Monday, April 6, 2009

Are Law Schools Overreacting to the Annual Exodus of Students?

With spring semester drawing to a rapid close, law students across the country are contemplating transferring. There are plenty of reasons to transfer, and it is an option many students consider. The increased popularity of transferring has brought with it a corresponding increase in incoming transfer classes, along with vigorous efforts to successfully integrate incoming transfers into the existing law school class.

But it has also brought about some less-than-welcoming reactions from schools unwilling to lose their students to the transfer process. A few weeks ago, Above the Law reported that Loyola (L.A.) Law School was barring potential transfers from participating in the school's on campus interview program. We've heard rumblings of similar tactics being used at other schools--the apparent goal being to convince students to stay put. As a tipster who transferred from Brooklyn Law School tells it, for example, the "efforts" began shortly after requesting a transcript even though the school was never expressly apprised of any transfer plans:
They told me . . . they would mail all my OCI firms saying that I would not be interviewing there any more and wouldn't tell them where I transferred. They also threatened me with the writing competition and my moot court saying that they may not be able to hold a spot for me as long as I'm transferring.
The (threatened) adverse consequences extended far beyond the short-term, however. According to our tipster, Brooklyn Law School's administration used an additional ploy that they have since made good on:
They specifically told me they will not let any professor give me a letter of recommendation for clerkships, [pursuant to] school policy [and] used this as a threat to get me not to transfer.
Our tipster's story has been confirmed by other former Brooklyn Law School students. I attempted to contact Brooklyn Law School to inquire as to whether the policy our tipster described remains in effect, and will update this posting later in the day should I hear back.

While I cannot fault schools for calculatedly choosing to devote school resources to students who continue to be paying customers, I have to wonder whether such tactics are truly necessary. Are law schools overreacting to the problems posed by increased transfer admissions?

------

UPDATE (Apr. 7, 4:30 PM): I have posted an update to this story here.

70 comments:

  1. Students considering deposit deadlines should pay heed to which schools need to coerce their students to stay.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree with Brooklyn's conduct...students want to milk schools for all their worth, and then take resources away from their own students, while taking the "prestige" of a better school all at the same time...Brooklyn needs to protect itself

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't think Jeff's point is entirely irrational (for a change), but these are paying customers, even if only for one year.

    Putting these kinds of restrictions on students bothers me.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I disagree with Jeff. These schools have savvy people at the helm, and their incredibly pricy. Basically, it's a business transaction, and transferring is a part of that transaction -- with costs and benefits to all parties.

    If a school wants to keep more of its transfer students, it should consider how it spreads out its scholarship money. I know that can be a powerful incentive, especially given the upheaval in the legal market.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I transferred from Brooklyn Law School last year and had a remarkably different experience. I spoke with several faculty members who offered guidance (and it wasn't "stay at BLS no matter what"), and at no point did the administration come in the way of my transferring.

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  6. It's complete and utter bullshit. They shouldn't treat students this way and the market is tough enough as it is. If they want to keep students, they should start courting them...not threatening them.

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  7. 5:51, so did I...and you must be an anomaly...

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  8. 5:51 i also transferred and they werent as nice to me as they were to you. But to each his own i guess.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I considered transferring from BLS. I got recommendations, transcripts, etc with absolutely no problem. I was never threatened during OCI (I had 20+ interviews). However, I do know it is BLS policy not to allow transfer students to get letters of rec from profs after they leave. Makes sense, as they are no longer students and BLS professors should be trying to help current students and graduates.

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  10. 6:04, B!!!! S!!!!!....students who pay a year's worth of expensive tuition don't have any right to get a recommendation letter? Give me freaking break, and GROW UP

    ReplyDelete
  11. It is absolutely egregious to prevent ppl from using 1L profs for rec letters. And especially in ITE where firms are tanking and clerking may be the only safe bet. What are these students supposed to use? 2L classes are totally different from 1L in terms of getting to know the pforessors.

    Are other schools using recommendations as leverage? What a joke. They pay a year's tuition and have to be treated like persona non grata after? Horrendous.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This story is eerily familiar to mine.

    -Brooklyn transfer

    ReplyDelete
  13. I transferred from my 1L school (not BLS) and did not request clerkship recommendations from my 1L professors out of respect for the fact that I was no longer attending that school. I worked my butt off to make good contacts on the faculty at my new school, who in turn wrote fantastic recommendations and made calls for me. This isn't to say that BLS is right for doing this (quite the opposite), but you're probably better off getting recs from the higher-ranked school from which you'll be graduating anyway.

    That said, lower-ranked schools need to do more to retain top students. When I got into CLS as a transfer I stopped by my 1L school's financial aid office, told them that I'd gotten into CLS, and asked if they'd be willing to bump up my scholarship. Their response - I kid you not - was "Enjoy Columbia." Needless to say, the only tough decision was which school to transfer to.

