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Transferring law schools is not uncommon and can happen for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you didn’t get accepted into your dream law school on the first try and wish to try again as a 1L. Perhaps you did get into your dream law school, but the law school you got into offered you a more lucrative deal. Some students have to transfer due to changing family obligations, and others have various life circumstances that force them to look into this option. Life happens. If you wish to transfer, know that it’s doable. Do your research as early as possible and go into the process prepared. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Your First Year Grades Matter
There is no doubt that you have already been told that your first-year grades matter. In fact, you’ll hear this fact ad nauseum in your first year and be reminded of it in your second and third year when it’s time to line up your employment options. This does not change if you want to transfer law schools – in fact, it’s just as important for that purpose alone.
When reviewing your transfer application, law schools will no longer look as much on your undergraduate GPA, class rank, or even your LSAT score. They will, however, zero in on your 1L grades. There is no specific GPA cut off or required class rank, but you do have to excel among your classmates. If your first semester grades aren’t exactly what you hoped for, act quickly in the second semester. Reach out to your professors, find your weaknesses and seek tutoring if needed.
Another element of your transfer application that the law schools will assign great weight to are your letters of recommendation from your professors. If you hope to get great letters on your behalf, you will have to establish relationships with your professors over the course of the semester, or maybe even two. It always helps to ace the professor’s class, but it shouldn’t be the only thing the professor can write about you.
Always be prepared for class. Speak up when the professor addresses a question to the class generally. Stay after class to discuss any questions or interesting points from the material. Take advantage of office hours. Most importantly, see your professor as a valuable resource. He or she is first and foremost a lawyer. A successful lawyer. Don’t be afraid to pick her brain, ask about her career choices or even how she balanced work with other obligations. If you make it a goal to get to know your professor as a person, he or she will get to know you. This will result in a personal and heartfelt letter of recommendation that will be sure to impress your target schools.
Show Your Passion
As it often is the case, good academic performance may not be enough. The law school admissions office will want to see the person behind the paper. They will want to see what interests you and how you spend your time outside of the classroom. They will want to know that you are serious and passionate about law.
Being a 1L and getting good grades is difficult enough on its own, but you should try to carve out the time to get involved in other law-oriented activities. Each law school has a bountiful selection of student organizations, clinics, and pro bono activities. If none of them strike your interest, look beyond your school. Check with legal services in your area to see if they need volunteers. Research the problems that bog down your community and start a student organization of your own to address them. Get creative.
If nothing more, you will have an impressive topic for your admissions essay.
Completing a successful transfer application will take a lot of work and months of preparation, but it will be worth it – especially if by transferring you’ll make a significant jump in law school rankings.
Once you get accepted into your new law school, begin preparing for the challenges ahead. You will have to start building relationships anew. Invest time in getting to know your new professors and the students you’ll be taking classes with at your new school. As a newcomer in your 2L year, you will be entering a group of people who survived the super-scary 1L year together, and it may be more difficult to establish new relationships. Likewise, if you do make a significant jump in rankings, you may find that you are now a small fish in a big pond. Be prepared and take any new obstacles head on. Good luck!
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