The Transfer Process

Many years ago TLS held a content competition. The competition is no longer active, but this forum keeps going.

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The Transfer Process

Postby monkey34 » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:23 pm

Below is my submission to the TLS Contest Competition. I hope it is a useful read to anyone interested in transferring:

I recently successfully transferred from a T4 to a school ranked in the 30s according to US News and World Report. As excited and proud as I am right now, the process was intimidating and nervewracking. In this article, I will do my best to explain the pros and cons of transferring, and more importantly the procedure and timeline for transferring.

Where to Apply

The first thing that most 1L’s are told regarding transferring is to “make sure that it is really what you want to do.” I was told this by numerous professors and counselors. They reassured me that I could find everything I needed at my current school and that there was no reason to transfer. I could not disagree more. The only downside to applying to transfer is the time, effort, and money you put into the applications. This time, effort, and money, however, does not even compare to the time, effort, and money that you have put into your first year of law school. You really lose nothing by applying and there is no reason to deny yourself any possible opportunity. All you are doing is giving yourself the chance to make the decision to transfer, should it arise. My recommendation would be to give yourself plenty of options. You have put in the effort in your first year, you will be writing personal statements regardless, you will be getting letters of recommendation regardless, and you will be filling out applications regardless. You might as well spend an extra few hundred dollars to allow yourself the chance to do something that will affect you for the rest of your life. A top 30 school will have somewhere between 100 and 400 employers on campus during the 2L interviews. A T4, like the one that I was at had about 10. You may not be interested in big law, but like I said, why deny yourself an opportunity. You can always decide not to transfer, but you can never go back and apply to schools that you did not apply to. Another reason to apply to many schools is that acceptances are sometimes unpredictable. It is not uncommon to get rejected by a lower ranked school, and accepted to a higher ranked school. Also, research the schools that you are interested in transferring to. Some schools are more transfer friendly than others. Applying to the more transfer friendly schools can maximize your chances.

Why Apply?

There can be many reasons to apply to transfer. The massive increase in job prospects is only one reason. You may decide to transfer for other reasons as well: Maybe you don’t like your current school; maybe you want to move close to a spouse, friend, or family member; maybe you have always dreamed about attending a particular school and now you have a realistic shot. These are all legitimate reasons to transfer, and you will be able to explain your reason in your personal statement. There is also something to be said about moving up. Even if you love your current school, a piece of paper from a T1 is worth more than one from a T4. As a lawyer, for the rest of your life the words J.D. and the school you graduate from will appear next to your name. The school name may deprive you of certain opportunities. Many firms literally say on their website, “do not bother applying if you are not from the following schools.”

Contrary to what you may hear, firms also like transfer students. There will always be some people who look down on transfers, but many firms appreciate transfers. Transfer students leave a lot behind to attend their current school, and transfers are generally very hard working and motivated. These are qualities that firms love. Also, transfer students got into their current school because of their 1L grades. The rest of the students got in because of their undergraduate GPA and LSAT score. 1L grades are almost always a much better demonstration of potential as a lawyer, and firms realize this. In addition to firms, law schools love transfers. Transfer students have demonstrated their ability to be successful and eventually pass the bar. Additionally, transfers usually pay a full tuition. You are doing yourself a favor by transferring, but you are also doing the school a favor. The school has already left space open for transfers, and they are looking to fill those spots.

Preparing Early, and Letters of Recommendation

My next piece of advice with transferring would be to start early. By starting early, I don’t mean to literally start the applications early, but start the mental process early. You will need letters of recommendation for most applications, and you can reduce the stress of the application process by getting to know professors. The best way is to talk in class. Professors love students who talk in class. Going into office hours to talk to professors is great as well, but it does not make up for contributing in class discussions. You may have gotten an amazing grade in a class, but that does not always mean the letter of recommendation from that professor will be effective. Letters of recommendation are not a simple confirmation that you got a good grade in a class. Effective letters are those where the professor can confidently say that you made the classroom and the school a better place. This can be anything from participating actively in classroom discussions, asking good questions, being prepared, participating in student organizations, organizing campus events, being polite, being respectful, and anything else that makes the school a better place. In other words, stand out from your classmates. Make sure the professor knows who you are, respects you, and likes you. Being the student who always tries to call out the professor on a mistake is not going to help you when it comes time to ask for letters of rec. Conversely, there is no need to suck up. Also, you don’t need to always be right. It is much better to participate and make a mistake, or ask for a clarification, that be the genius of the class who never talks.

