Advice for Transferring to Another Law School
This article is based off of a series of blog posts by TLS Forum user “Arrow”, who started off at Loyola Los Angeles but transferred to Berkeley Law after a successful 1L year. This mammoth guide – which is the result of extensive research and a dose of necessary speculation – outlines the lessons Arrow learned during his transfer process.
See the following articles for more information:
- Transferring Law Schools after the First Year
- Transferring From The Law School Where You Had Been Admitted
- 15 Law Schools That Get The Most Transfer Students
Table of Contents
II. Why Transfer?
III. Where to apply?
IV. What are my chances?
V. Do Softs Matter?
VI. The Application Requirements
VII. Personal Statementtions
IX. Early Action Transfers
VIII. Letters of Recommenda
X. Is it Worth It to Transfer?
XI. Other FAQ
XII. Recommended Reading
XIII. Final Words
I am writing this article in hopes of helping out all the lucky 1L’s who have crushed their first year exams. In addition, I am doing this because I just really wish I had more help when I was transferring.
I will try to be as comprehensive as I can. There are many transfer types (part time to full time, lateral transfers, transfers down, joint degree transfers, etc), but I try to focus more on transfers into the T14 from the non-T14. This is not only one of the most common types of attempted transfers, but it is also the goal I pursued in my own transfer applications. Finally, much of the transfer application mirrors that of the normal application (you pretty much submit the same things), so I will try to address the relevant aspects unique to transferring.
Due to the unique nature of transfers, there is literally NO good information out there on this controversial process. Why? Well, first of all, only a few people from each law school may decide to transfer. The transferring population is just miniscule compared to normal admissions process. Second, law schools themselves face a conflict of interest. They want to keep their best students and not surprisingly, keep the subject of transferring on the down-low. Third, successful transfer students will not be around on campus to offer advice because they are now at a new school. Thus, I hope to demystify this stressful yet exciting process that plagues the summers of a small group of former 1L’s. Since this site’s name is “Top Law Schools,” I am guessing many people here will consider this backdoor route into, well, the top law schools.
Just to give you a quick background, I attended Loyola Law School (Los Angeles) and transferred to Boalt Hall after my 1L year. Most of the information here comes from the Yahoo Transfer Apps group, talks with professors/students, various blogs/websites, forum threads on TLS, Law School Discussions, and my own personal experience/observations. I have tried to read EVERYTHING I could find over this past year related to transferring. Thus, in a sense, I am really compiling all of the information I have found over the past year.
Oh and to sum up the *obvious* key to success in transferring – GET GOOD GRADES (more on this later).
This may be obvious, but let us stay in perspective. Understanding why you (or others) may want to transfer helps you choose where to apply, helps you write your personal statement, helps you explain to your professors when you ask them for LORS, and helps you better answer questions during interviews.
The MOST popular and perhaps strongest reasons are:
- Employment prospects/job placement/better OCI/better prestige/academia/clerkships
- Personal reasons/geographical desires/family/spouse/significant other/parents/kids
- The current economy
- Because it is the right “business decision” (from perhaps an investments/return point of view)
- To negotiate a scholarship at your current law school (this is a great reason to “apply” to transfer)
- Stronger faculty or desire to work with a certain professor
- Smaller class size, greater diversity, better alumni network and connections
- Better placement in a geographical area
- Better public interest or loan forgiveness
- Better specialty in a field of law
- Greater variety of courses offered (like in one field of law) or a better curriculum
- Location (near an undergrad campus versus no undergrad campus nearby)
- Stronger clinical programs/journals/externships/extracurricular activities
- Better name and reputation to help bring in clients later
- Personal ambition (after all, if better is possible, then good is not enough)
- Personal desire/dream to go to one school, maybe to return to your undergrad or because you were rejected/waitlisted originally
- Shame/guilt (I often see this with people who attended top undergraduate schools, who feel a unique pressure to attend top law schools)
- Respect/Self-Confidence (for some, this is a very strong reason)
- It goes on your resume forever, which may be important as lawyers often change jobs (i.e. the name of your school will follow you until you die)
- You just do not like your current school and/or it is simply a weak school (this may be real reason, but not one you should EVER mention or admit, remember to stay positive)
- To make your parents proud. We all know that we should follow our own dreams, not our parents. However, the warmth and satisfaction you get from making your parents genuinely happy after all they have put you through is priceless. For me, this was something that was always in the back of the mind (perhaps as a sort of immigrant mentality to succeed).
- To make up for your past mistakes on the LSAT/GPA. Some of us did not realize we needed high GPA's early in college and did not have enough time to study for the LSAT because we decided to go to law school too late. Others just had a bit too much fun in college because...well...it is college. Whatever the reason, transferring is the opportunity of a lifetime to correct those errors if you want to call them, and put you back on track.
- Being able to participate in 2 OCIs and thus actually getting MORE interviews (this is another reason you should not admit outright and I address this in the FAQ section below)
In case you did not know, some common cons of transferring include:
- Giving up your 1st year grades
- Giving up your scholarship and paying a lot more for the new school
- Giving up Law Review
- Giving up some study abroad possibilities
- Doing the entire law school application over again and paying the money for the applications
- Some transfer stigma
- Moving to a new place and losing your old friends
- Probably not being able to use your 1L year professors for clerkship recommendations, though this may still be possible
This is pretty much like when you first applied to law school. Obviously, where you want to apply will depend on how much you want to pay (applications still cost $60-$100), where you actually want to go, and whether you can actually get in. I will try to address some of this below, but the details are up to you. I have noticed that transfer students generally apply to fewer schools than when they first applied to law school.
Below, I have listed the number of transfers each “T14” school usually accepts as well as figures from some other transfer-friendly schools. Note that this is the number of students who ended up transferring. There is no data on how many students the schools accept or what their yield rate is, but I would guess it is similar to their normal acceptance rate/yield rate (or it could be higher, which might be why most schools do not report it). Also, any “data” you see here will reflect whatever I can find as of 2009.
