J.D. Program

Meet Past Transfer Students

Geoffrey Derrick (’12)

Q&A with Geoffrey Derrick (’12)

Geoff came to BU Law after spending 1L year at another Boston-area school. Upon transferring, he was highly successful in integrating into our community: publishing in a journal and participating in two clinics, on-campus interviewing and moot court. He became a research assistant to Professor Jack Beermann, and eventually he won one of the School’s 10 fully funded fellowships to begin his career at New York City’s Center for Appellate Litigation. See what Geoff is up to now!

Why did you decide to transfer to BU?

“My wife and I both decided to go to law school together, and she was attending Harvard Law School. I spent my first year at Suffolk Law School in Boston. When I was thinking about transfer schools, I was trying to stay local so we could live in the same city. BU Law is a school that I really wanted to go to all along, so it was at the top of the list. I had a couple friends in the BU class who told me what the experience was like during their 1L year… the support they got from the Career Development Office and the relationships they were able to make with their professors given the small class size. BU had around 275 people in my graduating class, and during my 1L year at Suffolk, I think there were 500 or so in the 1L class.”

What was the transition like for you?

“The transition was really smooth… BU Law helped to smooth it. As transfers, we found out we were accepted in July, and I was able to immediately compete in the journal competition. We had a lunch orientation at which transfers were able to meet one another. We were also linked up with Professor Beermann, the faculty liaison for transfer students. He became my faculty research advisor and ultimately helped me formulate a research project that I’m now getting published in BU’s Public Interest Law Journal. So that initial contact ended up meaning a lot to me personally.”

Did you personally feel you had the same opportunities as students who started from the beginning throughout your time at BU Law?

“I definitely think I had equal opportunities with other BU students with regard to OCI (On-Campus Interviewing). Transfer students are able to not be at any sort of disadvantage because they’re in early enough on the process. That’s one of the main concerns for transfer students—‘Will I be able to access the crucial interview period before the second year of law school?’—and I think BU’s timeline of admitting transfers allows them to have that access.”

Also, transfers are still able to become research assistants. I felt very able to do that, and encouraged even.

What were those first few months like after transferring?

“The first few months are sort of like the first few months at the former law school in the sense that you don’t exactly have a strong social group of friends. You definitely form a strong bond with the classes you’re in during your first year in law school. When you’re a transfer student you sort of lose that bond, but the nice thing about the transfer process at BU is that, by being among a community of transfers, I was able to make close friends with a handful of other transfer students in my class.

In terms of the quality of instruction, the first few months for me as a transfer at BU were eye-opening. BU’s quality of instruction from professors was, in my opinion, much better than at my 1L school, which was great for me.”

You took the clinics as a BU Law student. What was that like?

“I did the Community Courts Clinic, taught by Judge Blitzman, who is a judge on the Massachusetts Juvenile Court. The community court system makes up the vast majority of litigation that happens nation wide—80% of cases are handled through this informal community court process. I was placed in a juvenile court; some of my classmates were placed in probate and family law courts. The clinic taught me a lot about how juveniles encounter the justice system and how courts can improve their outcomes by aligning them with social services and working with parents, teachers and community members. There’s a lot about the processes that you aren’t really taught when you learn the black letter law in some of the more structured courses in law school. Working directly beneath the judge was a great opportunity.

The other clinic I took at BU, the Wrongful Convictions Clinic with Professor Fisher, allowed us to work on a state habeas corpus motion in Massachusetts. We worked with private practitioner attorneys who were representing a prisoner looking to challenge his conviction. He was imprisoned for an arson conviction, but the conviction was obtained based on old arson science from the 80s and 90s. The result of our work showed how the science used to convict this man was faulty and wouldn’t hold up in today’s view. We helped draft a motion in the course of the clinic, providing research assistance, going through trial transcripts, and summarizing trial testimonies for the attorneys.

This clinic has a direct relationship to the work I do now. I’m one of ten fully funded BU Public Interest Scholars, and I work at the Center for Appellate Litigation in New York. This is a public defender office that does criminal appeals, and we often decide whether or not to bring state habeas corpus motions on behalf of clients. The tools I learned in Professor Fisher’s clinic are directly applicable to the work I’m doing in my fellowship.”

