Tiffany Bartz

Opting out?

A feminist law student transfers from Boalt Hall to the University of Arizona, and she couldn't be happier.

My law school career began at the University of California, Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law. My experience there as a woman was both positive and disappointing. Although sixty percent of my incoming class was female, only about ten percent of the students who spoke in class were female. I was encouraged that so many women were entering the legal profession, but discouraged that the gender disparity, at least in regard to verbosity during class, continued.

I transferred to the University of Arizona at the beginning of my 2L year, a difficult move criticized by many. People told me both that I should not transfer to a lower-ranked law school, and that transferring to be with my boyfriend (a graduate student in astronomy who could not transfer himself) was anti-feminist and could hinder my legal career. I have always considered myself to be a feminist. In part because my mom transferred schools to be with my dad, I told myself that I would never transfer to be with a man. However, growing up and thinking more about what it means to be a woman, or simply a person, has taught me that there is more to being a feminist than refusing to move for a person or making that person move for you. Life (and law school for that matter) is, or should be, about being happy.

At the University of Arizona, I have found both a personal life, and an academic life that I am happy with. I have also found that rankings, reputation, and prestige do not mean as much as many people think they do. The University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law, is approximately fifty percent female and fifty percent male. In classes, women speak approximately fifty percent of the time and men speak just about the same. Students and professors are sharp and motivated.

Although the decision I made to transfer, and the decisions I have made during each summer of law school (i.e., working for low-paying non-profits that do important, progressive work) make me feel like a salmon always swimming upstream, as my Constitutional Law professor put it, I could not feel more inspired to be a woman in the legal profession than I do currently. Both of the non-profits I have worked for during law school have been run by women. During my 1L summer, all three legal interns (including myself) were women. This summer, three of the six interns are women. I am impressed that so many women are entering important, if not essential, non-profit positions. I am happy to say that I am one of those women. I am doing the work I want to do, while also having a fulfilling and uplifting personal life.


Legal Eagle

Glad things worked out for you. The ratios you estimate are startling… at Boalt, 60% of the class is female, but only 10% of students who speak in class are female. At Arizona, 50% of the class is female, and 50% of students who speak in class are female. Do you think that's more of a fluke (of the particular personalities in your classes at each school), or do you think there are ways that Arizona teaches law differently from Boalt that are relevant? Because if Arizona's doing something that really works, I want to get my school doing it.


If transferring to Arizona made you thrive and love the study of law, then good for you.  Unfortunately, US News rankings are given too much credit.  Although rankings are a reality, they are not everything.  While Boalt may have a "liberal" reputation for being part of the famous UC Berkeley campus, some are of the opinion that the law school is steeped in years of tradition (think old boys club). I've known many women who were successful there, but I don't think the atmosphere is for everyone. 
I also transferred law schools.   It's amazing how different schools can be in terms of classroom behavior and faculty support of feminist principles.  I'd advise all potential law students to investigate campuses ahead of time, because rankings don't provide this type of information.   Talk to female professors and students.
It's Boalt's loss. Law schools should know that losing smart Ms. JD's like Ms. Bartz is not in there best interest. 

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