Thursday, September 10, 2009

Zenterview - Transferring After First Year of Law School

This week's Zenterview is with a current 2L at Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis. While this student offers a perspective of how an LSAT score can guide applications to regional schools, he can also offer some advice for how to transfer after the first year of law school, which he did from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University.

Interestingly, this transition was from one of the oldest ABA approved schools to one of the newest, and Humphreys is just now entering its
permanent location in downtown Memphis, securing its physical dominance over a region it already has sway over in terms of judicial clerkships and businesses.

How would you describe preparing for the LSAT, in three words or less?

Time-consuming.
What methods/classes/tutors did you use to prepare for the LSAT?

I did not take any classes or have any tutors. Once I decided to attend to law school, I bought multiple practice tests (I think around 10) and worked through them by myself; reviewing my answers after I had completed the exams.

I always adhered to the time constraints on each section of the LSAT because I thought the time constraints were the toughest part of the test, but especially for me. I struggled with
timing on the practice tests, and eventually struggled in the real test as well. My practice tests ranged from a low of 153 to a high of 164, with most being around a 161. On the real test I scored a 154. Needless to say, I was not pleased with my score, but I did not want to retake the test.
To what schools did you apply, and what factors led you to those law schools?
I applied to schools close to my hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee--Cumberland, Memphis, Tennessee-Knoxville--and schools that were in cities I was interested in living in. I narrowed my search to schools where I thought I stood a chance of getting in with my LSAT score and undergraduate GPA (Charleston School of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law, and Catholic University in DC).
What did you write your law school personal statement about?

I wrote about attaining goals once I set my mind to it. I wrote about my athletic achievements as well as my academic background.

"While in college, I decided that I wanted to run The Boston Marathon. This is not a race in which one can compete without effort. An invitation to run Boston, like a place on a college soccer team or a seat in a law school class, must be earned. In order to be eligible to race, a participant must run in a separate, approved marathon and meet an age-specific qualifying time. It requires determination, discipline, and execution. I used my off-seasons to train for marathons, as running for soccer had sparked an insatiable appetite for testing myself over long distances. I have now completed four marathons, qualifying for Boston and improving my time each race, and I plan to run my third consecutive Boston Marathon next April."
What "soft factors" do you think helped your application the most?

I'm not sure if my "soft-factors" helped me. If they did, I would say my qualification and completion of The Boston Marathon (as well as two other marathons) and my role in the Student Government Association as treasurer could have set me apart from most other applications.
What made Cumberland School of Law the best decision for you?

Cumberland was the first school that accepted me, and they accepted me within three weeks of my application being complete. I was also impressed with their correspondence. They provided me with plenty of information regarding student loans, apartment guides, incoming classmates, summer activities, and books I should read before attending law school that might help prepare me for my first year.
Which other law schools did you turn down, and why?

I turned down all the other schools I applied to, except UT-Knoxville (I was not accepted). I thought Cumberland was a more reputable school than Charleston and Florida, and it was closer than Memphis and Catholic University.
Describe the process you had to go through to transfer to Memphis Law. What unexpected difficulties came up?

I had to fill out an application for Memphis (again), obtain an official release from Cumberland, and I was required to send at least one letter of recommendation from a current law professor from Cumberland to Memphis. To me, it wasn't difficult, and nothing unexpected arose, but it was time-consuming.
How was your first year of law school different from undergrad?

The main difference between undergrad and law school is the amount of preparation that is required to be able to participate in, or at the very least follow along with, class discussions. Reading the assignments before class is a MUST.
If you could give advice to undergrads hoping to go to law school, what would you suggest?

If I was to give advice to undergrads hoping to go to law school, I would tell them to consider paying for LSAT prep courses and spending more time than me preparing for the test. If I had it to do over again I would spend more time studying for the LSAT. It is VERY important to score high on that test. It is a crucial part of the application.
What was the best piece of advice someone gave you during your law school application process?

Being in law school is manageable, getting in is the true test of endurance. Law school has a reputation for being a beast. But, the truth is this: If you can get in to law school, you can graduate from law school.
What do you want to do immediately after law school? 10 years after?

Immediately after law school I still don't know what I'd like to do. That's one great thing about law school: I don't feel pigeon-holed to practice law.

Sometimes I think I'd like to carry on with more school, or work in a law firm, or for the government, or for a business... 10 years after law school? I cannot see that far ahead yet... I'm still working on the short term.