Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thinking of Transferring Law Schools?

The following is a how-to on the law school transfer process. It's been vetted by some very experienced folks who know the process intimately. Unfortunately the writer is pretty much anonymous. He (or, better yet they) go by the nom de plume "Arrow," and previously posted this essay on Toplawschools.com. I would love to give them their proper attribution, however, and if they ever go public I hope to interview them! *Update* I have interviewed Arrow. Please read the interview here.

Arrow writes:

Note: This is a work in progress (and probably out of date now that the transfer cycles just ended), but please correct me or offer suggestions if you think something is wrong/inaccurate.

Advice for Transferring to Another Law School
I. Introduction
II. Why Transfer?
III. Where to apply?
IV. What are my chances?
V. Do Softs Matter?
VI. The Application Requirements
VII. Personal Statement
VIII. Letters of Recommendations
IX. Early Action Transfers
X. Is it Worth It to Go?
XI. Other FAQ
XII. Recommendations


I. Introduction


I am writing this article and thread in hopes of helping out all the lucky 1L’s out there who have crushed their first year exams. In addition, I am doing this upon request and I just really wish I had more help when I was transferring.

Yep, this is another long article, but more importantly, I will try to be as comprehensive as I can. There are many transfer types (part time to full time, lateral transfers, transfers down, joint degree transfers, etc), but I try to focus more on transfers into the T14 from the non-T14. This is not only one of the most common types of transfers, but also what my own experience consisted of. Plus, the name of this site is “top law schools” right? Finally, much of the transferring application mirrors that of the normal application (you pretty much submit the same things), so I will try to address the relevant aspects unique to transferring.

Due to the unique nature of transfers, there is literally like NO good information out there on this controversial process. Why? Well, first of all, only a few people from each law school may decide to transfer. The transferring population is just miniscule compared to normal admissions process. Second, law schools themselves face a conflict of interest. They want to keep their best students and not surprisingly, keep the subject of transferring on the down-low. Third, successful transfer students will not be around on campus to offer advice because they are now at a new school. Thus, I hope demystify this stressful yet exciting process that plagues the summers of a small group of former 1L’s. Since this site’s name is “top law schools,” I am guessing many people here will consider this backdoor route into the top law schools.

Just to give you a quick background, I attended Loyola Law School (Los Angeles) and transferred to Boalt Hall after my 1L year. Most of the information here comes from the yahoo transfer apps, talks with professors/students, various blogs/websites, forum threads on TLS, Law School Discussions, and my own personal experience/observations. I have tried to read EVERYTHING I could find over this past year related to transferring. Thus, in a sense, I am really compiling all of the information I have found over the past year.

Oh and to sum up the *obvious* key to success in transferring – GET GOOD GRADES (more on this later).

II. Why Transfer?


This may be obvious, but let us stay in perspective. Understanding why you (or others) may want to transfer helps you choose where to apply, helps you write your personal statement, helps you explain to your professors when you ask them for LORS, and helps you better answer questions during interviews.

The MOST popular and perhaps strongest reasons are:
-Employment prospects/job placement/better OCI/better prestige/academia/clerkships
-Personal reasons/geographical desires/family/spouse/significant other/parents/kids

Other reasons:
-The current economy
-Because it is the right “business decision” (from perhaps an investments/return point of view)
-To negotiate a scholarship at your current law school (this is a great reason to “apply” to transfer)
-Stronger faculty or desire to work with a certain professor
-Smaller class size, greater diversity, better alumni network and connections
-Better placement in a geographical area
-Better public interest or loan forgiveness
-Better specialty in a field of law
-Greater variety of courses offered (like in one field of law) or a better curriculum
-Location (near an undergrad campus versus no undergrad campus nearby)
-Better looking members of the opposite sex (seriously), this is not a reason you should ever admit or mention, but friends have stated that this is a time where you start considering marriage and finding your soul mate, which may be hard to do if you live in the middle of nowhere or away from a university campus (for some, placing yourself in an optimum environment to reproduce is “biologically” important, and I cannot believe I just said that)
-Stronger clinical programs/journals/externships/extracurricular activities
-Better name and reputation to help bring in clients later
-Personal ambition (after all, if better is possible, then good is not enough)
-Personal desire/dream to go to one school, maybe to return to your undergrad or because you were rejected/waitlisted originally
-Shame/guilt (I often see this with people who attended top undergraduate schools, who feel a unique pressure to attend top law schools)
-Respect/Self-Confidence (for some, this is a very strong reason)
-It goes on your resume forever, which may be important as lawyers often change jobs (aka the name of your school will follow you until you die)
-Because they accepted you, because HYS accepted you
-You just do not like your current school and it blows (this may be real reason, but not one you should EVER mention or admit, remember to stay positive)
-To make your parents proud. We all know that we should follow our own dreams, not our parents. However, the warmth and satisfaction you get from making your parents genuinely happy after all they have put you through is priceless. For me, this was something that was always in the back of the mind (perhaps as a sort of immigrant mentality to succeed).
-To make up for your past mistakes on the LSAT/GPA. Some of us did not realize we needed high GPA's early in college and did not have enough time to study for the LSAT because we decided to go to law school too late. Others just had a bit too much fun in college because...well...it is college. Whatever the reason, transferring is the opportunity of a lifetime to correct those errors if you want to call them, and put you back on track.
-Being able to participate in 2 OCIs and thus actually getting MORE interviews (this is another reason you should not admit outright and I address this in the FAQ section below)