Number of People Transferring into the T14:
1. Yale ~10-12
2. Harvard ~30
3. Stanford ~12 (TLS forum users DarlayBoo, MarkTwain, and jwbayou5 say it is more like 16-20, but it will likely be cut down back to 12)
4. Columbia ~45-60
5. NYU ~45-50 (according to TLS member rayiner, it was cut down to 31 this past year)
6. Berkeley ~30-40 (though my transfer class this year looks like there was 50+ people at orientation, even after I subtracted the few visiting students)
6. Chicago ~15-25
8. UPenn ~25
9. Michigan ~30 10. Duke ~12-20
10. Northwestern ~20 according to their website (Law School Numbers says 40)
10. UVA ~35
13. Cornell ~5-10 according to their website (Law School Numbers says 18), though they only receive about 75 applications every year
14. GULC ~100
Other Popular Schools to Transfer To:
15. Texas ~15
15. UCLA ~30-40
17. Vandy ~25
18. USC ~5-10
19. WUSTL ~50
20. Emory ~30
20. Boston University ~5-10
23. UIUC ~30-40 30. Fordham ~30-40
39. UC Hastings ~15-20
45. American ~65
52. Florida State ~60
55. Case Western ~30
71. Loyola (Los Angeles) ~35
71. Miami ~20
77. Rutgers, Camden ~45
85. Santa Clara ~25-30
If you want to think transfer friendly, GULC tops the list, which has about 100 students transferring in every year (it must accept a lot more too). Other transfer-friendly schools in the T14 include NYU, Columbia, Berkeley, and Michigan.
This is quite the black box. If predicting regular admissions was hard, then this is even harder and more amorphous. We are not admissions officers, so the process continues to be shrouded in mystery. Sometimes, you will have the right numbers but still get rejected. Most of my predictions below are based off what I have seen off the Yahoo transfer apps (which is often incomplete because students do not update or completely fill out the tables).
Basically, your chances depend on three things:
1) 1L ranking/GPA
2) The current school you attend
3) “Soft” factors (this barely matters but still does to an extent)
Transferring is very a numbers game (like your GPA/LSAT for regular admissions), but even more so than in regular admissions. Generally, the better your school is, the lower your ranking can be and vice versa. See below for details for general trends that I have noticed. Note that these are just estimates (and really just my guesses) on the rank required to get in. There are ALWAYS going to be exceptions.
To transfer into HYS you need:
- top 5-10% at a Top 20
- top 5% at T1
- top 1% at a mid-upper T2
- Other notes: People in the top 1% in the Top 20 generally have a lock on at least one of the holy trinity. I could not find a record of anyone in the lower T2/T3/T4 transferring into HYS. Yale and Stanford only appear to take people in the T1 and up. Also, people in the T2 who transfer to Harvard are pretty much always ranked #1. People have stated that HYS only takes transfers who had a shot as an undergrad. My guess is that this is partially true for YS but not H. I do believe that you need above average softs for HYS, but the data seems to show that numbers alone can do the job. - according to TLS member XxSpyKEx, there was 1 guy who went to HYS from a T4 because he co-authored an article or something
- according to utilitarianjac, someone with a 4.0 from Pepperdine transferred to Yale
- xeoh85, who wrote the legendary TLS article on doing well in law school, was #1 at UCLA and was accepted as a transfer at all of HYS
To transfer into the T14 you need:
- top 10-15% at T1, top 5-10% for CCN
- top 5-10% at a T2, top 5% for CCN
- top 1-2% at a T3/T4
- Other notes: Depending on how far up you want to transfer, you may even succeed if you are ranked top 20-30%. For example, if you are transferring up 10-15 spots, top 20-30% maybe enough (like a lateral transfer). Also, people in the T3/T4 generally only have a shot at transfer friendly schools in the T14.
To transfer into the T1 you need:
- top 10-20% at a T2
- top 5-10% at T3
- top 5% at T4
- Other notes: Depending on just exactly where you are and how far up you want to transfer, you can again make the jump by being in the top 20-30%.
To transfer into the T2 you need:
- top 10-20% at a T3/T4
To lateral/transfer down/part to full time at the same school/part to full time at different schools/T3 to T4 (there is really no data on this stuff):
- Generally you want to be in the top half to transfer from part to full time, but this totally depends on the school
-To transfer down, I would also say you should be in the top half and maybe top 1/3 to be safe
- To lateral (i.e. transfer to a similarly-ranked school), top 1/3 is generally okay, and maybe top 25% if you are trying to lateral within the T14.
Other notes: Remember that much of the same standards for schools still apply. Yale and Stanford, for example, are still incredibly hard to predict even with great numbers. Northwestern still likes students who have work experience and such. Lastly, if you are way above the percentile ranges listed above (for example, you are top 5% when I said top 10% or you are top 1% when I said top 5%) then you might be considered a “lock” if such a thing exists.
The answer is a resounding “no”. The transferring process appears to be even more numbers-based than normal admissions. In fact, my guess is that your 1st year grades and the rank of your current law school account for 90-95% of your decision at most schools. The rest of the application is more of a double check to make sure you are a good student with good ambition. As always, good softs may matter in tie-breakers and can also likely hurt you if they are particularly poor.
Softs probably do not matter because your first year grades are very strong predictors for OCI success at big firms and even for bar passage rates. Also, I feel like there are enough transfers with good grades applying that softs just do not come into play.
I will try to comment on some common softs and questions. When I say small boost (below), I think of it is equivalent of a 1% increase in your rankings. When I say medium boost, I mean it is equivalent to a 5% increase in your rankings. When I say big boost, I mean it is equivalent to a 10%+ increase in your rankings. Just as a reminder, I am seriously pulling this out of the back of my head based on what I have seen. Nobody except the admissions officers really knows your chances, and my guess may be just as good as any (hopefully).
URM: There really is no evidence of URMs getting a boost in transfer admissions. We can ask the Yahoo groups to add in a column in their database to indicate URM status, but so far that has not happened. Also, the transfer class is generally pretty small that adding more URMs do not really change the diversity statistics of the law school as a whole. With that said, I do believe URMs get a little boost, but it just does not seem to work the way normal admissions do.
Awards: You know what I am talking about. Everyone who does well gets a ton of these awards (Dean’s List, Scholarships, CALI awards, Honor Societies etc.). These come automatically as a result of your high GPA, and since everyone gets a ton of these plus no additional work was required to get these things, I doubt they matter at all.
