When prospective law students assess their chances of admission to their top schools, a difficult decision must frequently be made: Should they reapply the following cycle and try to offer stronger credentials, or should they choose a less desirable school?
Here are some tips on how to handle a transfer at a time when the market for law school graduates is generally declining.
How Does a Transfer to Law School Operate?
Most often, following their first year of study, students go on to another law school. Between May and June, the application process moves swiftly, and the admissions decision follows soon after.
Early decision transfer applications are often submitted in early to mid May, when the applicant’s present law school’s spring term transcripts might not yet be available. Only the autumn semester grades are provided by these applicants. Full-time students typically finish their J.D. degree in two years after transferring.
According to the American Bar Association, the number of successful transfer applications has decreased over the previous ten years while enrolment in law schools has either slightly increased or remained constant. According to the ABA’s mandated disclosure data, law schools accepted 1,231 transfer students in 2022 as opposed to 2,219 in 2013.
Fewer transfers, according to some analysts, doesn’t always indicate that transfers are becoming more difficult.
Professor of law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota and expert on law school transfers Jerome Organ attributed the reduction in part to rising enrolment and the expansion of scholarship opportunities. Only around 50% of law students received scholarships in 2011, according to him.
In an email, he stated that as of 2020, “far fewer schools have conditional scholarship programmes and nearly 80% of students have some type of scholarship.”
The increase in scholarships “has probably helped to depress the transfer market because the students are happy to stay where they are,” claims Jacob Baska, a 7Sage admissions consultant and former head of admissions and financial aid at the University of Notre Dame Law School in Indiana.
With an increase in 2021, law schools have generally overenrolled in recent admissions cycles, which has slowed down their efforts to entice transfer students, according to Baska.
According to some law school admissions experts, candidates who perform well in their first year or semester of law school might make up for weak credentials in other areas, such as poor LSAT scores.
According to Brigitte Suhr, a law school admissions adviser for Accepted, “the law school GPA is what counts the most.” LSAT scores are frequently requested by law schools, but they don’t matter as much now.
In 2022, Emma Shuck moved from Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law to Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University Law School. Before she submitted her initial applications to law schools, she was considering transferring. Because of her LSAT results, she claims she didn’t think she would stand a decent chance of getting into any law schools.
“I thought I would go to one of the lower-ranked schools, then I would do the best I could during the 1L year and then apply to transfer to a higher-ranked school,” the student claims. She believed that she would then have more chances to interview with prestigious law firms in New York City.
She graduated from Chicago-Kent with a 3.5 GPA after two semesters. She claims that she researched law schools where the median GPA matched her own using ABA data on transfer students and their GPAs.
highest law schools agree that 1L law school grades should be given the highest weight when assessing transfer applications.
LSAT scores and undergraduate transcripts are considered to be good predictors of success in law school, according to Joey Dormady, assistant dean of graduate programmes and new educational initiatives at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
But the strongest sign, he adds, is real achievement in law school.
Considerations for Transferring to a Law School
Choosing a law school with the goal of moving to a better school later is usually not a wise option, according to experts.
Suhr says, “I usually warn folks who are cavalier about that. “Getting the grades you need to transfer is harder than you think.”
You’ll have to compete with higher-achieving transfer applicants since law school is a different game than undergraduate study, she explains. “But what if something goes wrong? What if you get sick and can’t work well? The first semester is rather erratic.
The number of transfer students accepted by law schools is often low, and experts have noted that the top schools are more likely to accept transfer students with law school GPAs between 3.7 and 3.9.
15 transfer students from several law schools, including American, Fordham, and Ohio State, as well as the universities of Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Miami, were admitted to Vanderbilt Law School for the 2021–2022 academic year. Ten transfers from diverse institutions, including Seton Hall and Saint Louis Universities, the Universities of Missouri, Denver, and South Dakota, were approved by the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law.
At Vanderbilt and WashU, the 50th percentile GPA for the transfers was 3.54 and 3.39, respectively.
There are only so many transfer applications with extremely high GPAs to go around, according to Suhr, who notes that law schools typically grade on a curve.
According to experts, transfer students often pay full price because the destination institution frequently does not offer merit aid. “Many more rising second-year students would be paying a price to transfer, particularly when schools taking transfers are not offering scholarships,” says Organ, adding that this is a turnoff for some prospective transfer students.
How to Get Ready for a Transfer to Law School?
Like the initial application process, applying to transfer law schools is more than just a numbers game. The reason you wish to change schools is extremely important, according to admissions counsellors and school administrators.
We are drawn to applicants who are considering ASU for a particular objective, according to Dormady. According to him, successful candidates frequently fit the school’s strengths.
“People who say I am really interested in sports law or (intellectual property) law or international law, whatever the case may be,” he adds. “They might claim, ‘My school has been great, I won’t take anything back, but they don’t have a programme to get me to the finish line,'” said the researcher. If they are successful, we are more drawn to them than to applicants who are making blanket applications to a large number of higher-ranked law schools.
Studying the programmes, course offerings, types of legal clinics accessible, and job market advantages of particular law schools is necessary to make the case for a transfer. experts suggest, such as the regional legal markets that the graduates enter.