In case you did not know, some common cons include:
-Giving up your 1st year grades
-Giving up your scholarship and paying a lot more for the new school
-Giving up Law Review
-Giving up some study abroad possibilities
-Doing the entire law school application over again and paying the money for the applications
-Some transfer stigma
-Moving to a new place and losing your old friends
-Probably not being able to use your 1L year professors for clerkship recommendations, but maybe you can get them for other recommendations still


III. Where to Apply?


This is pretty much like back when you first applied to law school. Obviously, where you want to apply will depend on how much you want to pay (applications still costs $60-$100 dollars), where you actually want to go, and whether you can actually get in. I will try to address some of this below, but the details are up to you. I have noticed that transfer students generally apply to fewer schools than when they first applied to law school.

Here are number of transfers each school usually accepts as well as some other transfer friendly schools. Note that this is the number of students who ended up transferring. There is no data on how many students the schools accept or what their yield rate is, but I would guess it is similar to their normal acceptance rate/yield rate (or it could be higher, which is why most schools do not report it). Also, any “data” you see here will reflect whatever I can find as of 2009.

Number of People Transferring into the T14

1. Yale ~10-12
2. Harvard ~30
3. Stanford ~12 (DarlayBoo, MarkTwain, and jwbayou5 say it is more like 16-20, but it will likely be cut down back to 12)
4. Columbia ~45-60
5. NYU ~45-50 (according to rayiner, it was cut down to 31 this past year)
6. Berkeley ~30-40 (though my transfer class this year looks like there was 50+ people at orientation, even after I subtracted the few visiting students)
6. Chicago ~15-25
8. UPenn ~25
9. Michigan ~30
10. Duke ~12-20
10. Northwestern ~20 according to their website (Law School Numbers says 40)
10. UVA ~35
13. Cornell ~5-10 according to their website (Law School Numbers says 18), though they only receive about 75 applications every year
14. GULC ~100

Other Popular Schools to Transfer To:

15. Texas ~15
15. UCLA ~30-40
17. Vandy ~25
18. USC ~5-10
19. WUSTL ~50
20. Emory ~30
20. Boston University ~5-10
23. UIUC ~30-40
30. Fordham ~30-40
39. UC Hastings ~15-20
45. American ~65
52. Florida State ~60
55. Case Western ~30
71. Loyola (Los Angeles) ~35
71. Miami ~20
77. Rutgers, Camden ~45
85. Santa Clara ~25-30

If you want to think transfer friendly, GULC tops the list, which has about 100 students transferring in every year (it must accept a lot more too). Other transfer friendly schools in the T14 include NYU, Columbia, Berkeley, and Michigan.

IV. What are my chances?


This is quite the black box. If predicting regular admissions was hard, then this will be fun. We are not admissions officers, so the process continues to be shrouded in mystery. Sometimes, you will have the numbers but still get dinged. Most of my predictions below are based off what I have seen off the yahoo transfer apps (which is often incomplete because students do not update or completely fill out the tables).

Basically, your chances depend on three things:

1) 1L ranking/GPA, and
2) The current school you attend
3) Softs (this barely matters but still does)

Transferring is a numbers game (like your GPA/LSAT for regular admissions), but MUCH more so. Generally, the better your school is, the lower your ranking can be and vice versa. See below for details for general trends that I have noticed. Note that these are just estimates (and really just my guesses) on the rank required to get in. There are ALWAYS going to be exceptions.