Law Review/Moot Court: “No”, again. First of all, if you are transferring, then you are not even going to be on the law review or moot court team at your old school. Getting onto law review via a write-on competition or onto moot court via an oral competition probably gives you a little boost, but again, many applicants have these on their resumes.
Extracurricular Activities/Work Experience: Leadership always looks great, and the fact that you can participate in clubs and do well shows a lot. In addition, if you did a ton of meaningful stuff in undergrad or had some good work experience, you would get a little boost as well. You might get a medium boost at Northwestern if you had 5+ years of serious work.
1L Summer: If you have a big firm 1L summer associate position (somehow) or one of those big firm diversity scholarship jobs, I would guess that you get a small boost. The rest of the typical research assistants, judicial externships, public interest work, etc. are just far too common and do not really add much to your application. I do think it is important still to actually do something during your 1L summer, rather than nothing.
Personal statement/LORs/Dean’s Certificate: These things are really just used as a double check to make sure that you can write, that you participate in class, and that you are not getting in trouble at school. It can give you a little boost at the most. Most personal statements and LORS sound the same anyways. Now, if you have truly COMPELLING reasons for transferring (like your wife and kids are over in that area or your slowly dying parents are in that city), then I would guess that it may give you a medium boost if you mention it in your personal statement.
Undergrad GPA/LSAT – Likely not, though Harvard says it matters. Your undergrad GPA and LSAT are supposed to predict your success in law school during your first year. Now that you have your first year grades, the predictive values of those two things go down the drain. I bet a 4.0/180 will raise an eyebrow, but then again you could have probably gone to HYS to begin with. However, the prestige of your undergrad education may also give you a small boost (only if it is really up there).
Going to a Local School: I am very tempted to say that going to a local school gives you a small boost (Loyola ->UCLA; Hastings -> Berkeley; Temple/Villanova -> Penn; American -> GULC; Brooklyn -> NYU/Columbia, etc). I realize that top schools often receive more applications from local schools, but my gut instinct here seems to notice this small pattern of favoritism. Another reason may be that top schools like to cherry-pick the best students from the lower local schools. This allows them to weaken the competition (so to speak) while simultaneously increasing their own reputation.
A few final notes: Do not worry about too much about soft factors. If you have the numbers, you will be fine. If you have bad softs, you might get rejected at a few places, but you should still get in somewhere if you spread your transfer applications around to enough schools and are a generally competitive applicant grades-wise.
In case you forgot, most applications require:
- The Application Form
- Application Fee ($60-$100)
- Personal Statement (1-2 pages, often requiring you explain why you want to transfer)
- Resume (usually with your 1L summer experience added in)
- 2 LORS (Letters of Recommendations, usually from professors), some schools have special forms for LORS, but I am pretty sure most schools prefer you use LSAC. Feel free to email them to double check.
- Official Undergraduate Transcripts (and any non-law school/graduate school transcripts)
- LSDAS Report and the $12 fee
- 1st Year Law School Transcript (w/ class rank)
- Dean’s Certificate/Letter of Good Standing
Other than your 1L grades, the Dean’s Certificate/Letter is the one thing you have to do that you did not have to do before in your original application process. You generally can ask the registrar, the admissions office, or the Dean’s office to (reluctantly) send one for you. Some schools also require you to use their own form for the Dean’s Certificate, so just give it to appropriate office when you ask them (it will not be sent through LSDAS).
If you have applied to the law school before, you would obviously have to use new materials. If you have not, then I do not see how the law school actually know if you used parts of your old personal statement or something. However, I do recommend you use new recommendation materials since many things have changed. For things like your resume, I would just update accordingly. Many schools will want you to resend in your undergraduate transcript as part of your LSDAS, even if you sent the same one last year.
Pay attention to any special application requirements. What this means is, you may have to start doing some work early. For example, if the application requires an Undergraduate Dean’s Certification (every school calls it something different), then you likely want to start doing this in May (it might take a while).
Also, pay attention to the due dates! Stanford, Berkeley, UVA, and GULC are due on June 15, while the rest have deadlines in July. Most schools realize you may not have received grades by June 15th, so just email them to tell them that and send it in once you get it. They may even allow you to send the Dean’s Certificates or the LORS in after that date. However, you still have to send the rest of your application in prior to this date.
Below, I have tried to list any unusual requirements and this past year’s due dates:
1. Yale – due July 1, the legendary Yale 250 word personal statement,
2. Harvard – due July 1
3. Stanford – due June 15, Undergraduate Dean’s Certification
4. Columbia – due July 15, Biographical/Personal Profile Sheet, Undergraduate Dean’s Certification
5. NYU – due July 15, Undergraduate Dean’s Certification, no LORs required, NYU also appears to require you to use paper forms for the College/Law School Transcript, LORs, and Undergraduate/Law School Dean’s Certifications
6. Berkeley – due June 15
6. Chicago – due July 1, no paper applications
8. UPenn – due July 15, complete by August 1
9. Michigan – due July 21, only 1 LOR required
10. Duke – due July 1
10. Northwestern – due July 1, only 1 LOR, one legal writing sample
10. UVA – optimal deadline is June 15
13. Cornell – due July 15
14. GULC – due June 15, only 1 LOR
Like the normal admissions process, the applications are looked at on a rolling basis. However, most law schools do understand that grades are often released at a crawling speed, so if your school is a bit slow, it is not a huge deal.
This is just not a fun thing to do. Ever. However, you know the drill – just write about yourself. Most schools have general instructions that ask you to write about your background and why you want to transfer, so go for it.
Before I even get to the writing of the oh-so-dreaded essay, let me reemphasize that the PS is a lot less important than people think. The weight of the transfer PS pales in comparison to regular law admissions PS or your undergrad admissions PS. Most people write about the same things (their epic studying as a 1L and how they want to have better employment prospects), so it ends up generally sounding the same. I would not spend too much time trying to come up with something super unique. In fact, the most important thing is probably to just not have any errors (duh), since a sloppy Personal Statement can still hurt.
