Five Things to Consider Before Transferring Law Schools
There are countless reasons that students decide to transfer law schools after their first year. Many students know they want to transfer to a more prestigious program before even beginning their 1L year. Some students might be looking for a program more aligned with their career aspirations or newfound interests. Others still might need to transfer for personal and financial reasons. Whatever the motivation may be, the process of transferring law schools can be difficult to navigate. However, if you do your due diligence you’ll be better suited to make an informed decision that can transform your legal education.
Five Things to Consider Before Transferring Law Schools
1. Can you participate in on-campus interviews?
You attend law school because, ultimately, you want to work in the legal field. On-campus interviews (OCIs) have become the easiest, and in some instances, the only way to secure a job at a big firm during your 2L summer. “Early interview week” for OCIs is pushed earlier every year, with many schools having the deadlines to submit applications to interview in early to mid-July. This affects you as a transfer student because oftentimes the deadline for transfer applications is at the same exact time, with admissions decisions not being rendered for weeks after an OCI deadline might have passed.
You must ask your transfer law school if and how transfer students can participate in the OCI process. If you miss the OCI deadlines, you need to consider whether you have a better chance of ending up where you want to be by staying at your home school or transferring to a new school. Though you might graduate with a more prestigious degree and have additional opportunities at a new school, you might have to do more legwork to find a competitive job if you miss OCIs.
Know the answer to this question before you accept an offer to transfer law schools.
2. Law reviews, journals, and moot court (oh, my!))
Participating in law review, journals, moot court, and other co-circulars are activities that every employer wants (and sometimes demands) to see on your resume. While co-circular activities at many schools have more flexible timelines than the OCI process, they can still be very strict.
You need to ask if you can participate in these if you transfer law schools and how you go about joining them. Deadlines may be soon after you’re accepted into the transfer school so prepare for a whirlwind last few weeks of summer.
3. Money talks: scholarships matter!
Although it may be tempting to accept an offer of admission to transfer to a more prestigious law school, sometimes it’s simply not financially practical or advisable. You must consider that you will lose any scholarship money awarded to you at your current law school. Most schools have a very limited pool of scholarship funding for transfer students. Some schools allocate no money at all to transfer students. Even with your shiny 4.0 GPA on your resume, it is unlikely that you will receive a full-ride offer to transfer anywhere (or even an offer competitive with your home institution’s award).
When considering whether to forego a scholarship award, also think about what kind of field you want to work in upon graduation. Does it pay enough to take on new loans you may not otherwise have if you don’t transfer? Will the transfer law school give you better opportunities to get the higher-paying job you’re striving for, effectively offsetting the increased cost?
Also, keep in mind the cost of living in the new school’s city. Moving from Lansing to New York City will reveal a huge cost differential. Consider these factors and others above and beyond tuition and potential scholarships alone.
Lastly, please note that this financial analysis likely shifts if you transfer to a T-14 law school. Typically, these schools afford you more job opportunities and exposure than you may receive at your home institution. In those instances, foregoing a scholarship and taking on additional loans may be considered an investment in yourself and your future. However, jumping a few spots in the ranks outside of that elite grouping of schools may not be worth paying the full price of tuition when compared to the opportunities afforded at your current law school.
4. New professors, new classes, new everything!
While getting into another school is great, also consider the social stresses associated with entering a completely new environment. You will need to navigate a new school, new professors, and find your niche in a class of students already bonded over the struggles of their 1L year. Every school has their own culture and sense of community. At some schools, your acclimation may be a seamless transition requiring little thought or effort. At others, you’ll need to make a concerted effort to find new, like-minded classmates to study or share notes with. It’s nothing you can’t overcome (whether you want to or not).
Always keep in mind that your new classmates may one day be your co-workers, opposing counsel, and sometimes even the presiding judge. By transferring law schools, you’ll have the benefit of a legal network twice as big as before. Don’t let the opportunity to make the most of each slip by.
5. Treat interaction with the admissions office like an interview.
Many schools don’t conduct interviews for transfer students. Instead, the process has an abbreviated timeline that’s equally as anxiety-inducing as the initial application process. Resist the urge to call their office every day.
The admissions office knows that you want to transfer just as badly as the next student. But be sure to treat every interaction with their office just as you would a job interview. While the admissions staff is there to help you with all of your concerns, part of the review process for transfer students is determining whether you’ll fit in their school. Be aware that they hold your future in their hands.
Be respectful and thoughtful of their time and the process. (I guarantee they cannot give you a decision tomorrow, as nice as that would be.) Compile a list of all of your questions to ask at once. Call at a time you think the admissions representative will best be able to thoroughly answer your concerns. (Friday at 4:55pm may not elicit the illustrative feedback you were hoping for!) Perhaps even email ahead of time to set up a time to speak.
Transferring law schools is an opportunity for students who may not have otherwise knocked their LSAT or undergraduate curriculum out of the park, to still graduate from their dream law school. There are a lot of pros and cons to transferring, and the analysis and “right decision” is different for every student.
Before accepting an offer to transfer to any law school, do your homework. Consider all of the short and long-term ramifications of your decision and decide if it’s right for you. Whether you decide to transfer law schools or stay at your home institution, law school can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your career. Enjoy it!