To transfer into HYS you need:
-top 5-10% at a Top 20
-top 5% at T1
-top 1% at a mid-upper T2
-Other notes: People in the top 1% in the Top 20 generally have a lock on at least one of the holy trinity. I could not find a record of anyone in the lower T2/T3/T4 transferring into HYS. Yale and Stanford only appear to take people in the T1 and up. Also, people in the T2 who transfer to Harvard are pretty much always ranked #1. People have stated that HYS only takes transfers who had a shot as an undergrad. My guess is that this is partially true for YS but not H. I do believe that you need above average softs for HYS, but the data seems to show that numbers alone can do the job.
-according to XxSpyKEx, there was 1 guy who went to HYS from a T4 because he co-authored an article or something
-according to utilitarianjac, someone with a 4.0 from Pepperdine transferred to Yale
-xeoh85, who wrote the legendary article on doing well in law school, was #1 at UCLA and was accepted as a transfer at all of HYS

To transfer into the T14 you need:
-top 10-15% at T1, top 5-10% for CCN
-top 5-10% at a T2, top 5% for CCN
-top 1-2% at a T3/T4
-Other notes: Depending on how far up you want to transfer, you may even succeed if you are ranked top 20-30%. For example, if you are transferring up like 10-15 spots, top 20-30% maybe enough (like a lateral transfer). Also, people in the T3/T4 generally only have a shot at transfer friendly schools in the T14.

To transfer into the T1 you need:
-top 10-20% at a T2
-top 5-10% at T3
-top 5% at T4
-Other notes: Depending on just exactly where you are and how far up you want to transfer, you can again make the jump by being in the top 20-30%.

To transfer into the T2 you need:
-top 10-20% at a T3/T4

To lateral/transfer down/part to full time at the same school/part to full time at different schools/T3 to T4 (there is like no data on this stuff):
-Generally you want to be in the top half to transfer from part to full time, but this totally depends on the school
-To transfer down, I would also say you should be in the top half and maybe top 1/3 to be safe
-To lateral, top 1/3 is generally okay, and maybe top 25% if you are trying to lateral within the T14.

Other notes: Remember that much of the same standards for schools still apply. For example, Penn still prefers to take students that want to be there (even though yield protect is not a factor). Yale and Stanford are still incredibly hard to predict even with great numbers. Northwestern still likes students who have work experience and such. Lastly, if you are way above the percentile ranges listed above (for example, you are top 5% when I said top 10% or you are top 1% when I said top 5%) then you might be considered a “lock” if such a thing exists.

V. Do Softs Matter?

If you ask me about softs, the answer is a resounding no. The transferring process appears to be even more numbers based than normal admissions. In fact, my guess is that your 1st year grades and the rank of your current law school account for 90-95% of your decision at most schools. The rest of the application is more of a double check to make sure you are a good student with good ambition. As always, good softs may matter in tie breakers and can definitely hurt though if you mess them up. When people with the right numbers get dinged, my guess is that the softs went wrong somewhere.

Softs probably do not matter because your first year grades are very strong predictors for OCI success at big firms and even for bar passage rates. Also, I feel like there are enough transfers with good grades applying that softs just do not come into play.

I will try to comment on some common softs and questions. Oh and, when I say small boost (below), I think of it is equivalent of a 1% increase in your rankings. When I say medium boost, I mean it is equivalent to a 5% increase in your rankings. When I say big boost, I mean it is equivalent to a 10%+ increase in your rankings. Just as a reminder, I am seriously pulling this out of the back of my head based on what I have seen. Nobody except the admissions officers really knows your chances, and my guess may be just as good as any (hopefully).


URM: There really is no evidence of URMs getting a boost in transfer admissions. We can ask the yahoo groups to add in a column in their database to indicate URM status, but so far that has not happened. Also, the transfer class is generally pretty small that adding more URMs do not really change the diversity statistics of the law school as a whole. With that said, I do believe URMs get a little boost, but it just does not seem to work the way normal admissions do.

Unique Softs: Yes, this will probably give you medium to big boost. Oh and when I say unique softs I mean some seriously awesome softs like winning a gold medal in the Olympics, starting your own Fortune 500 company or having a seriously tough life (think Sotomayor). The thing about this is that you would probably have had this soft in your original law school admissions, but who knows, maybe you won the Nobel Prize during your 1st year of law school. =P

Awards: You know what I am talking about. Everyone who does well gets a ton of these awards (Dean’s List, Scholarships, CALI awards, Honor Societies etc.). These come automatically as a result of your high GPA, and since everyone gets a ton of these plus no additional work was required to get these things, I doubt they matter at all.

Law Review/Moot Court: No again. First of all, if you are transferring, then you are not even going to be on the law review or moot court team at your old school. Getting onto law review via a write on competition or onto moot court via an oral competition probably gives you a little boost, but again, many applicants have these on their resumes.

Extracurricular Activities/Work Experience: Leadership always looks great, and the fact that you can participate in clubs and do well shows a lot. In addition, if you did a ton of meaningful stuff in undergrad or had some good work experience, you would get a little boost as well. You might get a medium boost at Northwestern if you did like 5+ years of serious work.