What I Did
My PS was 2 pages double spaced, which allowed me to single space it for those that asked for one page. In addition, the first half of my PS was about my background (high school, college, and law school) while the second half focused on why I wanted to transfer. I also used one paragraph about my background from my old PS (from when I first applied to law school) as part of my new transfer PS. If you did not originally apply to the school during regular admissions, I would say feel free to use a good portion of your old PS in your new one (some parts may need to be tweaked of course).
What do you write about?
You can write whatever you want. Seriously. Some do not even address why they want to transfer and still do fine (not every school inquires for your reasons for transferring, especially since it is usually kind of obvious). Some people recommend tailoring your PS to the schools you apply to, but this understandably takes longer.
Everyone struggles with what to write about. I cannot really help you there, but just use the same methods you did when you wrote your original PS. Regarding the “why you want to transfer” section, write about certain professors/clinics/journals at the school. Talk about class sizes or geographical preferences. I also talked about the obvious employment benefits, and spent another paragraph on my interest in potentially seeking a clerkship. Perhaps the new school has a better curriculum in a certain field of law. Basically, just do your research. I would see the “Why Transfer” section above for more motivation.
Regarding optional essays, you can do them if you want, but again I doubt they will have much influence. I personally did not write any. For schools like Penn (or maybe Michigan) who really like students who actually want to be there, I would either address your reasons for transferring in your PS or in one of their optional essays.
If you struggle with the PS, I feel your pain. Why would we want to write about ourselves and how awesome we are? We are all too humble for that.
Talk about awkward – asking your current law professors to help you leave their school for greener pastures. However, this is not particularly a hard thing to do. You have all asked for LORs before, and I would say this is a lot easier to do than the PS. All you do is hand the professors the paperwork and they do the writing, right? It is technically pretty simple and there are a gazillion ways to go about doing it. There may be some awkwardness, but chances are your professors have dealt with this situation before. Both of my LORs came from professors who were incredibly nice and supportive.
Remember, LORs are not very important compared to your grades. Perhaps some professors will even have a boilerplate format with minor tweaks for most students. I heard of people not going to class or office hours but just showing up randomly and having successful transfer cycles despite lacking any strong bonds with the professor. Professors will probably understand that it is tough to bond with you when there are 100 or so students in the class. However, if the opportunity arises to forge a meaningful connection with a professor, it would certainly be a good idea to do so.
Preparing for Good LORs During the Year
Hopefully you decided to transfer rather early and can prepare to get good LORs. What this means is you always go to class, you do not sleep in class, and you try to ask occasional questions and engage in minor participation. In addition, you will go to office hours, which is the most important part. During office hours, you will ask productive questions AND bond with the professor by asking some non-law questions (about their background or their career paths). In addition, your will demonstrate your personality and unique backgrounds so that they will remember you and have things to say when they later write your LOR. I did not go to office hours just to get LORs, I had real questions to ask (and I hope you will too). Plus, going to office hours is a great way to read your professors to prepare for exams.
I personally did not talk about transferring with my professors, mostly because of strong anti-transferring policies at the time. However, many transfer students have been very open and talked to professors about the topic during the year, asking for their opinion. I think this is a great idea and I would have done it if I was not scared out of my mind by my school. People have said that professors have been surprisingly open and understanding when talking about transferring, so do not be shy and feel free to just ask them for their advice and their take on transferring. This also makes it a lot easier when the time comes for you to actually ask them for an LOR.
Choosing a Professor
Oh boy, this is a tough one. You need to recognize the conflict of interest that exists. Professors are duty-bound by the school to try and keep good students. On the other hand, they are paid by the school to provide services (like LORs) to students in a sense and also duty-bound to help their own students out (as human beings in master/apprentice relationships).
Here are some things you should consider
1. Your personal bond with the professor – Did he or she really like you? Did you guys bond in office hours? Does she even know who you are?
2. Your grade in the class – If you did well enough to consider transferring, this generally should not be a problem. However, do pick professors that gave you A’s. It makes it easier for them to say things about you, especially if you tried hard by not sleeping in class and going to office hours.
3. How nice your professor is – You want someone to write a good LOR with nice things to say. Some professors have high standards and tough exams, and may not think so highly of students. Try your best to make a read on your professor’s personality in this manner.
4. Whether your professor loves students – This piggybacks on the niceness factor, but you will notice that some professors care more about students than others. Did the professor have office hours four times a week or just once on Friday afternoon? Did he look busy and frustrated every time students came to ask questions or did he look happy or relieved? Pay attention to whether your professor truly loves students (aka you as a person). Some professors will consider you their student no matter what you do. These are the professors you want. On the other hand, some professors care more about the school they work for. A few of my professors showed a ton of pride for the school while others hinted at how transferring was bad. One of them even posted horror stories of students who transferred. I would recommend you avoid these professors.
5. How long they have taught at your law school – Is your professor new? If so, she may feel less attached to the school and thus there is less of a conflict of interest. One of the professors I asked for a LOR was a visiting professor and lo and behold, I perceived no conflict of interest. He was very happy to help me out. On the other hand, if your professor has taught at your school for 20 years, he or she may be more attached to the school. However, he or she may be used to this process, since students likely ask them for LORs to transfer every year. Is your professor an associate dean or on one of the school boards? This is another factor that increases the conflict of interest.
6. Communication and ability to get things done – This may not be common but there are incredibly intelligent yet absent-minded professors out there. Make sure you pick a professor who is reliable. Does he answer or respond to email? Can you contact him or her if problems arise? Does he sometimes forget things or is he slow in getting things done?
7. Your professor’s alma mater – This may be obvious, but it is a lot less awkward to ask your professor for a recommendation to Harvard if she went to Harvard. She will understand and may even give you some tips.
How to Approach Your Professor Meeting with your professor in person is the way to go. The reason I suggest this is that you guys will probably want to talk about it. You want to give the professor time to “judge you.” There are too many stories of students trying to catch professors by email or phone and getting ignored.
If you can, try to do these things as early as possible, perhaps before spring finals kick in.
If you do it during the semester, just go to office hours (alone) and ask them for the LOR. Sometimes if other students are there, stay a bit afterwards. Most professors are also willing to schedule private separate appointments with you.
If you have to meet with your professor after finals, this will be harder, but still doable. Many professors work from home during the summer, so they will be harder to find in person. I asked some of my friends who were research assistants for the professors in order to figure out when the professors would be available. In addition, you can just send them an email asking them to meet and say you want to go over exams or something (if you do not want to bring up the transferring issue over the phone/email).
