Whether you went into law school with plans to transfer after 1L year or decided to entertain the possibility after receiving stellar first semester grades, there are some things to consider before you make this huge leap. Transferring can completely change your law school experience as well as your future career path, so we’ve got some considerations and tips for you as you go through the decision-making process.
There are many reasons a student may choose to transfer law schools. One of the biggest questions you should ask yourself is: “Does another school serve my career goals, both in terms of geography and type of practice, better than my current school?”
Some factors that go into the geography component are where you want to practice long term (as more opportunities may be available to local alumni) and the potential to move closer to someone like a significant other or family member.
If you’ve decided what type of practice you’d like to go into, you may find that your target transfer schools provide more opportunities for clerkships, On-Campus Interviews (OCIs) for large firms or public interest connections. How you answer the above question will help you whittle down your choices and be more deliberate with both your school research and admissions essays than when you first applied to law school.
Law school is expensive, so cost is most likely top of mind. Along with expenses that may be obvious to you, like application fees and a difference in tuition, there are other financial pros and cons to be considered.
If you’re going from a private to a public school, you may be saving a good amount in tuition. However, the opposite can be true as well, so additional loans may be required. Unfortunately, it’s common for schools to not offer any scholarships for transfer students. If you’re on scholarship now, it’s worth investigating this at your target schools. Take a serious look into your finances and think about what this change could look like down the road.
Additionally, if you’re going to need to relocate, have you considered the price of moving or potentially having to break a lease? What about an increase or decrease in the cost of living in your new city? Doing a cost-benefit analysis of your financial situation will help you determine if the transfer really makes sense.
Where to apply
Every year, all law schools are obligated to publish ABA 509 required disclosures. These include a Transfers section which can tell you how many transfers the school accepted, what the percentile GPAs were and from what schools the transfers came. This will give you a good indication of whether your choice schools accept students from your law school, and how many.
Know the deadlines
At most schools, the transfer process gets going after receiving second-semester grades. Some schools, like Georgetown and the University of Chicago, have early admission (based on first semester grades). In either case, it’s important to do some research so you’re ready to apply to meet the appropriate deadlines.
Applying towards the beginning of the transfer application period will allow you to take advantage of any transfer offerings, like a transfer write-on period for Law Review or Journal. Schools should have the eligibility information for these types of organizations readily available. If you wait until the end of the application period, you may become ineligible to participate in an offering you had your heart set on.
What can you do right now
One of the most important things you can do is start developing relationships with your professors. You’ll need multiple letters of recommendation, so it’s helpful to build those relationships early. Once you receive your grades and decide to transfer, you can approach each professor to determine whether they would make an excellent candidate to write a letter on your behalf. Upperclassmen are also a good resource for steering you to professors who do rec letters more often than others.
Once you know who you’ll ask, the time to do so is during mid-to-late spring semester (assuming a regular admission schedule), so you’ll have your letters ready to go once the portal opens and you receive your second semester grades.
Advice from those who have been in your shoes
Since you’ll likely be applying to far fewer schools than during your initial entry, you’ll have the time and opportunity to really research the schools and provide tailored entrance essays. You can speak to alumni or friends you have that are currently at your target(s), research professors and any unique subject matter you’re interested in, and craft your story or narrative in a way that’s uniquely tailored to that school.
Along with financial, geographical and career related considerations, past transfer students often advise to consider the emotional toll of a transfer. If you’re going somewhere completely new with no friends or family nearby, you may experience loneliness and loss of community. Think about whether this might disrupt your social life and affect your mental health.
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question: “Should I transfer law schools?”, with thoughtful consideration, planning and research, you can feel confident that you will make the best decision for you and your future goals.
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