1L Summer: If you have a big firm 1L summer associate position (somehow) or one of those big firm diversity scholarship jobs, I would guess that you get a small boost. The rest of the typical research assistants, judicial externships, public interest work, etc. are just far too common and do not really add much to your application. I do think it is important still to actually do something during your 1L summer, rather than nothing at all.

Personal statement/LORS/Dean’s Certificate: These things are really just used as a double check to make sure that you can write, that you participate in class, and that you are not getting in trouble at school. It can give you a little boost at the most. Most personal statements and LORS sound the same anyways. Now, if you have COMPELLING reasons for transferring (like your wife and kids are over in that area or your slowly dying parents are in that city), then I would guess that it may give you a medium boost if you mention it in your personal statement.

Undergrad GPA/LSAT – Definitely not, though Harvard says it matters. Your undergrad GPA and LSAT are supposed to predict your success in law school during your first year. Now that you have your first year grades, the predictive values of those two things go down the drain. I bet a 4.0/180 will raise an eyebrow, but then again you could have probably gone to HYS to begin with. However, the prestige of your undergrad education may also give you a small boost (only if it is really up there).

Going to a Local School: I am very tempted to say that going to a local school gives you a small boost (Loyola ->UCLA; Hastings -> Berkeley; Temple/Villanova -> Penn; American -> GULC; Brooklyn -> NYU/Columbia, etc). I realize that top schools often receive more applications from local schools, but my gut instinct here seems to notice this small pattern of favoritism. Another reason may be that top schools like to cherry pick the best students from the lower local schools. This allows them to weaken the competition (so to speak) while simultaneously increasing their own reputation.

A few final notes: Do not worry about too much about softs. If you have the numbers, you will be fine. If you have bad softs, you might get dinged at a few places, but you should still get in somewhere.

VI. The Application Requirements
In case you forgot, most applications require:

-The Application Form
-Application Fee ($60-$100)
-Personal Statement (1-2 pages, often requiring you explain why you want to transfer)
-Resume (usually with your 1L summer experience added in)
-2 LORS (Letters of Recommendations, usually from professors), some schools have special forms for LORS, but I am pretty sure most schools prefer you use LSAC. Feel free to email them to double check.
-Official Undergraduate Transcripts (and any non-law school/graduate school transcripts)
-LSDAS Report and the $12 fee
-1st Year Law School Transcript (w/ class rank)
-Dean’s Certificate/Letter of Good Standing, this is the one thing you have to do that you did not have to before (in addition to sending the 1st year grades). You generally can ask the registrar, the admissions office, or the Dean’s office to (reluctantly) send one for you. Some schools also require you to use their own form for the Dean’s Certificate, so just give it to appropriate office when you ask them (it will not be sent through LSDAS).

If you have applied to the law school before, you would obviously have to use new materials. If you have not, then I do not see how the law school actually know if you used parts of your old personal statement or something. However, I do recommend you use new recommendation materials since many things have changed. For things like your resume, I would just update accordingly. Many schools will want you to resend in your undergraduate transcript as part of your LSDAS, even if you sent the same one last year.

Pay attention to any special application requirements. What this means is, you may have to start doing some work early. For example, if the application requires an Undergraduate Dean’s Certification (every school calls it something different), then you likely want to start doing this in May or something (it “May” take a while).

Also, pay attention to the due dates! Stanford, Berkeley, UVA, and GULC are due on June 15, while the rest have deadlines in July. Most schools realize you may not have received grades by June 15th, so just email them to tell them that and send it in once you get it. They may even allow you to send the Dean’s Certificates or the LORS in after that date. However, you still have to send the rest of your application in.

Below, I have tried to list any unusual requirements and this past year’s due dates.

1. Yale – due July 1, the legendary Yale 250 word personal statement,
2. Harvard – due July 1
3. Stanford – due June 15, Undergraduate Dean’s Certification
4. Columbia – due July 15, Biographical/Personal Profile Sheet, Undergraduate Dean’s Certification
5. NYU – due July 15, Undergraduate Dean’s Certification, no LORs required, NYU also appears to require you to use paper forms for the College/Law School Transcript, LORs, and Undergraduate/Law School Dean’s Certifications
6. Berkeley – due June 15
6. Chicago – due July 1, no paper applications
8. UPenn – due July 15, complete by August 1
9. Michigan – due July 21, only 1 LOR required
10. Duke – due July 1
10. Northwestern – due July 1, only 1 LOR, one legal writing sample
10. UVA – optimal deadline is June 15
13. Cornell – due July 15
14. GULC – due June 15, only 1 LOR

Like the normal admissions process, the applications are looked at on a rolling basis. However, most law schools do understand that grades are often released at a crawling speed, so if your school is a bit slow, it is not a huge deal.