What I did During the Meeting
Please prepare for the meeting. When I met with my professors, I had a manila folder with all the paperwork prepared so that I could just hand it to them. I chose my professors very carefully and assumed they would say yes. Thus I was able to print out the LSAC and other forms with their info on it ahead of time. It was also hard to catch the professors during the summer so I only wanted to meet with them once (rather than meeting with them a second time afterwards to hand them the forms).
Inside the manila folder, I gave them my transcript from last semester, my resume, my old personal statement (or new one once I had it), the LSAC form, a stamped envelope, and an introduction sheet explaining everything. If you think you can catch your professor a second time, you can hand them the LSAC form or recommendation forms on a later date.
What I did during the meeting was just talk about a few other things (usually about how hard their final was) and then just saying something like “I am thinking about transferring and would you be comfortable with writing a LOR for me?” This may or may not be an awkward meeting, but I mentioned that there may be a conflict of interest and I apologized to them. Lastly, I would also explain your reasons for transferring to the professor.
If your reasons are less than noble (or you do not want to risk insulting the professor/school by saying you want to go to a better school with better employment prospects), then feel free to just tell them you want to “apply” to transfer in order to obtain a better scholarship from your current law school. Think of it as standard procedure and that all law students who do well should throw in an application to transfer. This is especially true in this economy, where schools are lacking funds and may be a bit cheaper when it comes to scholarships. I honestly think this is one reason most professors will understand. From reading other people’s stories though, most professors are generally supportive of the transferring process and will understand that law school is a business and that you want to better yourself. Plus, they likely went to a top school.
I also asked my professors to send me an email confirmation for when they have sent the letter. This request was written down on the instructions sheet as well as mentioned in person during the meeting.
Lastly, please give your professor a TON of time to do this. Now, I gave both of my professors 1-2 weeks, but they understood my time constraints since grades came out late. Yes, I waited until my grades came out and THEN decided to transfer. Some professors will want 3-4 weeks, so try to do this early (before grades come out) if you have to.
Yes, this does exist and is a fairly recent phenomenon from what I hear. In case you did not know, you can transfer after your fall 1L grades (*gasp*) and without your spring grades. A decision is usually given in April or May. The application process has the same requirements as normal transfer admissions but with earlier dates:
6. Chicago, due April 15 - THIS is BINDING (you have to go if you are accepted)
14. Georgetown, due March 16
55. Case Western, due March 30
71. Miami, TBA (or rather, it does not say anything on their website)
100. Hofstra, due May 15
Currently, these are the only schools that have this option. Your GPA for spring 1L semester is generally irrelevant (though C’s or lower might raise an eyebrow). Chicago also requires you get “consistent” grades throughout the year. When asked, the Chicago admissions office said this meant that you should not drop more than 0.2 or 0.3 points on your GPA or drop more than 10-20%.
Lastly, Washington University St. Louis’ EA option has been dumped (formerly due March 31). It appears that this is no longer currently possible and I have no idea if the school will reinstate the program in the future.
Should I Do Early Action?
This is a personal decision, but let us first weigh the pros and cons below.
My personal recommendation is to go for it, but only if you really want to go to the school. Only a few schools allow early action so far, and you are totally limited to these schools. If you had spectacular, knock-em dead grades first semester, you will likely get similar grades second semester. I have actually never heard of anyone getting top grades 1st semester, then getting average grades 2nd semester (though I am sure it is possible). Basically, once you “get it” and understand how to succeed on law school exams, it stays with you.
Though I had straight A’s, I did not apply early action. I was pretty sure I would do equally well second semester and I was not really interested in Chicago or Georgetown.
Finally, I did not want to take the risk and have lower second semester grades. As a result, my 2nd semester grades were just as good as my first semester grades.
Pros (for transferring early action)
- only depends on one semester worth of grades, technically allowing you to slack off second semester (though not recommended)
- just to repeat and emphasize, you are possibly making up for your mistakes on the LSAT and 4 years of slacking off in college with just one semester of hard work (which actually sounds like a good deal and a much easier path into a good school right?)
- being accepted so early gives more preparation time for an easier transition to the new school
- gives more peace of mind, especially for spring finals
- you can participate in the new school’s regular law review write on competition in May instead of the special one in September for transfers (or… you might even be able to try law review twice if you fail the first time in May)
- easier to get LORs during the year than during the summer since professors are still around and have office hours
- the decision is not binding (except for Chicago), you can still apply to other schools even if you get in (but you would have to put down a seat deposit then withdraw the application later)
- you would technically already have acceptances before the regular cycle as a backup
- you might be able to negotiate for a scholarship at your current law school much earlier when they have more money still
- it also might be slightly easier to get in since you are applying early and the transfer class has not been filled yet
- you have to be fairly certain you want to go to the school, since they usually require you to put down a seat deposit of $500 within a month of accepting you (long before the deadlines for normal transfers)
- really only limited to the schools listed above (and just Chicago and Georgetown in the T14)
- doing this all during spring semester means you jeopardize spring semester grades, which are still important for fall OCI
- you also have less time to write your PS and get LORs during the school year so the quality of your application may suffer, plus you will likely be looking for a 1L summer job which also takes up time
- you also have fewer professors to ask for LORs (as you would depend mostly on fall 1L professors), and it would might be weird to ask your spring semester professors for LORs to transfer before you get a grade in their class (which will likely be good considering your 1st semester performance)
- your second semester grades may be even better
- this is obviously not indicative of anything, but very few people do early action transferring (probably because they do not know about it)
What are my chances?
Before you decide to apply, you also have to figure out your chances. To be honest, I have no data and also have just never heard of anyone applying to transfer early action to Miama, Case Western, or Hofstra. Pretty much everyone on the forums talks about early action transfers to Chicago and Georgetown, so I will focus on that.
Unlike early action for regular admissions into law school, the requirements for early action transfers are stricter. You need slightly higher grades than regular transfer admissions. My guess is that because they cannot see your second semester grades when making their decision, they have to bank on the fact that people who do well first semester will also do well second semester (because they “get it” and already figured out legal reasoning/analysis). Therefore, your first semester grades need to be higher than my guesses above for regular admissions. I will also admit that there is even less data on early action transfer admissions, so this is just my extrapolation and guess as usual. Also, I seriously have never heard of anyone doing lateral transfers or transfers down via the early action process.
