How easy is it to transfer to a different law school?

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This year’s admissions cycle is shaping up to be yet another competitive one. If you don’t get into your first choice of law school, how hard would be to later transfer?

There are far fewer law schools than colleges. In that sense, it is much harder to transfer, as there are not that many spots available. Law school classes are relatively small. 

I have recently seen a lot more transfer activity, however. Sometimes applicants I have known have been able to transfer into much higher ranked law schools, or to schools located in the part of the country in which they want to practice law. Transferring usually happens after the first year of law school. 

So, how does transferring work? And how can you be successful if you want to transfer? 

I recently spoke with Sibel Iskender, who transferred into Fordham University School of Law as a 2L this fall, about the transfer process. Here are her and my tips for transferring: 

Understand the Transfer Application Process

The transfer application process starts later than the regular law school admissions cycle. This is partly so admissions can see your first year of law school grades, which are weighted very heavily. Transfer applications generally open in the spring and decisions are made in the spring and summer. “From a technical perspective it is very easy,” commented Iskender, who transferred after her first year of law school. She added that as a transfer you are usually applying to only one or two schools, unlike the initial law school admissions process, where you might have been applying to many schools, and having to complete many applications and essays. You can really tailor your transfer application to a particular school, establishing reasons for why you want to be a student there. 

Timing is Important

The timing is very important. You want to be accepted to another law school as early as possible in the transfer process, so as not to miss any 2L opportunities, such as on-campus interviews. Law school on-campus interviews for summer associate positions take place very early, so if your transfer application is accepted in time for you to participate, that could make a difference in future job opportunities. “Timing makes a huge difference. Doing things as soon as possible is the key,” Iskender emphasized. You also want to ask a school that you are potentially going to transfer to if you will be able to participate in competitions to write for the Law Review, or other law school scholarly journals. 

Strategy

Transferring can be a way to overcome a lower LSAT score or undergrad GPA that may have prevented you from being admitted to a law school when you originally applied. At many schools transferring is heavily based on your first year of law school grades. “If it doesn’t work out the first time, it doesn’t mean that you won’t end up at that school,” Iskender said. “There are a lot of different ways to get to the end result.” 

So as you are applying to your top law schools, keep in mind that there are many ways to ultimately be accepted. 

Hillary Mantis consults with pre-law students, law students and lawyers. She is Assistant Dean of the Pre-law Advising Program at Fordham University and author of career books, including Alternative Careers for Lawyers. You can reach Hillary at alcareer@aol.com.