VII. Personal Statement (PS)


This is just not a fun thing to do. Ever. However, you know the drill, just write about yourself. Most schools have general instructions that ask you to write about your background and why you want to transfer, so go for it.

Before I even get to writing the oh so dreaded essay, I would to reemphasize that the PS is a lot less important than people think. The weight of the transfer PS pales in comparison to regular law admissions PS or your undergrad admissions PS. Most people write about the same things (their epic studying as a 1L and how they want to have better employment prospects), so it ends up generally sounding the same. I would not spend too much time trying to come up with something super unique. In fact, the most important thing is probably to just not have any errors (duh), since the PS can still hurt.

What I Did

My PS was 2 pages double spaced, which allowed me to single space it for those that asked for one page. In addition, the first half of my PS was about my background (high school, college, and law school) while the second half focused on why I wanted to transfer.

I also used one paragraph about my background from my old PS (from when I first applied to law school) as part of my new transfer PS. If you did not originally apply to the school during regular admissions, I would say feel free to use a good apportion of your old PS in your new one (some parts may need to be tweaked of course).

What do you write about?

You can write whatever you want. Seriously. Some people do not even address why they want to transfer and they will be fine (not every school inquires for your reasons for transferring, especially since it is usually kind of obvious). Some people recommend tailoring your PS to the schools you apply to, but this understandably takes longer.

Everyone struggles with what to write about. I cannot really help you there, but just use the same methods you did when you wrote your other PS. Regarding the why you want to transfer section, write about certain professors/clinics/journals at the school. Talk about smaller class sizes or geographical preferences. I also talked about the obvious employment benefits, and spent another paragraph on my interests in potentially clerking clerking. Perhaps the new school has a better curriculum in a certain field of law. Basically, just do your research. I would see the “Why Transfer” section above for more motivation.

Regarding optional essays, you can do them if you want, but again I doubt they will have much influence. I personally did not write any. For schools like Penn (or maybe Michigan) who really like students who actually want to be there, I would either address your reasons for transferring in your PS or in one of their optional essays.

If you struggle with the PS, I feel your pain. Why would we want to write about ourselves and how awesome we are? We are all too humble for that.

VIII. Letters of Recommendation (LORS)

Talk about awkwardness. However, this is not particular a hard thing to do. You have all asked for LORS before, and I would say this is a lot easier to do than the PS. All you do is hand the professors the paperwork and they do the writing, right? It is technically pretty simple and there are a gazillion ways to go about doing it. There may be some awkwardness, but chances are, your professors have dealt with this situation before. Both of my LORS came from professors who were incredibly nice and supportive.

Remember, LORS are not very important compared to your grades and stuff. Perhaps some professors will even have a boilerplate format with minor tweaks for most students. I heard of people not going to class or office hours but just showing up randomly and having successful transfer cycles despite any strong bonds with the professor. Professors will probably understand that it is tough to bond with you when there are 100 students or something in the class.

Preparing for Good LORs During the Year

Hopefully you decided to transfer rather early and can prepare to get good LORS. What this means is you always go to class, do not sleep in class, and try to ask occasional questions/minor participation. In addition, you will go to office hours, which is the most important part. During office hours, you will ask productive questions AND bond with the professor by asking some non-law questions (about their background or their career paths). In addition, your will demonstrate your personality and unique backgrounds so that they will remember you and have things to say when they later write your LOR. I did not go to office hours just to get LORs, I had real questions to ask (and I hope you will too). Plus, going to office hours is a great way to read your professors to prepare for exams.

I personally did not talk about transferring with my professors, mostly because of strong anti-transferring policies at the time. However, many transfer students have been very open and talked to professors about the topic during the year, asking for their opinion. I think this is a great idea and I would have done it if I was not scared out of my mind by my school. People have said that professors have been surprisingly open and understanding when talking about transferring, so do not be shy and feel free to just ask them for their advice and their take on transferring. This also makes it a lot easier for when the time comes for you to actually ask them for an LOR.

Choosing A Professor:

Oh boy, this is a tough one. You need to recognize the conflict of interest that exists. Professors are duty bound by the school to try and keep good students. On the other hand, they are paid by the school to provide services (like LORS) to students in a sense and also duty bound to help their own students out (as a human being in a master/apprentice relationship).