To transfer into the Chicago you need:
- top 5% at T1/T2
- top 1% at T3/T4
- Other notes: Chicago does not take many transfers to begin with, and I am guessing they do not take very many students for early action. Depending on exactly where you are in the T1, top 10-15% may be okay if you are only 10-15 rankings lower.
To transfer into Georgetown you need:
- top 10% at T1
- top 5% at T2
- top 1% at T3/T4
- Other notes: Remember that GULC is very transfer-friendly and takes quite of bit of people early on if they have the numbers. Again, depending on exactly where you are in the T1, top 20-30% may be okay if you are only 10-15 rankings lower.
The majority will usually say yes. Seriously though, you should have decided this before you apply. Otherwise, why spend all that effort and money if you ultimately decide not to go (unless you did it purely for scholarship negotiation purposes)? However, these questions pop up all the time (you know what I am talking about, the "should I go to this T14 vs. stay at my old school" threads), so I will try to address what I have seen and what I think you should do.
Oh, and I think you should transfer.
Before I even read your file, I recommend transferring because most of the time, that is the right answer. When people ask if they should transfer after they have applied and been accepted, it is usually because they get cold feet. All of a sudden, moving to a new place looks like a hassle. That law review invitation just came, along with a beautiful scholarship letter. Plus, you suddenly realize it might be nicer to be number one at a small hamlet than second in command to all of Rome (as Julius Caesar put it). If you need me to allay your insecurities, then I will. Go transfer.
Now, when someone asks whether they should stay or go, a few factors come into play time and time again:
1. Which schools (obviously)
2. Geographical Preferences – where you want to work and whether you have a spouse there
3. Scholarships (could be half tuition, full tuition, full tuition + living stipend, etc.)
4. Employment goals (big law versus government public interest versus clerkship/academia)
5. Law review
Ultimately, whether you stay or go is a personal decision. These are the factors that generally guide the forum polls (on TLS/Yahoo groups). Some say that these are the only factors that should matter when deciding to go or not. By the way, law review should not be a reason to stay but people factor it into their decision every time. You can often still try out for law school or get onto a great journal. In addition, the reputation of your newer school (assuming you made a big enough jump) will be likely better for clerkships and academia than staying at your old school and making law review.
There are just far too many possibilities when it comes to these factors. Here are some common situations where transferring (instead of staying) is not an obvious choice.
T14 + full ride -> HYS
- This is another common 50/50 if you have no clerkship/academia thoughts
-If you are at CCN, you should probably stay, especially if you have no clerkship/academia ambitions
Top 20/lower T14 + full ride -> non-HYS T14
- If you are transferring into CCN, this becomes sort of a 50/50, if it is non-CCN, you should stay
T1/T2 + full ride -> mid/lower T14
T3/T4 + full ride -> T1
- This is another 50/50, the TLS Forum consensus will say to transfer, but in real life, I feel like a lot of people struggle with the decision (and a good number of them ultimately stay)
Moving up 10-20 spots and not into top 10 schools
- Generally you should probably just stay If you have a geographical preference at your old school + full ride + no big law or academia desires -> non-HYS T14
- I would almost say that you should stay for this one too
Basically, if you are unsure, feel free to do a poll on TLS. The prevailing result is usually to transfer to the more prestigious school (especially if it is T14) barring strong geographical preferences and tons of money.
Lastly, whether you should go or not mirrors the regular admissions process, so this should not be too tough.
What do I do about early deadlines when I have not even heard back from other schools?
This often arises with Berkeley, Stanford, and GULC, who have June 15 deadlines. People get their acceptances and must accept by around mid July. However, they have not heard back from Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Chicago, or NYU.
Here are some obvious answers, but you can
1) ask for an extension
2) ask the schools you have not heard from to politely “hurry up” and tell them you really want to go there
3) accept at the school but withdraw later (for example, Berkeley requires some integrity but no seat deposit, so perhaps they will understand if you have to accept early but later go to Harvard)
4) just go to Berkeley, Stanford, and GULC because those are good schools already
What happens if my school does not rank or does not give out letter grades (for early action or regular admissions)?
I would not worry about this. Schools have seen applications from various schools every year and can figure this out. Straight A’s at T2/T3/T4 schools are going to be generally impressive and likely in the top 1%. Even if you are at Berkeley and trying to transfer out, they can make a general guess depending on how many HH/H/P’s you have.
Do transfers get scholarship money?
Not from the new school, but usually from the old school. I have never heard of anyone being able to negotiate a scholarship at their new school, even if they really wanted to go to Michigan but were accepted at Harvard or something.
Is transferring becoming more competitive?
I cannot tell from the database. My guess is that it is becoming slightly more competitive; after all, law school admissions have, in general, become more competitive. Though the number of law school students has not gone up a lot, the number of people interested in transferring seems to be increasing. For example, Harvard 10 years ago only took 2 transfers, now they take around 30. Berkeley 10 years ago took 10-15 transfers. A few years ago they took 30-40, and my transfer class had around 50 people.
With the dominance of the US News and World Report law school rankings, people now care a lot more about the school they graduate from. In addition, the internet (with places like TLS) has made transferring seem commonplace while also making the non-top law schools look bad. The internet has also started to provide more information on how to transfer. Thus, I feel like more people may want to transfer as it may become standard procedure for those who do well.
Now, while students have become more interested in transferring, law schools appear to be equally interested. Taking in transfers allows law schools to 1) cherry pick top students from other schools and eliminate competition, 2) take in smart people without worrying about LSAT/uGPA, and 3) take in students who pay full tuition, and 4) take in students with a good 1L year which is a better predictor of success. Thus, I have noticed that schools have slowly started to take in more and more transfers.
I also just do not know whether the economy has any effect on transferring. On one hand, people may want to transfer to lower their risks of not getting a job as the recession forces jobs towards the better schools. On the other hand, taking in greater debt is risky so people who want to transfer may take the scholarship at the old school. So, the two factors just might cancel each other out.
