transferred from a “no-tier” law school to a second tier school, I am fully aware of the benefits and difficulties of the process. Chris Clayton, writing recently for law.com, hesitated to recommend transferring to law students. I believe, in contrast, that the choice is clear-cut. The focus of most law students should be to learn the law, and possibly attain sufficient marketable qualities before graduating. Both goals can entirely be achieved by the attending the proper schools. Of course, learning and understanding the law can be achieved even without attending a law school. Just ask criminals who have been arrested whether they’ll ever consent to a search again. But this brings up the old argument of quality of education. The “proper schools” have money, status, and some of the top legal minds in the business. Practically speaking, a student attending such a school is given every opportunity to KNOW the law inside and out, and do so from the likes of Miller, Siegel, and Tribe (for those of you who don’t recognize the names, they’re amongst the finest of professors). A student from the lowest tier schools usually gets taught by a former associate, possibly even a freshmen attorney. From whom would you prefer to learn? I have learned that the law is a matter of perception. Sometimes, the government, society, or litigants have problems. They settle these difficulties using words (also known as lawsuits). A professor who has had experience in seeing these difficulties from all sides will be better able to explain the process to students. The style of presentation, for all intents and purposes, is dependent on the subject matter, and the ability of the student to absorb that material. A professor who communicates the current lesson in light of his or her experience will undoubtedly provide a better education than one who has never filed a derivative action against a corporation, for example. So, to give you a short answer about the quality of schools, you do receive a richer legal education from the highest-ranked schools, but that is not to say that you can’t achieve the same in lower-ranked schools. It just usually takes a little more work. When considering a transfer, I believe you must thoroughly scrutinize the type of education for which you are looking. For example, I transferred from an ABA provisionally accredited school to New York Law School (an over 100-year-old law school in Manhattan). My professors at NYLS were seasoned associates and partners in some of the most prominent law firms in the world. For me, the choice was obvious. I entered law school intending to transfer. I worked diligently to be ranked in the top 20% of my first-year class; class ranking is usually of primary importance to admissions officers. And, after my first year, I looked into which schools would suit my needs. Luckily, my application to NYLS was accepted. So, why go through all this? Unfortunately, our legal hiring system, at almost every rank, seeks to maximize the quality of its offerings to the firm’s clients. One of those offerings is the quality of schools the law firm’s associates attend. No one can deny that a client will be more impressed with an attorney graduating from Harvard, Georgetown, or Cornell over Chapman, D.C. Law School, or other such schools, all of which are fine institutions. Often times, law firms summarily dismiss lower-ranked schools from the hiring process. I, myself, was summarily rejected from a major law firm because they confused the name of my second-tier law school with that of a first-tier school. Believing I was graduating from the first-tier school, the firm invited me for an interview. When they learned of their mistake, the interview was cancelled without warning, and no apology was made. Although I’m bitter about the ordeal, it helped me realize definitively that the school you attend is of great importance to a hiring law firm. After all, these firms invest time and money in everyone they hire, and provide you with their own reputation when you become a practitioner. Some major law firms even go so far as to offer to pay the new hire’s bar study costs, living expenses, and extended vacations after taking the bar. Ahh, big firm life. In exchange, you work 70-100 hours per week, and are required to dedicate your life to your job. I have a friend who was working on a merger deal at 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, 1999. I believe he calculated his hourly pay at about $90 per hour (with overtime). He has his own private practice now. Conversely, graduates who decide to go into sole practice, or even to smaller law firms, are given greater opportunity. This is because most smaller firms attempt to maximize profits and take on more work. Never forget, you’re working in a business; whether it’s a small or big firm, it’s still supposed to be a money-making business. A new hire must get up to speed quickly, and be able “make things happen”. Smaller firms provide a more flexible atmosphere with closer working relationships. I should note that this type of experience usually affords a new lawyer a better opportunity to generate higher incomes with less work. The point being that there is a definite trade-off whichever kind of working life you decide to pursue. If you’re focusing on the richness of your education rather than simply on your career possibilities, you have other things to consider when you think about transferring. There is a common misperception that the quality of legal education is dependent mostly on the school attended. We all learn the same basic thing, and because of technological advances we all have access to the same quality of materials. But a talented professor goes a long way in helping a student understand the material. The real test, as most law school graduates will learn, is the bar exam. I’m sure studies have confirmed that there is a definite correlation between the quality of education and admission to practice. I still tend to believe that it entirely falls on the law student’s efforts. If your professor isn’t giving you what you need, then demand it, or get it somewhere else. This can be a primary motive for transferring. I found my first school insufficient for my purposes. This is not to say that some of my professors weren’t talented; they were! I only point out that some lower-ranked schools often have limited resources — including limitations on the number of professors who have experience in certain specialty areas, or who are able to effectively convey the course subject matter. Transferring is an enormous ordeal. It involves the risk that your studies will be interrupted, mal-adjustment to the new environment, and a myriad of personal dilemmas. But a successful transition is extremely rewarding. If nothing else, successful transferees are afforded an opportunity at “cross-education,” and will be able to compare the teaching methods of several schools. This might give the successful transferee a competitive advantage because of the breadth of education received. And, if the student transfers in order to study with professors who excel in specific areas of the law, the transferee may concretely show a hiring partner his or her commitment to excelling in that practice area. Still, the talent of a freshmen attorney is determined by his character, not his school. This, I’m sure, can be verified by a quick review of the successful trial and transactional attorneys in various jurisdictions. Accomplishing a transfer to a higher-ranked school can provide an initial clue to the character of the potential new hire. And an attorney’s character (or reputation) is key. It brings you work, gets you hired, and helps you cope with your client’s problems. If your resum� contains elements pointing to favorable characteristics (i.e. a successful track record), then your future may be bright. But keep at it because the work just begins after law school. Successful top-tier students have proven their stamina. Now, it is up to the law firms, or you, as a sole practitioner, to exploit your talents. So, if you’re considering transferring, and you qualify, then why not try? All you have to lose is a few dollars � And to help motivate you, I leave you with a statement made to me by the hiring partner of a major New York City Firm: “We don’t even look at [the] number one [ranked student from certain lower tiered schools].” Good luck to those of you that try. Joseph M. Kar is a business and legal consultant based in Los Angeles, Calif.. He transferred to New York Law School where he attained his Juris Doctorate degree.

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