Friday, February 10, 2012

Advice: Transferring Law Schools

"Should I transfer law schools?"

When I first started law school I went to a lower ranked tier 4 (T4) school.  I applied late, only took the LSAT once, and did miserable on it.  In fact, to be honest, my score was 153.  I did not practice, study, or put the effort that was needed into taking the LSAT.  Although my LSAT score was a bit above average, I still failed as far as law school was concerned.

My GPA in undergrad was a 3.2.  This is an alright GPA.  I majored in Economics, however, not a hard science.  So, my GPA was seen as somewhat low.  Also, I reported classes I took at a community college, which factored into my GPA.  These brought the 3.2 down to under a 3.0.  So, as you can tell, I was not destined to go to a top law school.  Thus, I was stuck with three options.  Golden Gate University, New England Law: Boston, and Western New England.  My goal was to go to a top school.

There was hope:  Transferring Law Schools.

I realized early on, by reading law school forums and articles, that I could transfer to a higher ranked law school.  Now, rank is not everything, but to employers, law school rank matters.  In fact, the U.S. News and World Report's law school rank is very important to employers.  It is one way in which they can gauge the influx of lawyers who are all clamoring for jobs.  In short, you should be at least somewhat concerned about your schools rank.  I know I was. 

Further, as a law student in a ranked school (generally top 100), you will notice that once rankings come out, many of your fellow students will be obsessed with how the school moves on the rankings.  Moving in or out of the top 14 (T14) or the top 50 is a big deal for many schools.  However, with that in mind, it's not as serious as students and others generally make it out to be.

"How can I transfer law schools?"

So, the next question was: How do I go about transferring law schools?

Now, if you were like me, you may think that your undergraduate credentials do not allow you to go to the highest ranked school.  You may be stuck with only a 3rd (T3) or 4th tier (T4) school.  My only options were 4th tier schools.  I also really wanted to go to law school.  Now, I should have just retook the LSAT, but I did not.  First, I did not think I would do much better than a 153, and second, a did not have a lot of time to retake it.  I thought that it would not matter.  Later on, I realized that I should have made time to retake the LSAT, and I should have studied my rear off.  If I would have got a few points higher, I could have probably got into a second tier school.  Had I done much better, I could have possibly got into a top tier school.  However, when I realized this, I had already begun my studies and my only option was preparing for transferring.

"Where do I need to rank to transfer law schools?"

In order to transfer you should,

  • Be ranked at least in the top 20% of your class (even though you may be a bit lower ranked and be able to make a move.  My school at the time curved at an 80, or a B-.  I knew students with B-'s in some classes transfer to some good schools.  With that in mind, you must realize that your school's curve may make your GPA look somewhat low, but it's the rank that matters.
  • Have good references ready.  Professors who you know decently, went to talk to in their offices, and who you got good grades from (think B+ to A, depending on how your school curves). 
  • Also, having a summer internship lined up helps somewhat, as it shows that you are more likely to find a job after graduation, which is important to schools as far as their rank is concerned.  Summer internships are generally easy to get (law firms are getting free labor), so this should not be a problem for most individuals. 
  • Your LSAT score doesn't matter.  The point of the LSAT score is to give the school an idea of how likely you are to succeed in law school.  Once you have actual hard evidence (grades and rank), schools probably won't look at the LSAT.  Keep in mind, however, some schools state that transfer students should have credentials that would have made them competitive for admissions originally.  I have seen people transfer to schools they would have had no chance in going had they applied there with their LSAT and undergraduate GPA.  Further, I transferred to one of these schools and literally had a snowball's chance in Hades of originally getting in.

Now, your main task, and the hardest task is going to be getting that high rank.  Almost everyone is going to be very concerned with their rank, especially at a T3 and T4 school.  Even at a T2 school there will be people trying to transfer.  So if you are at a T2 school, be prepared to hustle.

"How can I be successful in law school?"

Law school is different than undergrad.  You are given a huge book and have very little idea of what you will be tested on.  There is a strategy that I used in order to reel in excellent grades during my first year of law school.

1.  Take excellent notes as you read.
2.  Don't go to the next case until you understand the case fully that you just read.
3.  Don't miss class.
4.  Don't surf the internet or chat during class.
5.  Try to enjoy your studies.
6.  Don't focus too much on supplements.
7.  If your professor wants you to read something, read it.
8.  Diagram and make note cards.
9.  Don't focus too much on the competition.
10.  Don't feel the urge to answer every question in class (aka, don't be a gunner).
11.  Find and take the practice tests.
12.  If a professor hands out questions, treat them as if they were graded and type them out and understand them.  Also, visit office hours and talk about your answers to those questions.
13.  After midterm exams, review those exams with your professors.  Doing this shows you are interested and helps you get a letter of recommendation.
14.  Don't hang out on sites like instead of studying.  Also, don't take everything they say there seriously.  Many of those people are the ones who you will be competing with, and many of those people will try to break you down.
15.  Don't find yourself hating your competition.