Can I try out for law review at the new school?
All of the top law schools say that this can be done; however, it will be hard and I would just not count on getting into the flagship law review since there are usually very few spots saved for transfers. For example, transfers into UCLA can try out for law review, but there are 30+ transfers and like only around 3 spots saved for their law review. Berkeley saves about 5 spots and Loyola saves about 6 spots.
You should look at this in perspective. I think these numbers are pretty fair since you actually have the same chance as a person doing the regular write on competition. For example, a school with about 300 people usually has about 30 people make law review. A transfer class may have about 30 people with 3 spots saved. The percentages are actually about the same. Now, your competition is obviously tougher, but statistically, you should be fine.
One important piece of advice is that if you are doing the law review competition as a transfer during the fall semester and you actually want to make law review, SKIP YOUR CLASSES and focus just on that for the week. This is probably the best advice I can give you for making law review as a transfer.
Now, the two problematic schools that I know of are GULC and Harvard. Both schools say that if you want to participate in law review, you have to do it in May. This basically means that you really “can’t” try out for law review. You would have to be insane to do their law review when you have not been accepted into their law school. Plus you may have to do your own law review competition at the same time. Finals may not even be over for some schools when the law review competition begins at GULC/Harvard. Thus, their claims that you can do law review are kind of unrealistic.
The kicker is that GULC has an early action program. Thus, if you are accepted at GULC in April/May and know you want to go for sure, then you can and should do their regular law review write on competition. However, for Harvard, you are out of luck.
How do transfers fare at OCI?
So far, the answer seems to be unanimous that transfers do well at OCI. Most transfers do just as well if not better. However, if you had a borderline GPA (think top 15%-20% at a T2 or top 10% at a T4) and you transferred, then you might have slightly worse luck.
Employers look at your 1L GPA, so my guess is that having a better school on your resume can only increase your chances.
By the way, most interviewers will ask you why you transferred. If it is a geographical preference, the answer is easy. Feel free to tell them the truth, though my guess is that most interviewers will understand if you tell them that it is a career decision. Law school is an investment after all. See the “why transfer” section above for more information.
Can you get waitlisted/deferred?
The early action schools can defer you to the regular transferring admissions. I do not know any schools that just waitlist transfer applications. They simply just give you a late acceptance.
Is there a transfer stigma and how easy is it to adjust to the new school?
This depends on the person and the school. Generally, the 1L year is cliquish and it can be difficult to break into pre-existing social circles. However, if you are social person, you will still have friends. Many schools also have a transferring organization to help ease the transition. Personally, I have bonded with several transfers and 1L’s. In addition, I lived in kind of an upperclassmen undergrad off campus housing and have pretty much integrated smoothly into this new place. I honestly think it is no different than being a freshman and starting all over again.
Most people do not outwardly disdain transfers but are often disappointed that transfers come in and take their interviews. Even at my T2 school, my classmates were worried about an incoming class of 40 transfers (from T3/T4’s) and how they might screw up the curves and hog interviews. Transfers are often perceived as gunners since they had to work hard to get to the top of their old law school. Some believe that transfers are not legitimate students and often perceived as people who are dumb or slacked off in college (aka have low LSAT/GPA). In addition, some believe that being top of the class at a T3/T4 is not comparable to an average student at a T14. Basically, the view is that it is a lot easier to do well at lower ranked schools. It does not matter whether this stuff is true or not, but these are just some general rumors that are attached to transfer students.
Doing 2 OCI’s and “Double-Dipping”
This is definitely unfair. Since you are a transfer, you are in a unique position where it is possible for you to participate both in your old school’s OCI and your new school’s OCI. However, I did learn about this from a few long talks with a couple of very intelligent and clever individuals.
How does this work? Well, most non-top schools do OCI very early (around mid-August) in order to get an edge on the top schools. Most top schools can do OCI a bit later (usually in September) because they can afford to. The problem is that sometimes, students do not get their acceptances until after they have started doing OCI at their old school. Therefore, if the new school also allows them to do OCI, they are not able to interview again (aka twice). The one rule in doing this is that you do not bid on or interview with the same firm at the same office twice.
So, to recap, this is possible and it does happen. I have met two people personally who have done it and heard of 3 people online who have done it. Only one person somewhere has admitted that they planned to transfer with the intent of doing OCI twice and planned it out so that he could do more interviews. My guess is that this happens a lot more often, but is kept on the down-low.
The Pros (of “Double-Dipping” and Doing OCI at Your Old School)
- Because you get more interviews (duh) and probably a wider range of interviews, in addition, you might be able to choose the location of your interview (at the new school or the old school)
- You can overcome bid/interview limits (some schools limit the number of bids or interviews you can have)
- Because this is an unusual economy and it is better to be a bit aggressive. In fact, most people think that being aggressive in the job hunt is okay. In this economy you take every interview you get.
- Because you have no choice. Most people who do two OCI’s are reasonable in doing so. If you have not received an acceptance yet, you MUST do OCI at your old school since it would be silly to not interview simply because you applied to transfer and you are waiting on an answer. If you do not get in, then you just screwed yourself. In addition, when you have not received an acceptance from a new school, you are still a student at your old school.
- Because sometimes, you might not be able to do OCI at your new school. Some acceptances come late and OCI bidding might be over at your new school (rare, but it happens)
- Because who would want to turn down an interview with a firm they want to work for?
- Because you paid for a year’s worth of tuition and OCI (which starts before 2L year) is “arguably” part of the 1st year since it is based on 1st year grades
- Because you are past the interview cancelation deadline and you received your acceptance like 48 hours before the interview
- Because employers often pre-select at your old school’s OCI but not your new school’s
- Because doing OCI at your old school allows for a better comparison of your grades
- Because you HAVE to do interviews somewhere right? If you are a transfer, then you probably know that the people at your old school do not want you to interview there. At the same time, the people at the new school do not want you to interview there either since you are not the typical student who did their 1L year
- If you are doing OCI at your old school, you get to interview earlier and before the spots are taken up. If you end up getting an offer before your new school’s OCI, you may not have to do 2 OCI’s
- Because it is in YOUR best interest. I have never heard of doing 2 OCI’s as illegal or against school policy. In fact, most schools know about it and realize that it is a consequence that occurs when they move their OCI up early and before people get their transfer acceptances.