As a law student, there will be certain classes where you feel more comfortable than others. Whether it is the professors teaching style, the time of day, the subject matter, etc. However, don’t think that just because you talk in one class, that you can ask that professor for a letter of rec and that is good enough. There are two reasons for this. First, you may not get the best grade in the class. As you will find out, it is very hard to predict how your grades come out. Very often, the classes that you are most confident in turn out to be the worst, and vice versa. The second reason is that a professor may only write a certain number of letters of recommendation. This happened to me. In one of my classes, I received the highest grade in the class for the fall term. I planned on asking this professor for letters of recommendation to all the schools that I was applying. I began talking more in this class and connecting with the professor. When it came time to ask for the letter, the professor said that he would write a letter for me, but he would only write it for two schools. His reason was that students who apply to dozens of schools take opportunities away from other transfer applicants when they really have no intention to go to that school. In other words, he wanted me to find the real schools that I wanted to transfer to and to apply there. He did not want me to apply to tons of “backup” schools, because he felt that my current school was on the same level as these schools. I understood what he meant, and it took me a while to figure out what two schools to have him write letters for. Luckily for me, I knew other professors well enough to have them write letters so that I could still get out all my application. However, if I did not know the other professors that well, it would have been an uncomfortable situation for me, and most likely too late to make an impression on other professors.

The Transfer Application

The class rank is actually more important than the actual gpa. Law schools vary widely in their gpa. A 3.5 at one school might place you in the top 5%, while at another school, it will place you in the top 20%. This is due to the massive curve that some law schools have in their first year. You are directly competing with your peers, and thus law school is very competitive. The general rule is that you must be in the top 15% of your class to have any shot. If you are applying to a similarly ranked school, the percentage may be more flexible, and if you are jumping from a T4 to a T1, you may need to be somewhere in the top 5%. Awards also help. Most schools give out Witkin or CALI awards for the top students in the class. These generally make their way onto transcripts and are another great way to make your application stand out. Although undergraduate grades and LSAT scores are not nearly as influential in the transfer application as in the original application, they do still hold some weight. If your undergrad scores are low, you may want to use the personal statement to explain how you have changed and refocused during your first year. Finally, other things can help your general marketability as well. Prestigious summer jobs, writing competitions, graduate degrees, moot court, speaking another language, etc., are all ways to increase your general marketability. The law school is looking to accept a student who will look good to potential employers. The same things that look good to employers look good to the admissions committee.

Personal Statements

The personal statement is your chance to make yourself stand out. Imagine the admissions committee sitting there reading hundreds of applications. When they come across yours, you want it to stand out. Generally the same rules apply in the transfer app as your first round of applications. The personal statement is also the place where you want to explain your reasons for transferring, and clarify any issues with your application. If you had a very weak LSAT and undergrad GPA, but a very good 1L performance, you can use the personal statement to show how you are a changed person. You can use the personal statement to explain your personal reasons for transferring. This is particularly true if you are moving across the country or moving to a similarly or lower ranked school because of personal reasons.

What you say in the personal statement is important, but how you say it is just as important. The personal statement is essentially a writing sample. Grammar problems or poor writing style certainly will not help. Also, you don’t want to come off as arrogant or desperate. Like an interview, you want to give an intriguing story, while being likeable at the same time.