Here are some things you should consider:
1. Your personal bond with the professor – Did he or she really like you? Did you guys bond in office hours? Does she even know who you are?
2. Your grade in the class – If you did well enough to consider transferring, this generally should not be a problem. However, do pick professors that gave you A’s. It makes it easier for them to say things about you, especially if you tried hard by not sleeping in class and going to office hours.
3. How nice your professor is – You want someone to write a good LOR with nice things to say. Some professors have high standards and tough exams, and may not think so highly of students. Try your best to make a read on your professor’s personality in this manner.
4. Whether your professor loves students – This piggybacks on the niceness factor, but you will notice that some professors care more about students than others. Did the professor have office hours four times a week or just once Friday afternoon? Did he look busy and frustrated every time students came to ask questions or did he look happy or relieved? Pay attention to whether your professor truly loves students (aka you as a person). Some professors will consider you their student no matter what you do. These are the professors you want. On the other hand, some professors care more about the school they work for. A few of my professors showed a ton of pride for the school while others hinted at how transferring was bad. One of them even posted horror stories of students who transferred. I would recommend you avoid these professors.
5. How long they have taught at your law school – Is your professor new? If so, she may feel less attached to the school and thus there is less of a conflict of interest. One of the professors I asked for a LOR was a visiting professor and lo and behold, there was no conflict of interest (I could tell). He was very happy to help me out. On the other hand, if your professor has taught at your school for 20 years, he or she may be more attached to the school. However, he or she may be used to this process, since students likely ask them for LORS to transfer every year. Is your professor an associate dean or on one of the school boards? This is another factor that increases the conflict of interest.
6. Communication and ability to get things done – This may not be common but there are incredibly intelligent yet absent-minded professors out there. Make sure you pick a professor who is reliable. Does he answer or respond to email? Can you contact him or her if problems arise? Does he sometimes forget things or is he slow in getting things done?
7. Your professor’s alma mater – This may be obvious, but it is a lot less awkward to ask your professor for a recommendation to Harvard if she went to Harvard. She will understand and may even give you some tips.

How to Approach Your Professor:

Meeting with your professor in person is the way to go. The reason I suggest this is that you guys will probably want to talk about it. You want to give the professor time to “judge you.” Finally, there are too many stories of students trying to catch professors by email or phone and then end up getting ignored.

If you can, try to do these things as early as possible, perhaps before spring finals kick in. If you do it during the semester, just go to office hours (alone) and ask them for the LOR. Sometimes if other students are there, stay a bit afterwards. Most professors are also willing to schedule private separate appointments with you.

If you have to meet with your professor after finals, this will be harder, but still doable. Many professors work from home during the summer, so they will be harder to find in person. I asked some of my friends who were research assistants for the professors in order to figure out when the professors would be available. In addition, you can just send them an email asking them to meet and say you want to go over exams or something (if you do not want to bring up the transferring issue over the phone/email).


What I did During the Meeting:

Please prepare for the meeting. When I met with my professors, I had a manila folder with all the paperwork prepared so that I could just hand it to them. I chose my professors very carefully and assumed they would say yes. Thus I was able to print out the LSAC and other forms with their info on it ahead of time. It was also hard to catch the professors during the summer so I only wanted to meet with them once (rather than meeting with them a second time afterwards to hand them the forms).

Inside the manila folder, I gave them my transcript from last semester, my resume, my old personal statement (or new one once I had it), the LSAC form, a stamped envelope, and an introduction sheet explaining everything. If you think you can catch your professor a second time, you can hand them the LSAC form or recommendation forms on a later date.

What I did during the meeting was just talk about a few other things (usually about how hard their final was) and then just saying something like “I am thinking about transferring and would you be comfortable with writing an LOR for me? This may or may not be an awkward meeting, but I mentioned that there may be a conflict of interest and I apologized to them. Lastly, I would also explain your reasons for transferring to the professor.

If your reasons are less than noble (or you do not want to risk insulting the professor/school by saying you want to go to a better school with better employment prospects), then feel free to just tell them you want to “apply” to transfer in order to obtain a better scholarship from your current law school. Think of it as standard procedure and that all law students who do well should throw in an application to transfer. This is especially true in this economy, where schools are lacking funds and may be a bit cheaper when it comes to scholarships. I honestly think this is one reason most professors will understand. From reading other people’s stories though, most professors are generally supportive of the transferring process and will understand that law school is a business and that you want to better yourself. Plus, they likely went to a top school.

I also asked my professors to send me an email confirmation for when they have sent the letter. This request was written down on the instructions sheet as well as mentioned in person during the meeting.

Lastly, please give your professor a TON of time to do this. Now, I gave both of my professors 1-2 weeks, but they understood my time constraints since grades came out late. Yes, I waited until my grades came out and THEN decided to transfer. Some professors will want 3-4 weeks, so try to do this early (before grades come out) if you have to.