-This is obviously unfair since most people can only do OCI once
-Arguments have made that there is often some lying involved and borders on being unethical or immoral
-This is actually hard to do and many times you may not have the opportunity to do so
-You may have to tell your employers suddenly (if you get a callback) that they have to pay travel fees for callbacks
-This topic almost always reinforces transfer stigma
-This is not recommended as something you should do by the general population. Most people would probably think that this should be against the rules.
Like many people, I was super jealous when I heard about this opportunity since my two schools do OCI in pretty much the same week. Basically the advantages of doing two OCIs are SO great that people frown upon it equally greatly. Thus, it might not be so bad to get a late acceptance (or get off a waitlist) after all.
What do I do about Financial Aid?
I did my financial aid at the usual time (I think in January). I basically listed my old school along with any other school I had an interest in on the FAFSA when I filled it out at that time.
If you did not do it early at the regular time, then you can still file a FAFSA after you get your acceptance letter (or at least, I am guessing most places allow this). Financial aid is generally not a problem and you would receive need-based aid similar to your 1L year at your old school.
What do I do about some epic anti-transferring policies at my old school?
First of all, do not badmouth them. Understand that schools are simply trying to do their best, and this includes trying to get their students to stay. They are not being evil or anything, this is just how business works.
I have heard all sorts of stories. Some schools prevent transfers from getting future recommendations for jobs or clerkships. Some schools make it harder by mailing the things out slowly. Others charge you over $100 dollars for a Dean’s certification or try to rack up fees somehow. Some require you to have a big long talk with the dean. Some tell the entire faculty to not write recommendations or to discourage students from transferring (making the process of getting LORS extra awkward). They may even prevent you from bidding on fall OCI. Many schools try to keep it on the down-low and make it seem like the most outrageous thing that they have ever heard of.
Whatever the policy, you just deal with it. There is nothing you can do about it, so you kind of have to suck it up and realize that this happens everywhere. All the schools have an interest in keeping their students and will want to do it somehow. Just do not be surprised and kindly thank them for everything in the end.
Oh and I want to give a special thanks to Loyola Law School, the professors, the administration, and everyone there who has been very supportive and helpful in my transferring decision.
Should I go to a law school with the intent on transferring to another one?
You do not need me to tell you no – but the answer is NO. The vox populi is unanimous in this department. You should not do this. Statistically, it is hard to bank on being in the top 10% especially with all the uncertainty of law school.
Now, even though you should not do this, I feel like a lot of people do. A good number of T3/T4 students know that their school is not the greatest and want to transfer even going in. In addition, students at T2/T3/T4s often have a secret yearning to go to the better local school. For example, at my school (Loyola Law School, Los Angeles), many people want to go to USC or UCLA. I bet most of them have this secret yearning and would go there in a heartbeat if they could. From what I have heard, this is true everywhere and especially so when there is a much better law school locally (even some Berkeley students think about transferring to Stanford or something).
Basically the rule is, do not go to law school wanting to transfer. Make sure you are comfortable graduating from your current school.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with going one place while trying to transfer. You can use it to motivate you and even prepare ahead of time (by making good relationships with professors, not taking on extra long commitments/leases, by doing financial aid early, etc).
How do transfers generally fare at their new school grade-wise?
They do a spectacular job, which results in much jealousy and further stigma. Many transfers end up in the top 1/3 of the class at their new schools (though there is a lack of substantial data supporting this claim). It is much easier to get honors, since they do not have their 1L year GPA factored in (even though it was probably high but at their old school).
Transfers students are often gunners to begin with and will likely work hard. The stigma may push them to work harder, since they may have something to prove. Generally, people say you take a 10-20% ranking drop at your new school, but I have heard of many cases where transfers do just as well as they did in their old school.
Basically, if you have law school figured out already and do not end up slacking off or something, it is expected that you would do fairly well regardless of where you are.
How else can I use transferring to obtain an advantage?
I have only heard of one person doing this, but it is possible to intentionally go to a lower ranked school (through regular law school admissions) with a scholarship and then transfer. If the scholarship does not say anything about staying at the school or does not say anything about having to pay it back if you transfer, then you have saved a year’s worth of tuition.
This is a very gutsy move since it depends on you landing in the top of your class to transfer out. However, you would have just saved a ton of money. So, if you are deciding which law school to go to, feel free to choose the lower ranked school with the money (make sure it has no strings attached). The downside is of course you could have done your 1L year at a better school, and missed out on all the social activities (or law review) at that better school. For some people though, that one year of tuition money saved makes a difference. I personally will acknowledge that this money saving benefit of transferring exists, but is definitely not something I recommend.
The Legendary Yahoo Transfer Apps (you need an account to log in)
-this is probably the best site out there for transfers and has a huge membership count
-the message board is hard to view, but has a lot of helpful information (the search function is a bit hard to use though)
-the database is probably the best thing ever when it comes to transferring and it is what I keep talking about, please add to it when you are done
Droit Femme transferring blog
http://droitfemme.blogspot.com/2006/05/ ... hools.html
Sua Sponte transferring blog
TaxProf Blog has some nice transferring data
http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog ... -tran.html
Law School Discussions has a transferring section on their forum
http://www.lawschooldiscussion.org/stud ... 006.0.html
Above the Law has an interesting perspective on transfers, feel free to check out the comments for those articles
Also, because 1L year depends so much on grades, I wrote a separate article on doing well in law school (with links to other similar articles on doing well in law school)
Thread here on TLS about transferring Part Time to Full Time at a Different School
This article is a work in progress. I definitely realize that there is a lot of uncertainty and disagreement regarding the transfer process, so feel free to tell me if you believe that something is wrong. As always, if you had a successful transfer cycle, I encourage you to share your wealth. I would be happy to add any information onto this article as well (and give you credit).
If you have more questions, feel free to PM me or post them here in this thread.
Transferring is a difficult and intimidating process. Hopefully, this article will help make it a bit easier. The word “transfer” will hold a special place in your mind. However, soon after law school, no one will probably know. I wish you the best of luck in this secretive and sneaky process that seduces the minds of many successful 1L’s.
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