The Application Process

Unlike your first round of applications, the transfer application moves very quickly. Every school has an application deadline, which is when you need to send your application by. However, most likely your spring grades will not be announced by then. Every school is different, so it is important to check websites and contact admissions departments to make sure you have your timeline set. The general rule, however is to prepare as much as you can in advance. This includes your LSAC application, your personal statement, your undergraduate transcript, and your letters of recommendation. Once you have all of these, you can send your application before the deadline. This is usually done through the LSAC website. Once your grades are announced, you will need to send a few things directly from your 1L school. Transfer schools require a letter from the dean that state you are in good standing, along with a transcript showing your complete first year grades. Letters of recommendation may also be sent directly to some schools if you are worried that they will not make by the application deadline if you do it through the LSAC. This is particularly useful if you are having a professor write a letter of recommendation after spring grades. Every school is different so don’t solely rely on this, but that is generally how I have found it to work. Transfer schools will not consider your application until it is complete. Since acceptances are given on a rolling basis, it is important to have your complete application sent as soon as possible. It is not uncommon to find out that you have been accepted within a week of when your application is complete. Once you send your complete application, you will get a confirmation from the school that you have “gone complete.” Many schools offer you a status checker website where you can constantly check the status of your application. Acceptances nowadays are most commonly given through email or over the phone.

Deciding to Transfer

Once you get into your transfer schools, there are many things to consider. These will be personal decisions for you, and may require some time to think about. Chances are that you will be getting a good amount of scholarship money from your current school, particularly if you are at the top of your class. If you are at the top of your class at your current school, you will already have many opportunities, particularly if the students above you are transferring out. Consider all things, and make your decision. You will also be leaving your friends, and the place that you spent one of the most influential academic years of your life. You will be going to a new city, a new school, and you will know very few people if anyone at all. It is a difficult thing, and you will need to consider if the cons are worth the pros. Keep in mind that there will be other transfer students who are in the same boat as you. Also, the second and third years of law school are unlike the first year in that everyone takes different classes. It does not have that high school like feeling of the first year where everyone knows each other. As a transfer, you will have a chance to start new, meet new people, and attend a school that you possibly had no chance at a year ago. The best advice that I can give is to gain as much information as you can. Visit websites, ask questions, talk to former transfer students, talk to professors and counselors. People who have advice will want to give it, and to make an informed decision, you must first have the information. I hope this made the transfer process a bit more clear and good luck to all transfer applicants!

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Re: The Transfer Process

Postby Ken » Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:04 pm

Dear Monkey34,

First, congrats on your successful transfer. You have opened up many doors that would otherwise have been shut through doing so well in your first year and now transferring to a top 30's law school.

Your article is excellent in providing a good summary of the transfer process and really adds to TLS, which does not have much content on transferring law schools. Any expansion on naming what top 50 law schools are transfer friendly would make a great article even better (I think Berkeley was pretty transfer friendly as they usually have a class of 25-30 transfers).

Thanks again for making TLS a better place and I appreciate your submission,



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Re: The Transfer Process

Postby kmcquire » Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:36 pm

This is great! Thank you!


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Re: The Transfer Process

Postby jd-mba » Fri Oct 16, 2009 11:23 pm

After seeing my Sept score, I'm thinking about every single option. When you transfer, must the LORs come from your current law professors? Thanks.


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Re: The Transfer Process

Postby goldschlager » Sat Nov 07, 2009 1:49 am

Is the LSAC still the middleman during the transfer application process, compiling transcripts, personal statement, LORs, resume, etc. or do you send those things together directly to the school to which you are applying?

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Re: The Transfer Process

Postby A'nold » Sun Mar 07, 2010 3:30 pm

goldschlager wrote:Is the LSAC still the middleman during the transfer application process, compiling transcripts, personal statement, LORs, resume, etc. or do you send those things together directly to the school to which you are applying?

Usually they give you the option but there are a few schools that require LSAC involvement.

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Re: The Transfer Process

Postby im_blue » Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:00 pm

jd-mba wrote:After seeing my Sept score, I'm thinking about every single option. When you transfer, must the LORs come from your current law professors? Thanks.

Yes, LORs must come from current law professors, since only they can speak to your potential as a law student and future lawyer.

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