Every year around 2000 students transfer from one law school to another. Their motivations vary, ranging from going to a school with a stronger program in a law specialty to following a significant other’s career move. The vast majority of students, however, transfer to attend a more prestigious (higher ranked) law school. So if you want to transfer, how do you put yourself in the best position to get into the school of your dreams? Here is a quick and short guide to what you need to do:
How Your Current School’s Rank Affects Your Chances
First things first, the requirement least in your control – your current school’s rank. Where you can transfer depends on the ranking of the school you currently attend. For example, if you are at a school that is low on the US World News and Reports top law school ranking, you are going to have to be at the very top of your 1L class to have a shot to transfer into a T14. So its important to go to a school ranked as close to the one you want to transfer into as possible
How Your GPA and Class Rank are the Single Most Important Factor in Your Application
Transferring only occurs at the end of 1L year. At this point, a law school can assess if you have what it takes to be a top law student. And they do this by looking at your 1L GPA and rank.
These two components are the most important in a transfer’s application. Unlike getting into law school, where your LSAT and extra-curricular activities weigh heavily on whether or not you were admitted, your 1L GPA will account for 90-95% of whether or not you get accepted as a transfer student.
Given that this is the most important factor and the one most in your control, you should focus on getting the absolute highest grades you possibly can. This requires focusing on studying and making sure you know how to take a law school test. Luckily, Law School Toolbox has extensive information on how to do just that. Look here and here to get started on studying throughout the semester and here to get all the info you need on law school exams.
So what rank do you need? You have to be at least in the top 15% to have any sort of realistic chance. The rank you need depends on the distance on the US News and Reports law school rankings between your current school and the school you’ve applied to. Usually, it’s a factor of 50 spots. So, to go from a T1 (the top 50 ranked schools) to a T14 (the top 14 ranked schools) you need to be in the top 10-15%, but to get into a T14 from a T2 school (the schools ranked 50-100) you need to be in the top 5-10%.
That is generally what GPA/rank you need, but let’s focus more specifically on T14 schools. The schools that accept the most transfer students are: Georgetown, Harvard, NYU, Berkeley, and Columbia. Last year all of these schools accepted a transfer class of at least 40 people, with Georgetown accepting a whooping 110 transfers. These schools are likely to adhere to the above-mentioned ranking requirement. The other top schools, namely Yale and Stanford, accept significantly less transfer students, and thus you will need to be a top student at a relatively highly ranked school to get in.
It is also rumored that you have a better chance to get into a school in the same geographic area as the school you currently attend. Meaning, NYU and Columbia are more likely to take transfers from surrounding New York City schools then a school in Idaho.
How to Put Together Your Application
Once you feel generally confident of your chances, it is time to apply. The process is similar to the application process to get into law school, thus it’s likely to be familiar to you. Each application costs around $75 and you need to include: a resume, personal statement, 2 letters of recommendation from law school professors, your undergraduate transcript, your law school transcript, and your LSAT report.
Personally, I found getting the letters of recommendation and writing my personal statement to be the most burdensome part of getting my application. Asking a professor at your current school for a recommendation to leave that school is not the most pleasurable thing I had to do in law school. Anticipate the need for recommendations, start early cultivating relationships with your professors. Go to office hours. Participate in class. These will make you a better law student in general so its good practice to do this anyway.
Writing a personal statement is always a bit awkward. My strategy was to write about my reasons for going to law school in the first place and how transferring is going to further that particular goal. It doesn’t have to be school specific, but it should stress that you view transferring as a stepping stone to further your ambitions. If you are having trouble, here is an article that may help.
To sum up, if you want to transfer, plan on putting everything you have into getting the best grades you possibly can. If it turns out you are lucky enough to be a highly ranked 1L, then you have a decent shot to get into a much higher ranked school. Good luck! If you are successful here’s some advice for how to make the best of your new school.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire: Transfer Students in Law School
- Office Hours: Should You Go?
- Need More Time? Study Smart Before Your Law School Class
- Time Management Tip: Think of Law School Like a Law Job
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