There are other points that I could make, but these are good starting points.  Also, make goals.  It helps to have an outline of goals ready to guide you in your accomplishments.  Be ready to put other hobbies aside.  Live close to the school, or if you take public transportation, study your note cards.  You can easily be in the top 10 if you give serious effort and become somewhat obsessed.  Most people won't be obsessed.  Few were as obsessed with study as I was.  I transferred from a T4 to a top school and was very proud of that move.  It made it all worth the while and, to be honest, was a wonderful feeling.  At times I was worried I would not make the cut.  You will sometimes worry too.  But if you always give it your all and don't fall behind, you will get in the top 10%.  It's not that hard as long as you understand the material and have practice answering the questions. 

Want to learn the strategies to be in the top of your class? Want to have an excellent shot of being able to transfer up the ladder of law schools? If so, there is a great new resource available!

If you have any questions about transferring, feel free to ask.  I know of many stories of people transferring from schools like Cooley to Boston University or Golden Gate University to University of Washington and Cornell.  I have helped others do it, and can give you some pointers. 

It is not as hard as one thinks to move from Cooley to University of Florida, from Brooklyn to Harvard, New York Law School to Columbia.  I have seen it done before, and there's no reason you can't do the same.


  1. Where did you transfer to?

  2. Very interesting advice. I'm 7th percentile (15/219) at GGU and looking to transfer if spring grades are at par. What should I be gunning for?

  3. I think setting goals is the key here. Your goals should be consistent with your personal values system, and you must believe you can reach those goals. school funding

  4. Transferring from one university to another is very hard in the field of law. I have a friend and she told me that before she became a criminal defense attorney in Houston, she went to three different law schools and it is very hard on her part. So, i suggest that you stick to one university and finished the course on the best way that you can be.

    1. Transferring schools is not that hard if you have the grades to do it. I am surprised that your friend wen to three schools. Generally one can only go to two schools, although I am sure it is possible to transfer, then drop out, then reapply. I have just never really heard of it.

      With that in mind, it is often a good idea to stay at one university. But transferring can help a lot of people who want to graduate from a much higher ranked school and get the benefits that go with that degree.

  5. 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 help here.

    I’m 27, and have been working full-time in publishing since graduating early from a top-10 East Coast university six 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 55th percentile) when I took it last year, but not great, as I was quite sick at the time. In sum, however, my undergrad GPA and LSAT score just don’t really reflect my academic potential…

    I applied to a bunch of schools in New York City (where I want to attend school and practice law) and was rejected from many, waitlisted at a 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 NYU for 2&3L? That has always been my top choice for law school.

    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.

    1. I recommend studying hard and using the study methods above. I also recommend the book "How to Win at Law School" which is available through this site. It has helped many people do well at law school.

      With that being said, it is very hard to be in the top 1-3 people in your class. Also, you don't need to be at the very top to move to a good school. Some people in the top 20% move to great schools as a result of a good application package. With that being said, if you want to get into the best of the best, having top grades is very important. I would aim as high as you can and plan on giving a lot of time to studying and making law school your number one goal if you want to do well.

      As far as going from a T-4 to NYU, it is no easy feat. I have heard of people going from lower ranked schools to NYU (New York Law School to NYU), but you will want to be near the top of your class. Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions or need any help!

  6. I finished my 1st year at a TTTT school in the top 12% of my 1st year class(3.5GPA). I wanted to go back to California and so I put out a few transfer apps in the tiers above me. I have not heard from most of the schools, but I got into a TTT the other day via a phone call. I want to know if a transfer to a TTT law school worth paying double of what I am paying now for my school.

    I would be giving up a lot by way of scholarships, deans list, moot court etc. I also got some 3.7s and 4.0s on my transcript and I realize that 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 second tier and first tier schools? 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. You should consider applying to a variety of schools. I have seen many people go from lower tier schools to schools in the first tier while being in the top 10-15% of their class.

      You do have to consider what you are giving up, however. Moot court and scholarships may not be possible at your new school. In fact, scholarships are probably out no matter what.

      It is something you are going to have to weigh. Throw in a few applications and see what happens.

  7. I am in the top three students in my class at a middle ranked (second tier) school in the Northwest. I am looking into getting into a higher ranked school and want to still remain on the west coast.

    I am looking at schools in Seattle and in Oregon but would consider San Francisco. I would love to go to Stanford and am considering shooting an application, but have heard that many individuals do not have luck getting in from lower ranked schools. Plus, my LSAT was low, around 160.

    I am wondering if I have a shot at Berkeley or University of Washington. I don't want to spend a bunch of money applying if I don't have a chance in getting into those schools. Also, I am on law review if I stay here at my school but if I leave I will probably not be able to get onto law review I realize.

    Should I apply to Stanford and if I get in, go, and if not, just stay at my TT school? Or should I really try to get into a top ranked school in my area like UW?

    1. Since it is December, you will still have to finish the Spring semester to have a chance at most schools that don't have early decision. However, I have found that many people do just as well their second semester as they do their first. With that in mind, continue to do what you are doing and you should have a shot at UW, especially since you are in the northwest already and at a second tier school.

      Stanford may be a possibility, I would apply if I were you. It's worth the shot if that's your dream school.


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