    ReplyDelete
  14. 6.55, why would professors take offense to writing for a favorite student who happened to leave? Saying you refrained from asking them "out of respect" implies that it's somehow offensive. Which it's not. Also, you're probably the exception to the rule. Most judges want three recommendations. To have all this in order before 2L spring grades are in (which most schools require) is really hard. Basically, you have to get 3 recs from 2L fall profs. Not an easy task, and certainly not one someone should be forced to confront for doing what any rational person would do-escape from a place that has to scare you into staying.

    ReplyDelete
  15. ahh BLS. Perhaps the antics are due to it's decline in rankings? It is a rather apathetic lawschool. I had a terrible time there. Suffice it to say that they certainly contact me routinely for donations. My reply is to always email the Dean and tell her how miserable I think the school is. Does no one think beyond law school, into practice, when we have real (and oftentimes) enviable careers?

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm actually considering BLS. Right now my only other option is Cardozo. I have a substantially more generous scholarship at Brooklyn. But my goal all along has been to transfer to a top 5 school. Any Cardozo transfers here?

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am a 2L at Cardozo...chose it over Brooklyn...how much $$ were you offered?

    ReplyDelete
  18. @ 6:04--

    To be fair, we did hear that the Brooklyn was good about sending out transcripts on time. We have heard that some schools are less "prompt" however...which is really unfortunate and unfair.

    @ 6:55--

    Professors can decline to write recommendations if they somehow feel it is not appropriate to write one for a student no longer attending their school. I don't see why one would (willingly) forgo all their 1L connections--particularly when said connections lead to grades sufficient to transfer to (in your words) a "higher-ranked school."

    @ Joseph--

    I disagree with 2:57, who implied you should consider things like transfer policies in picking a school. There are more important things to consider than receptivity towards transfer students (faculty, class offerings, job placement to name a few). Moreover, it's not such a great idea to go to school planning on transferring to a top-five school. I don't mean to dissuade you from setting a goal, and attempting to meet it--you should do this, and I wish you the best in succeeding. But make your choice with the long-term in mind considering, ultimately, whether the school you pick is a good fit for you for the full three years.

    @ Everyone--

    I’m not surprised to see there have been some critics of this policy, but I think we should not single out Brooklyn Law School…it’s a good school that, like many good schools, has resorted to some (perhaps extreme) means of retaining its best students. If you don’t like the fact that schools resort to such tactics to prevent students from transferring--and I think that’s a perfectly legitimate view to take--you should consider that (1) this is happening at a lot of places, and (2) is not happening by happenstance. The industry is driving these practices, but doesn’t have to. Hence my initial question: are law schools overreacting? And, if so, where do we go from here?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Great job on the story. Keep up the terrific job you guys are doing - I'm hooked.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wasn't Brooklyn Law the school that also fudged its employment numbers a few years ago?

    ReplyDelete
  21. Every school fudges its employment numbers every year.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm at BLS and considered transferring to CLS after my first year based on a suggestion from a professor. However, in part because BLS provided a nearly full scholarship, I elected to stay, have had an excellent experience at BLS, and lined up a great job where I'll be summering alongside a bunch of students from CLS who have some killer debt to repay.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Good to hear 12.31, but what does that have to do with BLS transferring? Did any of your friends leave the school? What happened to them.

    ReplyDelete
  24. The point of the administration acting like this is not to punish people for leaving or even to keep those excellent students, it is to protect the people who are not transferring. While BLS is a well-regarded law school, they do not have abundant OCI spots at many of the large firms. Accordingly, they need to preserve those spots that are available to BLS to those students who are actually going to finish law school with a BLS degree. Does it make any sense for BLS to make a sacrifice for the benefit of the top schools like NYU or Columbia?

    ReplyDelete
  25. Okay, fine 10:00 am, but cant the professors write recommendations for current students too?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Actually 10:00 AM, this policy has nothing to do with protecting BLS students but in protecting BLS rankings. I went to an event for admitted students and the professor who gave remarks was bragging about their clerkship placement. Letters of of support from professors are not a sacrifice from the school. They are a professional courtesy from the professors. Banning professors from writing them for transfers is all about sabotaging transfers and protecting BLS rankings.

    But can they really do this? It just seems hard to have this kind of control over a tenured professor.

    ReplyDelete
  27. According to the story update, the dean says the professors are not forced to do it but every commenter says that they are. it sounds kinda like institutional denial. So yeah, they have control over them

    ReplyDelete
  28. Joseph, I agree. I think that this is really suspect on the part of the school, and the dean's response to Craig isn't really convincing.

    ReplyDelete
  29. In my experience none of this is true. I have spoken with many professors about transferring, they have been extremely supportive and understanding. I have had the registrar forward my transcripts to many schools, they have been very nice about it and have done everything very quickly (they really went above and beyond for some of the the schools nutty requests). I have met with the dean and she has been extremely understanding and very nice. She didn't try to hard ball me, nor did she BS me. She understood and told me a bunch of things to consider, but ultimately was friendly and supportive. The office of financial aid also was very nice. When I informed them that I had been accepted at a top school they congratulated me, offered me additional scholarship, and said that they hoped i would stay with them. I don't know what this business is about blacklisting students from OCI. If its true, I have yet to hear about it.

    ReplyDelete
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