Deciding to transfer law schools can be a difficult decision and depends heavily on your unique circumstances and what you are looking to get out of law school. There are many things to consider before sending off your application to transfers schools, including your grades, employment outlooks, and on-campus relationships.
In this article, we will be helping you understand the most common reasons you may want to transfer law schools. We'll also give you an idea of what to consider before transferring and an overview of what you will need to start your transfer application.
What Is a Law School Transfer?
In most cases, a law school transfer takes place after your 1L year of law school. After you complete your first year at one law school, earn the foundational credits that are comparable among most law schools, and then transfer to a different law school for your remaining 2 years.
It is less common for students to transfer after their second year of law school, as the credits for any year other than your first can be more difficult to transfer accordingly to your new school. However, transfers like this do happen and are possible.
Reasons You Should (and Shouldn't) Transfer Law Schools
There are many reasons you may consider transferring law schools. Some of the most common include wanting to attend a higher ranked program, pursuing a dream school that you didn't get accepted into at first, or to attend a school closer to the location you want to practice in. These reasons, and many others, are fully valid for transferring law schools, but there are some situations in which you may want to think again about transferring.
If you are thinking about transferring because a friend or partner is, transferring because you don't like a certain professor, or transferring because you don't like the campus events that your current law school holds, you may want to reconsider your motives.
Of course, many of these are highly personal situations, and some may be a good enough reason to transfer with the right considerations, which we will discuss below.
What to Consider When Thinking About a Law School Transfer
If you are thinking about a law school transfer, there are several things that you need to consider when deciding if a transfer is the right option for you.
Your current grades are very important when it comes to considering a law school transfer, especially if you are attempting to transfer into a higher-ranked law program. One of the most common reasons for law school transfers is students attempting to get accepted into a higher-ranking law school that they weren't accepted into initially.
In most cases, you will need to score in at least the top 10 percent of your class if you want to make your transfer application competitive with a higher-ranking school.
You should also take into account what might happen to your grades if you do get accepted into a higher-ranking or a more difficult law program. If you are used to being on top of your class at your current school, you need to keep in mind that you might only perform average, or even near the bottom, of your class in your new school. This can be stressful, especially for someone who wishes to maintain a high GPA.
On-campus relationships are a highly important part of your law school experience that includes relationships with your classmates, professors, advisors, and upperclassmen. During your first year of law school is when most of these relationships are formed, and thanks to the rigorous atmosphere of your 1L year, they tend to be fairly close bonds.
Transferring to a new school means that you will not share the same 1L experiences as your classmates, which may make you feel a little bit like an outsider. Of course, you will make new friends and build relationships during your time in the new school, but it may be hard at first to become acclimated into a group of people that are already very familiar with each other.
Another important factor in your decision to transfer is your finances. If you are currently receiving a merit scholarship, be aware that it is unlikely you will be offered something similar at your new school. While there still may be merit scholarships available for transfer students, they will probably be much lower than what you are currently receiving.
If finances and graduating law school with as little debt as possible are major considerations for you, it is a good idea to speak to the admissions office of the school that you are planning on transferring to. They may be able to give you more insight into what your scholarships will look like after transferring.
The School's Location
The location that you attend law school in is important to consider because wherever you study will be where you do most of your networking. The connections you make can help you land internships, job opportunities, and clerkships, so it is important to be at a school where you can see yourself living and practicing law for at least a few years.
Many students will transfer to a law school in a location that is closer to the area they want to practice in, or because they prefer the culture of a different city. These are both common and valid reasons for transferring, as long as you have weighed the pros and cons of attending each school.
While just attending law school is the dream of many students, it is important to look at employment rates for the schools you attend. After all, your law degree is intended to help you secure a job in the future.
Before sending in transfer applications, you should take time to research your intended law school's employment prospects and compare them to your current school's. It is always a good idea to attend a school with a better job outlook, but if that's isn't possible, you should at least be aware of what to expect after graduation from your transfer school.
What Are the Odds of Being Admitted As a Transfer?
Many students who are considering transfers are confused about whether it is easier or not to be accepted into a school as a transfer student. Unfortunately, there is no one set answer for this, as your admission success depends heavily on the law school and what they look for in their transfer applicants.
That being said, there are some things that can improve your chances of being accepted as a transfer student. Make sure to keep your grades high, especially in your first semester of law school. You should also try to form positive connections with your professors in order to get quality letters of recommendation and participate in any extracurricular activities you have time for.
If you want to read more tips on succeeding in your transfer applications, check out this article.
How Do You Apply to Transfer Law Schools?
If you've evaluated each of the considerations above and applied them to your personal situations, and eventually decided that transferring law schools is right for you, you are probably wondering what to do now.
When Do You Apply to Transfer Law Schools?
In most cases, you will need to start looking at completing applications during the second semester of your 1L year, especially if you want to apply early decision (transfer early decision is only available from certain law schools).
Typically, applications will remain open until early summer, and then you will receive notice of acceptance sometime over the summer before your second year of law school is set to begin.
What Your Transfer Applications Will Need
Most transfer applications will require the materials below, and some law schools may have specific requirements. Be sure to check the admissions website of your intended law school for updated information on the transfer application process.
One of the most important elements of your transfer application, your transcript will likely only contain your first semester of 1L grades unless you are applying after the completion of your 1L year. This is why it is so important to score highly during your first law school classes.
You may also be asked to turn in an undergraduate transcript or transcripts for any other graduate schools that you may have attended.
Essays are an essential part of every law school application process, including transfer applications. Your personal statement will most likely need to detail why you want to transfer, what interests you about the school, and what you will add to their community by being accepted. There may also be other school-specific essays required.
You can read more about crafting a competitive transfer personal statement here.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation may or may not be required by the school you are applying to, but it can be a good idea to ask your professors for some anyway. If a letter is required, it will need to be from a professor who taught you during your 1L year and knows you well enough to write something that speaks to your skills and ability to succeed in law school. This is why it's important to form good relationships with your professors in your first year of school.
When crafting your resume for your transfer application, make sure that it includes your current law school and any extracurriculars that you participated in during your first year of law school. You should also put your 1L GPA on it.
Check out this article for more information on crafting a law school resume.
Much like with your original application to law school, you will need to include any addendums that you feel are necessary to clear up questions about your resume, criminal background, or transcript.
Make sure to keep these short, objective, and to the point, and be sure to only include them when absolutely necessary.
Making the Best Choice for You
Making up your mind on whether to transfer law schools or not can be a difficult process, especially if there are many different considerations and personal factors involved in your decision.
That being said, as long as you fully weigh the pros and cons of transferring and fully evaluate every consideration involved, you are sure to eventually make the right choice for your situation and find your way to your dream law school.