Thinking about Transferring Law Schools?

Law School Expert Blog

This post is geared toward current 1Ls thinking about applying to other schools for their 2L year, but it is also a good thing for 0Ls to keep in mind as they choose where to attend this year.

Here is a very detailed analysis by one person who transferred from Loyola-LA to Boalt – it has a lot of details but I haven’t checked these facts so read it with a grain of salt.

Previous Posts About Transferring:

Here are previous posts of mine on the subject of transferring law schools; I’ve personally responded to hundreds of comments on these posts, so be sure to read through them to see if your question is answered!

Thinking About Transferring as a 2L?:
The Empirical Legal Studies blog offers some great insights into what law schools are thinking when it comes to transfers.

A great option: Applying as a Transfer Student:
I go through some of my best success stories about transferring. Be sure to check out the 177 comments!

More on Transferring Law Schools: The Bluebook Legal blog breaks down the transfer student information. (Beware law school policies discouraging transfers!)

If you’re planning to apply to transfer after your 1L year and you’re looking for help, please contact me. I offer a special Transfer Student version of my “Works” package.

691 Responses

  1. Dear Ann,

    I was wondering if you could give me advice about a big question I am facing. I would like to get into Georgetown because of their program. (I am particularly interested in international human rights.) However, I made the decision to go to law school a little late in the application season and took the Feb. LSAT. I scored way below what my practice tests were consistently at and wasn’t able to get into Georgetown for the Fall. I’m registered for the June LSAT and hope to get a score that will qualify me.

    I’m 29 and a little reluctant to put law school off for another year. So, I’m considering attending another law school this Fall and transferring into Georgetown if my LSAT score comes back high enough. Do you think this is a wise course of action?

    Secondly, if I get a score that puts me in Georgetown range, how much weight would they put on the ranking of the school I attend for my first year when they evaluate my transfer application? Would attending a third tier put me at a much greater advantage than a fourth tier? If I choose a first tier (which would cost more) would that put me at a much greater advantage than a third tier?

    Thanks in advance for your help in this crucial question.

  2. Michael,
    When you transfer, it’s not the LSAT score that matters. It’s all on your first year grades and class ranking at the best law school you can get into now. If you’re retaking the LSAT in June, then you will know your score in time to decide whether you’d now be in the running for GT as a Fall 2011 applicant, or whether you’re better off taking whatever offers you have.

    The school you attend your first year matters a lot. It’s one thing to be at a Top 30 school and be #1 in your class and transfer to a Top 14 law school but it’s not nearly as likely to do that from a third or fourth tier school. I’ve worked with clients who transferred from Loyola LA (a Tier 2) to GT, and from Catholic to GT. But it’s all about doing really well at those schools – simply being in the top 20% of your class isn’t going to cut it.

    I hope this is helpful.

  3. Hi Ann,

    I found your site while searching for information on transferring after my first year of law school and was wondering if I could ask you for some quick advice, especially based on what I’m reading in your response to Michael’s query.

    I’m 24, and have been working full-time in publishing since graduating early from a top-10 East Coast university four years ago. I underperformed as an undergrad, and ended up with a low GPA (above 3.0, but still below average.) I did okay on the LSAT (just above 50th percentile) when I took it last year, but not great, as I was fighting through an illness at the time. All in all, my UGPA and LSAT just don’t really reflect my academic potential…

    I applied to a bunch of schools in CA (where I want to attend school and practice law) and was rejected from many, waitlisted at 1 Tier 2, and got into a T-4 with a big merit scholarship and a fellowship based on my interest in IP law.

    Since I got into the T-4, I’ve been planning on working my tail off getting amazing grades and being one of the top 2-3 in my class (unless I get into the T-2 off the waitlist)

    If I’m able to be at the top of my class at the T-4, do you think there’s any hope of me getting into UCLA for 2&3L? That’s always been my top choice…

    Do you have any helpful advice to give? I would be so grateful to hear any of your opinions or feedback. Thanks so much in advance.

  4. This is interesting. However, if I just finished my first year in tier 4 law school with slightly above 3.0 GPA and I am in about upper 35%, is there a possibility to transfer to top 50 school at all? How about tier 2 (50-100)?

    1. Max, From a T4 Law school and only in top third, you are probably shooting too high. You can call schools you are interested in and ask where they take transfers from and what ranking they are looking for from different caliber schools. Most will tell you. If you are looking for help with your transfer applications, please feel free to contact me through my website for more specific advice.
      Good luck!

