Thinking about transferring? You’re not alone

If you’re contemplating transferring to a different law school, welcome to the club. In 2020, more than 1,600 students left one school for another, according to ABA data.   

Jerry Organ wrote about the transfer data in a blog post in December 2020. He compared the number of transfers and the percentage of transfers all the way back to 2014. 

“For the last several years, the transfer market had been shrinking, having declined from 5.5% in 2014, to 4.7% in 2016, to 4.0% in 2018, and down to 3.4% in 2019,” he wrote. “Aside from a slight bump in 2017, this is the first meaningful increase in transfers in many years, although the level is still less than in 2015-2017 when there were more than 1,700 transfers.”

Overall, 1,612 law students transferred in 2020 which accounts for 4.2% of the 38,500 first year enrollment.

The most notable change in the most recent ABA data was that the University of Idaho broke a record in the west for the number of transfers who were admitted when it accepted 105 students from Concordia Law School when the school announced it was closing. Normally the University of Idaho doesn’t make the top 10 list. 

School List

JD1 Transfers Out

%

Transfer In

%2

Difference

IDAHO, UNIVERSITY OF

4

2.2%

105

58.0%

101

FLORIDA, UNIVERSITY OF

0

0.0%

51

23.6%

51

GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY

6

4.0%

30

19.9%

24

GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

37

6.6%

95

17.0%

58

FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY

5

2.2%

38

16.7%

33

GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

16

2.4%

109

16.5%

93

WESTERN STATE COLLEGE OF LAW

0

0.0%

3

14.3%

3

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

3

1.2%

36

14.2%

33

CHICAGO, UNIVERSITY OF

3

1.4%

28

12.8%

25

UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA - LAS VEGAS

5

3.5%

18

12.7%

13

 

Two of the top ten law schools didn’t lose any students: University of Florida’s Levin College of Law in Gainesville, Fla., and Western State College of Law in Irvine, Calif. Both managed to still appeal and successfully recruit students from other schools. Western State only had three students transfer but for a small school that makes for a big percentage of its enrollment numbers (14.3%). Meanwhile, 51 students – 23.6%-- moved to the sunshine state to join the gators. 

“I believe the most likely additional explanation for this bump in transfers was the financial uncertainty for law schools associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly uncertainty regarding the number of first-year students who would show up at law schools that had announced during the summer a shift to online instruction for the fall semester,” Organ wrote.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, American University in D.C. took the biggest hit. The law school lost 57 students (17.4%) and only received five (1.5%) for a loss of 51 students.

School List

JD1 Transfers Out

%

Transfer In

%2

Difference

NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY

39

21.9%

8

4.5%

-31

ATLANTA'S JOHN MARSHALL LAW SCHOOL

7

11.1%

2

3.2%

-5

TULANE UNIVERSITY

22

11.8%

4

2.2%

-18

FAULKNER UNIVERSITY

7

13.2%

1

1.9%

-6

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

7

11.3%

1

1.6%

-6

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY

57

17.4%

5

1.5%

-52

CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA

17

12.4%

2

1.5%

-15

TOURO COLLEGE

24

15.5%

1

0.6%

-23

CALIFORNIA-IRVINE, UNIVERSITY OF

15

10.8%

0

0.0%

-15

SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY

21

11.3%

0

0.0%

-21

Two schools on the bottom 10 list also drew goose eggs: University of California-Irvine and Syracuse University both lost students and accepted no transfers.  

Organ says this data and his more in-depth look at the last several years will be helpful to prospective law students and also pre-law advisors. 

“These data gives them a better idea of what transfer opportunities might be available depending upon where they go to law school (or are presently enrolled as a first-year student),” Organ wrote. 

This data isn’t a crystal-clear look at the transfer market or legal education trends though, Organ warns. 

 “There still are a significant number of unknowns relating to transfer students, particularly regarding gender and ethnicity of transfer students and regarding performance of transfers students at their new law school, both academically and in terms of bar passage and employment.”

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