What else did you do during your time at BU?

“I did both of the 2L moot court competitions: the Edward C. Stone and the Homer Albers. If you place high enough in the Stone competition, you’re invited to the Albers competition. My partner Beth and I ultimately got all the way to the final round. We were able to argue in front of three circuit court appeals judges, which was this incredible experience, something that wouldn’t have been available to me at Suffolk Law or frankly 90% of law students nationwide. I’m very privileged to have had that opportunity, and it convinced me that I want something in my career that allows me to engage in oral arguments before appellate judges. I’m working at an appellate organization now, so it was very helpful in guiding my career trajectory.”

What advice would you give to transfer students?

“Don’t be shy about grasping opportunities that are available to non-transfer students. So if you don’t get on the journal that, in a perfect world, you would be on, go out and do independent research because BU makes it very easy to link up with a professor and do research for credit. I was able to take a Supervised Research and Writing course in which Professor Beermann worked with me over the course of the semester to draft a full-length journal article. He was incredibly helpful, and now, 18 months after the course, I’m getting the article published in BU Law’s Public Interest Law Journal. I feel very accomplished doing that.

Also, take a close look at the BU Law faculty and ask around—not just your classmates—but even perhaps someone like Professor Beermann, who is a mentor to transfers. Ask what professors are good, what classes you should take. I found that coming to a new school, I didn’t really know much about the faculty. When you’re a first-year law student, you hear a lot about the professors, so you know which courses are good or bad. But when you’re a transfer, you don’t have that perspective—you have to do that search all over again. Be aggressive about which professors you want to learn from.”

Do you think you have made the right decision transferring to BU Law?

“Yes, definitely, 100%.”

Kate Welby (’13)

Q&A with Kate Welby (’13)

Kate transferred from a NY school to take advantage of BU Law’s strong national reputation in her career search. But she also found opportunities opening up to her during her time in the tower, including two externships, a pro bono spring break trip, and moot court, ultimately being chosen to direct the Stone Competition. Kate is currently an associate at the Law Office of Laura Gillis practicing education law — she credits the skills she developed during one of her externships for helping her land the job.

Why did you decide to transfer to BU?

“I decided to transfer to BU during the summer after my 1L year at Pace University School of Law because I knew I wanted to live and work in Boston after law school. The decision to transfer was difficult for me. Although I knew BU was an excellent school and I wanted to be in Boston, it was scary to give up my 1L friends and the life I had built at Pace. If you are a law student who is in a position to transfer, it is likely that you have been very successful in your first school. That success comes with a measure of comfort and security, which is difficult to let go of.

As a consumer, I have always depended on personal recommendations much more than news articles or statistics, so when I began to consider transferring, I wanted to get to know the students who would become my peers. I had a good friend who was a 1L at BU Law when I was considering transferring, and he told me that he had loved his first year there and offered to show me around and introduce me to some of his friends. Before making my final decision, I came up to Boston to talk with students at BU about their experiences and to get their advice about transferring. Upon meeting other students at BU, I was immediately assured that I would be surrounded by kind, intelligent, interesting people if I made the decision to switch schools. I also toured the school and met some of the faculty before making the decision to transfer. Everyone I met was very welcoming, warm and encouraging.

Ultimately I decided to transfer because I felt that BU was an outstanding school with a strong national reputation and would be a good move for me, no matter where I ended up in my career. I was confident that I would get an excellent legal education and that I would be surrounded by intelligent peers and excellent professors. BU has met all of my expectations.”

What was the transition like for you?

“The staff and faculty at BU went out of their way to make my transition as smooth as possible. Dean Marx hosted lunches with small groups of transfer students to check in with us about how our transition was going and to address any concerns or questions we had. We were also connected with a professor who served as a transfer advisor and helped us with course selection and other academic needs. I found my professors to be extremely intelligent and dedicated to teaching. It was reassuring to me that all of my professors made themselves available to students in office hours and encouraged us to come see them whenever we had questions or wanted to talk. This helped ease my transition to BU.”

What were the first few months like?