IX. Early Action Transfers (Chicago, Georgetown, Miami, Hofstra, Case Western)

Yes, this does exist and is a fairly recent phenomenon from what I hear. In case you did not know, you can transfer after your fall 1L grades (*gasp*) and without your spring grades. A decision is usually give in April or May. The application process has the same requirements as normal transfer admissions but with earlier dates:

6. Chicago, due April 15 - THIS is BINDING (you have to go if you are accepted)
14. Georgetown, due March 16
55. Case Western, due March 30
71. Miami, TBA (or rather, it does not say anything on their website)
100. Hofstra, due May 15

Currently, these are the only schools that have this option. Your GPA for spring 1L semester is generally irrelevant (though C’s or lower might raise an eyebrow). Chicago also requires you get “consistent” grades throughout the year. When asked, the Chicago admissions office said this meant that you should not drop more than 0.2 or 0.3 points on your GPA or drop more than 10-20%.

Lastly (courtesy from LuvTheWNBA), WUSTL EA has been dumped (formerly due March 31). It appears that this is no longer currently possible and I have no idea if the school will reinstate the program in the future.

Should I Do Early Action?

This is a personal decision, but let us first weigh the pros and cons below.

My personal recommendation is to go for it, but only if you really want to go to the school. Only a few schools allow early action so far, and you are totally limited to these schools. If you had spectacular knock-em dead grades first semester, you will likely get similar grades second semester. I have actually never heard of anyone getting top grades 1st semester, then getting average grades 2nd semester (though I am sure it is possible). Basically, once you “get it” and understand how to succeed on law school exams, it stays with you.

Though I had straight A’s, I did not apply early action. I was pretty sure I would do equally well second semester and I was not really interested in Chicago or Georgetown. Finally, I did not want to take the risk and have lower second semester grades. As a result, my 2nd semester grades were just as good as my first semester grades.


Pros (for transferring early action)

-only depends on one semester worth of grades, technically allowing you to slack off second semester (though not recommended)
-just to repeat and emphasize, you are possibly making up for your mistakes on the LSAT and 4 years of slacking off in college with just one semester of hard work (which actually sounds like a good deal and a much easier path into a good school right?)
-being accepted so early gives more preparation time for an easier transition to the new school
-gives more peace of mind, especially for spring finals
-you can participate in the new school’s regular law review write on competition in May instead of the special one in September for transfers (or… you might even be able to try law review twice if you fail the first time in May)
-easier to get LORS during the year than during the summer since professors are still around and have office hours
-the decision is not binding, you can still apply to other schools even if you get in (but you would have to put down a seat deposit then withdraw the application later)
-you would technically already have acceptances before the regular cycle as a backup
-you might be able to negotiate for a scholarship at your current law school much earlier when they have more money still
-it also might be slightly easier to get in since you are applying early and the transfer class has not been filled yet

Cons

-you have to be fairly certain you want to go to the school, since they usually require you to put down a seat deposit of like $500 within a month of accepting you (long before the deadlines for normal transfers)
-really only limited to the schools listed above (and just Chicago and Georgetown in the T14)
-doing this all during spring semester means you jeopardize spring semester grades, which are still important for fall OCI
-you also have less time to do write PS, get LORS, and stuff during the school year so the quality of your application may suffer, plus you will likely be looking for a 1L summer job which also takes up time
-you also have less professors to ask for LORS (as you would depend mostly on fall 1L professors), and it would might be weird to ask your spring semester professors for LORS to transfer before you get a grade in their class (which will likely be good considering your 1st semester performance)
-your second semester grades may be even better
-this is obviously not indicative of anything, but very few people do early action transferring (probably because they do not know about it)

What are my chances?

Before you decide to apply, you also have to figure out your chances. To be honest, I have no data and also have just never heard of anyone applying to transfer early action to Miama, Case Western, or Hofstra. Pretty much everyone on the forums talks about early action transfers to Chicago and Georgetown, so I will focus on that.

Unlike early action for regular admissions into law school, the requirements for early action transfers are stricter. You need slightly higher grades than regular transfer admissions. My guess is that because they cannot see your second semester grades when making their decision, they have to bank on the fact that people who do well first semester will also do well second semester (because they “get it” and already figured out legal reasoning/analysis). Therefore, your first semester grades need to be higher than my guesses above for regular admissions. I will also admit that there is even less data on early action transfer admissions, so this is just my extrapolation and guess as usual. Also, I seriously have never heard of anyone doing lateral transfers or transfers down via the early action process.

