If you’ve just finished your first year of law school, this is the time you might be thinking about applying to transfer law schools. The transfer application process can be confusing, and guidance isn't always easy to find—especially because the process varies from school to school. But here are a few general tips and insights that will help you navigate the process and clear up some common points of confusion.
Predicting Your Odds
There is no way to know with certainty what your chances are of getting accepted as a transfer student at a specific school. But you can make an informed prediction about which schools provide you with the best chance of admittance. Law schools publish a report called the ABA Standard 509 Information Report, and it includes important insights about who the school admits. The report includes a section listing the number of transfer students accepted in the previous cycle, a breakdown of what schools the admitted students came from, and 1L GPA percentiles of those admitted. These reports are a great starting point for determining which schools are your best bet for transferring. But remember, the applicant pool and other circumstances change every year, so don't limit which schools you apply to based solely on this information.
Determining a Specific “Why?”
Students often hope to transfer schools for a wider array of job opportunities, and that's a perfectly acceptable reason to consider transferring. But when you write your personal statement, be sure to be a bit more specific than “I am hoping to get more job offers by attending this institution.” Is there a certain regional market or practice area you are targeting? Discuss why you have ties to that location and how the school positions you to end up there. Or refer to specific classes and extracurriculars the school offers that would help build experience in your desired practice area. To really give your application a boost, meet with students who attend the school so you can reference the conversations and how their insights helped you realize this school is a great fit for you and your goals.
Navigating the Application
Some components of the transfer application can be confusing and might give you pause. For one, a letter of good standing from your current school is often required—sometimes, this is called a “Dean's” letter of good standing, which might cause a moment of panic! But don't worry—you won't have to reach out to the Dean personally to ask for a letter. Instead, this document usually comes from the school registrar's office, and requesting a letter of good standing is generally a matter of following instructions on the registrar's website. Note that some schools may request another variant, such as a Dean’s certification or another school-specific form—a good rule of thumb is to start with the registrar or student services offices for help completing these requests.
Another application component at some schools is an optional essay. Sometimes, these are open-ended, and sometimes, they are based on a specific prompt. You should strongly consider completing the optional statement when it is offered as part of the application. Yes, it’s more work, but it’s a way to set yourself apart and show genuine interest in the school. Don’t miss that opportunity just because you didn’t want to take a little extra time to complete your application.
Requesting Letters of Recommendation
It can be intimidating to ask a law school professor to write you a recommendation for a different law school, but it is a necessary part of the transfer application. Good news: We've written up some tips for requesting a letter of recommendation from a law school professor—but the biggest takeaway? Don't be afraid to ask. The worst they can say is “no,” and you'll have to ask another professor. But in general, professors are happy to help, and you will probably be met with enthusiasm. You may consider requesting a letter from your legal writing professor, assuming this was your smallest 1L class and you were able to get to know your professor. Another consideration is asking an adjunct professor, who may have less of a stake in convincing you to stay at your current school.
Participating in OCI
Chances are you'll want to take advantage of your new school's OCI program—often the reason you seek to transfer in the first place—and this can be a confusing piece of the puzzle due to the condensed timeline between transferring and OCI. But law schools know this, prepare for this, and take this into account in their decision timelines. If you are accepted, your new law school will likely have you meet with a career counselor shortly after admission to get you up to speed and talk about your bidding strategy. If this isn't required, be proactive and set up an appointment yourself. Your career counselors will have specific data available to see how transfers have fared in the past, and this will be important information as you build your OCI strategy. And remember that while you're waiting to hear about transfer acceptances, you should proceed with OCI preparation as planned at your current school—you don't want to put your eggs in the transfer basket only to end up missing out on OCI altogether.