“I found the students at BU to be kind and friendly and easy to talk to in class and around the tower. However, by 2L year, students have already formed strong bonds with their 1L classmates, so it is difficult to catch up socially as a 2L. Fortunately, I was part of a large class of transfer students, with whom I've formed friendships and have really enjoyed getting to know. BU also has an abundance of extracurriculars, clubs, journals and social activities that any student can get involved with. These are great opportunities to make friends and get involved in the BU Law community.”

Did you personally feel you had the same opportunities as students who started from the beginning throughout your time at BU Law?

“As a transfer, I had the same opportunities as other students to get involved in all of the programs that the law school offered, including clinics and externships, clubs and classes. I also had a number of transfer friends who participated in journals, moot court competitions and clinics. The one major disadvantage to being a transfer, however, is coming into a new school without a class rank or any grades to compare with your classmates. Although transfer students tend to be at the top of their classes at their first schools, once a student transfers, they are no longer ranked. In Boston, when I began applying for summer jobs, my grades and first year achievements from a smaller school in another state did not carry as much weight as they might have in New York. This is a challenge for transfer students applying for jobs during On Campus Interviews where grades are very important. Fortunately, BU offers numerous externship and clinical programs that allow all students access to excellent opportunities to gain practical skills that make young lawyers more attractive to prospective employers. I personally participated in two externships and three moot court competitions, which were valuable learning and networking experiences. One of my externships exposed me to the field of education law, which became an area of interest for me and eventually led me to my current job as a special education attorney.”

You have been very active in the moot court programs. Can you describe your involvement and what the experience has been like?

“My experience with moot court has been very positive for me both academically and socially. I participated in both of BU’s 2L moot court competitions, the Stone Moot Court Competition and the Albers Prize Moot Court Competition. I was a quarter finalist in Albers and was chosen to be a director of the Stone competition for the following year. I became friends with both of my moot court partners from the 2L competitions and ended up working closely with my Albers partner during my 3L year when we were both directors of the Stone competition. As a director, I created a two-issue problem and bench memorandum for about 30 students who wrote briefs and argued my problem. In my role as director, I interacted with dozens of lawyers from the Boston legal community and numerous BU Law professors who served as judges in the competition. I also gained invaluable writing and editing experience through the drafting process and through reading the briefs of the participants. Seeing all of the students and judges immersed in my problem over a period of months was very rewarding. I made a number of professional connections with lawyers who served as judges on my problem and enjoyed working closely with other students who served as graders and judges.”

What else did you do during your time at BU Law?

“In addition to my moot court experience, I participated in the Judicial Externship Program, where I was placed in the federal district court in Massachusetts with a magistrate judge, and in the Community Courts Externship, where I was placed in probate and family court. During 3L year I did an independent externship where I spent half of my semester doing field work in a municipal law office, developing practical skills that helped me to land my first job after law school. I also went on a pro bono spring break trip this year, where I worked with a legal services organization in Portland, Maine. This trip was an excellent opportunity to do important legal work for an organization in need of volunteers and to make new friendships with students who I might not otherwise have met. I would recommend the pro bono spring break program to any student at BU Law.”

What advice would you give to transfer students?

“I would advise transfer students to take advantage of every possible opportunity at BU Law and never to be afraid of trying something new. When you transfer, there is no time to be timid or indecisive. Your time in law school will fly by more quickly than you realize, and you need to make the most of it. Also, no matter how busy you are, always remain committed to your job search. Make time for informational interviews and talk to people who do the kind of work that you are interested in. Those connections will serve you well when you graduate and will help you become part of the legal community in Boston. Also, take advantage of the wonderful staff in the Career Development Office. In addition to being incredibly supportive and kind, they are one of the best resources the law school has to offer.”

Do you think you have made the right decision transferring to BU Law?

“Transferring was challenging for me in many ways, just as changing cities, jobs, homes and social groups is always challenging, but it was the right decision for me. I have grown tremendously during my time at BU Law, and I am grateful for the people I have met here and the experiences I have had. BU Law is a wonderful school, with dedicated professors and staff members that take pride in their work and love what they do. Most importantly, BU Law gave me opportunities to gain practical legal experience while I was in law school, which gave me the skills and the confidence to start my legal career here in Boston. ”