14th April 2024

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Standing Out as a Law School Transfer Applicant | Law Admissions Lowdown

3 min read

If you follow this column’s advice on the law school application process and set a broad and realistic target list, hopefully you will find the first year of law school to be a rewarding challenge. With luck, you will be excited to return to find your niche on campus the following two years.

However, if the campus is the wrong fit, you might consider applying to transfer to a different law school for personal reasons or professional advantage.

Transfer applications are generally due around May or June, shortly after the spring term ends, although some law schools have an early decision process.

The transfer process is highly competitive. Here are three ways to put yourself in a strong position for a law school transfer:

  • Focus on first-year grades.
  • Justify your decision to transfer.
  • Do your research.

Focus on First-Year Grades

The main reason undergraduate grades and standardized test scores are the most significant factors in law school admissions is that they both have a proven track record of predicting law school performance.

But no predictor holds a candle to an applicant’s actual performance in law school. That’s why it is imperative to earn high grades and a high class rank, if applicable, during your first year if you intend to transfer to a more prestigious law school.

Note that law school exams are wholly different from the tests and assignments by which most undergraduates are evaluated. To give yourself a leg up, consider using the summer before law school to prepare.

Succeeding in your first-year classes can benefit your transfer application in other ways. It may help you secure an impressive summer position. And it can help you form connections with a law school professor that can lead to a strong letter of recommendation, which can otherwise be difficult in large lecture classes. 

Justify Your Decision to Transfer

Unlike a personal statement, a transfer application essay should make a clear argument for your transfer. Ditch your old personal statement and write a fresh essay centered on how your transfer would serve your career goals. Be sure to mention if you plan to practice law nearby, since schools often appreciate applicants likely to maintain strong local ties as alumni.

Along with your future plans, your application should clearly communicate why you are transferring and how you will contribute to your new campus.

Likewise, be sure your resume and recommendation letters support your stated interests and aspirations. 

Do Your Research

Before you set your heart on a specific target school, look into the school’s track record of accepting transfer applicants. The American Bar Association collects data from law schools on transfer applicants accepted, which it makes available online.

Note that these statistics show that law schools have accepted fewer transfer students in recent years, although this trend may reverse as pandemic-era issues of overenrollment recede.

Also, be sure to carefully review the school’s website to look for the school’s strengths and opportunities relevant to your interests.

Learning more about the law school you aim to apply to will help you focus on the positives of that school, rather than the negatives of the school you hope to leave behind. Schools are wary of applicants who sound dissatisfied with law school in general.

Researching courses, clinics, programs and student activities at other law schools can also help you gain perspective on the expansive range of opportunities available beyond the first year of law school. You may gain ideas of how to return to law school with renewed purpose and a narrower focus, wherever you end up.


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