Law Students > Transferring

Bad fit . . . Can I transfer with Disappointing grades?

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CA Law Dean:
Spring grades are out and some students are realizing they are not at the right law school . . . it just wasn't the right fit. Some students scored higher than they expected and want to transfer to higher-ranked law schools. That discussion is in a number of other threads. However, what is rarely discussed is whether the talented student who got lost in a large competitive law school environment and received disappointing grades . . . can transfer to a smaller school that provides more academic support in a setting better suited for their learning style?

If a law student is in California (or is mobile enough to move to California), the answer may be a surprising "YES". Monterey College of Law is one of the law schools accredited by the State Bar of California that has a program designed around small classes (30 students), individual tutoring, and comprehensive academic support. The environment has proven to be a successful alternative to students who failed to thrive in traditional competitive law school programs. Most important, the law school's cumulative bar pass rate on the challenging California Bar Exam is one of the best (68% in 2011, 66% in 2012) out of the 18 California accredited law schools.

More discussion about Monterey College of Law is located under "M" on this board in the law school specific section.

CA Law Dean:
Reply to off-line question: There is no hard and fast rule about how many units or what grades are required for transfer units to be accepted at another law school. I suspect that our general guideline at Monterey College of Law is similar to most law schools: we will consider accepting up to 50% of the required units (43 out of 86) for the J.D. If you took a class that we do not offer, we may consider it towards the elective requirements. Any course submitted for an MCL required course must be substantially the same as our course (and if there is doubt, we request a syllabus). Generally we will only accept units in which a grade of 70 or above was achieved, but we will consider all grades in the context of the complete transcript. For example, a student earned grades of 72, 70, 68 . . . we would likely accept all 3 courses. If a student earned grades of 72, 70, 65 . . . we would accept the 72 and 70, but not count the 65 toward graduation requirements.

However, MCL also offers a 36-unit Master of Legal Studies degree that allows more flexibility. As a non-licensure academic degree, MCL will consider up to 18 transfer units from an accredited law school (ABA or California) with the requirement that they must be passing grades. The remaining 18 units must be completed at MCL.

CA Law Dean:
What sounds better on your professional resume? "Successful Master of Legal Studies degree" or "academically dismissed because of (marginally) low first year law school GPA?"

This idea does not fit everybody . . . but for a few (now former) first-year law students , it might be a viable option to at least consider: If you have completed (with grades of 60 or above) up to 18 units of first-year law school courses, but have been academically dismissed from an ABA or California-accredited law school because you fell below the minimum required 1L GPA . . .  you may still be eligible to transfer to Monterey College of Law and complete our Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree program in two semesters. If you have an alternate plan to re-enroll and finish your JD, this idea is definitely not for you. However, if you prefer not to walk away from the time, money, and emotion invested in a full year of law school, or don't want to sit out the required two years before you are eligible to re-apply to a JD program . . . you might want to at least consider this program.

Monterey College of Law's MLS degree is the law school equivalent of an MBA or MPA. Similar to these degrees, it is an academic non-licensure degree that does not qualify a graduate for any specific job. However, as a Masters degree, it may improve opportunities for teaching positions, higher pay scale in public service jobs, and other opportunities in related industries such as finance, real estate, contract administration, public safety, and human resources. The MLS degree is a 36-unit curriculum including regular law school courses in the JD program. MCL will accept up to 18 transfer units from ABA or California-accredited law schools, which means that the remaining 18 units can be completed in two semesters. This is a residential (not distance education) program, so it does mean that you will need to move to the beautiful Monterey Peninsula area (Big Sur, Pebble Beach, Carmel, Santa Cruz). However, the other benefit is that all MCL courses are in the evening, meaning that it is possible to work during the day to offset the cost of your degree program . . . or if you are in the enviable position of not having to work, you can "work" on your surfing, golf, fishing, or hiking when you are not studying for evening classes.

As I previously said, this is not for everybody. However, if you are reading the "transfer" discussion thread because you did not have a good 1L experience at another law school , this might be a "plan B" to get closure on your law school experience in a positive way.

CA Law Dean:
Update on MCL's Master of Legal Studies degree program. In addition to the description in the previous post, please note that changes in the California accredited law school regulations now permit a transfer student in the MLS degree program to continue in the JD program if their grades improve to meet the 70.00 minimum standard for progressing in JD degree program. Therefore, a law student who had a poor academic experience in another law school, but who might thrive in the smaller, hands-on, academically supportive environment of MCL, could still get back on track for the JD through the MLS degree program. Furthermore, if students successfully complete the mandatory MLS writing program, they may be eligible to graduate with both the MLS and JD degree. Please let me know if you have questions about MCL's concurrent MLS/JD degree program. It is new for the 2014-2015 academic year.

CA Law Dean:
Well, we have just about wrapped up the 1L admission process for Fall 2014. However, we still have about three weeks to consider transfer requests here at Monterey College of Law. If you did not have a successful 1L experience and intend to practice law in California, consider contacting MCL before you give up on your dream of being a lawyer. Small classes and a strong academic support program have made a difference for students who got lost in the shuffle at big ABA law schools. Each circumstance reviewed individually.


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