To transfer into the Chicago you need:
-top 5% at T1/T2
-top 1% at T3/T4
-Other notes: Chicago does not take many transfers to begin with, and I am guessing they do not take very many students for early action. Depending on exactly where you are in the T1, top 10-15% may be okay if you are only like 10-15 rankings lower.

To transfer into Georgetown you need:
-top 10% at T1
-top 5% at T2
-top 1% at T3/T4
-Other notes: Remember that GULC is very transfer friendly and takes quite of bit of people early on if they have the numbers. Again, depending on exactly where you are in the T1, top 20-30% may be okay if you are only like 10-15 rankings lower.

X. Is it Worth It to Go?

The majority will usually say yes. Seriously though, you should have decided this before you apply. Otherwise, why spend all that effort and money if you ultimately decide not to go (unless you did it purely for scholarship negotiation purposes)? However, these questions pop up all the time (you know what I am talking about, the "should I go to this T14 vs. stay at my old school" threads), so I will try to address what I have seen and what I think you should do.

Oh, and I think you should transfer.

Before I even read your file, I recommend transferring because that most of the time, that is the right answer. When people ask if they should transfer after they have applied and been accepted, it is usually because they get cold feet. All of a sudden, moving to a new place looks like a hassle. That law review invitation just came, along with a beautiful scholarship letter. Plus, you suddenly realize it might be nicer to be number one at a small hamlet than second in command to all of Rome (as Julius Caesar put it). If you need me to allay your insecurities, then I will. Go transfer.

Now, when someone asks whether they should stay or go, a few factors come into play time and time again:

1. Which schools (obviously)
2. Geographical Preferences – where you want to work and whether you have a spouse there
3. Scholarships (could be half tuition, full tuition, full tuition + living stipend, etc.)
4. Employment goals (big law versus government public interest versus clerkship/academia)
5. Law review

Ultimately, whether you stay or go is a personal decision. These are the factors that generally guide the forum polls (on TLS/yahoo groups). Some say, that these are the only factors that should matter when deciding to go or not. By the way, law review should not be a reason to stay but people factor it into their decision every time. You can often still try out for law school or get onto a great journal. In addition, the reputation of your newer school (assuming you made a big enough jump) will be likely better for clerkships and academia than staying at your old school and making law review.

There are just far too many possibilities when it comes to these factors. Here are some common situations where transferring (instead of staying) is not an obvious choice.

T14 + full ride -> HYS
-This is another common 50/50 if you have no clerkship/academia thoughts
-If you are at CCN, you should probably stay if you have no clerkship/academia thoughts

Top 20/lower T14 + full ride -> non-HYS T14
-If you are transferring into CCN, this becomes sort of a 50/50, if it is non-CCN, you should stay

T1/T2 + full ride -> mid/lower T14
T3/T4 + full ride -> T1
-This is another 50/50, TLS will say to transfer, but in real life, I feel like a lot of people struggle with the decision (and a good number of them ultimately stay)

Moving up 10-20 spots and not into top 10 schools
-Generally you should probably just stay

If you have a geographical preference at your old school + full ride + no big law or academia desires -> non-HYS T14
-I would almost say that you should stay for this one too

Basically, if you are unsure, feel free to do a poll on TLS. The prevailing result is usually to transfer to the more prestigious school (especially if it is T14) barring strong geographical preferences and tons of money.

Lastly, whether you should go or not mirrors the regular admissions process, so this should not be too tough.

Other FAQ
What do I do about early deadlines when I have not even heard back from other schools?

This often arises with Berkeley, Stanford, and GULC, who have June 15 deadlines. People get their acceptances and must accept by around mid July. However, they have not heard back from HYSCCN.

Here are some obvious answers, but you can:

1) ask for an extension
2) ask the schools you have not heard from to politely “hurry up” and tell them you really want to go there
3) accept at the school but withdraw later (for example, Berkeley requires some integrity but no seat deposit, so I am sure they will understand if you have to accept early but later go to Harvard)
4) just go to Berkeley, Stanford, and GULC because those are good schools already

What happens if my school does not rank or does not give out letter grades (for early action or regular admissions)?

I would not worry about this. Schools can have seen applications from various schools every year and can figure this out. Straight A’s at T2/T3/T4 schools are going to be generally impressive and likely in the top 1%. Even if you are at Berkeley and trying to transfer out, they can make a general guess depending on how many HH/H/P’s you have.


What's the first year of law school like? Check out this interview with four excellent students.

Brian Leiter has also written valuable information on the transfer process.

2 comments:

  1. This is a great article on transferring, also check out Law Riot.

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  2. Thanks Leo, I appreciate it. I've been on Law Riot before, great resource. I'll keep you guys in mind in the future too. Thanks for posting my link there.

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