  5. Ann,

    I am at Emory and am wanting to transfer back to where my family lives because of personal reasons. I finished my first year with a 2.5 GPA and am worried about getting in as a transfer. I am applying to transfer to lower ranked schools (SMU, OU, OCU, and Houston). Should I be worried about not getting in? I’ve looked at different sites and most are about transferring up in the rankings. Nothing really talks about transferring down. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Grant,
      You’re right. You’re in a different situation. If your 1L GPA was impacted partly because you were so far from home, you need to explain that and why you’re transferring to schools in your home region. I wouldn’t count you out, but you have to show the schools the reason for the lackluster performance (and assure them it won’t be a problem once you’re home) and that you have good reasons for doing what you’re doing. But make sure you impress them before telling them something negative. A lot of people forget this!
      Good luck.

  6. Ann,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to respond! It was really helpful and calmed down my nerves.

    – Grant

  7. Dear Ann,

    I finished my first year at a T4 school in the top 11% of my first year class(3.4GPA). I wanted to go back to California and so I put out a few transfer apps in the tiers above me. I haven’t heard from most of the schools, but I got into a T3 the other day via a phone call. I want to know if a transfer to a T3 law school worth paying double. I’d be giving up a lot by way of scholarships, deans list, moot court etc. I also got some 3.8s and 4.0s on my transcript and I would have to give those up at a new law school.

    The second thing I want to know is what are my chances of getting into T2&T1? I’ve seen some students with lower numbers then mine get into T2 schools. Both of the T2 schools I applied to like to see students in the top 10%-15%. My dream school is in T1, and you need to finish in the top 20% in order to be eligible to apply at all. I believe that a student from a T4 law school has to do much better than that to have a shot, but I don’t know if 11% is good enough.



    1. Hi Stephen, We’re talking ranking, but not particular schools so it’s hard for me to tell you what would be worthwhile. If you’re at Thomas Cooley, for example, and you want to be in CA, I’d tell you to leave the money and the 3.8 and run west as quickly as possible. Most of the transfer applicants I’m working with right now have heard back from all or almost all of their schools. Two from T3 schools are jumping up to Top 30 schools with a ranking just a little higher than yours, if that helps.

  8. Hi Ann,

    Thanks for getting back to me. Ok, here’s the deal. I go to Detroit Mercy School of Law. My dream school is USC and I got into Southwestern. I also applied to Pepperdine and Loyola. I haven’t heard from Pepperdine or Loyola, but my applications became complete last week (our school posts final grades and rankings really late). The important thing is that I met all of the deadlines.

    Pepperdine asks for the top 10-15% in order to be competitive. Loyola likes to see students in the top 10%-15% (thats what they told me). And for USC you need to be in the top 20% in order to be considered at all.

  9. Stephen, That does help – thanks. I think if you want to be in CA, then SW is better than DM, and it’s probably worth the extra $$, but only you can make that decision about how important it is to you to be in LA. I think USC is probably a huge reach, but hang in there with P and L.
    Good luck!

  10. Dear Anne,
    I have been admitted to UDC as well as Catholic University as a first year student. UDC offered me money, and they’re practically free anyway, while Catholic gave me nothing. I was on the waitlist for many others but as of today it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. UMD just released the rest of their waitlist today. Catholic is just as expensive as many other top schools in the area, nearly 40k, but is barely holding onto a spot in the top 100. I was thinking about just going to UDC and transferring out after the first year but I’ve been told that it’s not a good idea to plan on transferring as it’s so difficult to do. I plan on pursuing public interest law or some other related, non-big law, relatively low paying career. Do I bite the bullet and go in debt 120k for Catholic, or go to UDC without any debt and hope I can transfer to someplace better after the first year?
    Thanks in advance,

    1. Hi Lauren – great question! UDC is known for public interest, and if it’s practically free you’ll be in a much better position to actually pursue public interest work after law school. If you do well after your first year then you can consider transferring, but I think – given your career goals – you might be perfectly happy with a degree from UDC. Let me know!

  11. Ann,

    I did not have a good experience at my past law school (tier 4 ). After a year sabbatical from law school, I applied for transfer as a 2L . I did not get into any of the 8 schools that I applied to, including tier 4. My application was solid, but it was extremely difficult to get materials from my school in a timely manner. For example, transcripts were sent a month late and missing a letter of good standing. I believe this hurt my application.

    What should I do moving forward? I don’t want to return to my school, but I want to finish my education. Are there any other options? Is there any information I can ask the schools for regarding my rejection?