Guide to Transferring Law Schools

By Kayla McCormack · October 12, 2023 · 9 minute read

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Guide to Transferring Law Schools

There are a variety of reasons why a law student may consider transferring schools. Maybe you don’t love the professors or environment, the city isn’t a fit, the tuition is too high or you need to relocate for personal reasons. Whatever the reason, transferring schools is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

While you are at your current school, focus on your grades and rounding out your resume. These are two factors admissions officers may evaluate when you apply to transfer. Continue reading for a guide on how to make a transfer happen and what you should consider before choosing to make the move.

What Is a Law School Transfer?

Typically, completing law school takes three years of full-time study. A law school transfer involves switching from one law school to another while pursuing a JD. In most cases, transfers take place after a student completes their first year of law school, commonly known as their 1L year.

It is possible to transfer after your second year, but this is less common because credits taken during your 2L year may not transfer.

What to Consider Before You Transfer Law Schools

Switching law schools involves a lot of work and some trade-offs. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you take the leap:

Is the new law school ranked significantly better than your current one?

If you’re looking to change schools in order to upgrade to a better one, make sure it’s worth the trouble. A school that’s ranked only slightly better or falls within the same tier won’t change your job prospects very much, and what you sacrifice could eclipse any benefits. Aim to jump to at least the next tier of law schools. If you’re already in the top tier, you may want to focus on just the top five schools.

Will a “better” school be right for you?

When you move to a higher-ranked school, you may see your grades fall or feel stressed because of stiffer competition. You may get less personalized attention from faculty and administrators and have a harder time getting to the top of the list for institution-based law school scholarships and internships. Setbacks like these aren’t guaranteed, and you can certainly bounce back, but make sure you think through the move carefully and get to know your prospective institution well.

Are you willing to put in the work?

Applying as a transfer student requires pretty much the same amount of time and effort as applying to law school the first time. You’ll also have to pay application fees of up to around $100 per school.

Are you OK with potentially losing out on opportunities?

When you change schools, you may have to give up scholarships, the chance to study abroad, or the opportunity to participate in the law review or moot court. You will also have to give up your first-year grades (you don’t bring them with you to the new school).

Can you deal with setbacks in your relationships?

When you transfer, you might lose the bonds and connections you’ve started forming during your first year.

Conversely, many of the students at your new school will have formed strong friendships as well, so you might have a harder time breaking in. Considering the importance of networks in career advancement, this could affect not only your personal life, but also your professional future.

💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

How to Complete a Law School Transfer

Most students transfer after their first year, which allows them to receive a degree from their new school with no mention of the original institution. Many schools will not allow you to transfer after your second year, or if they do, they’ll still require you to attend two additional years at the new school.

Applying for a transfer looks very similar to applying for law school in the first place. Generally, you’ll need to submit:

•   A résumé

•   A personal statement

•   Two letters of recommendation

•   Transcripts

•   LSAT or GRE scores

Preparing Your Application

Applying to transfer does not guarantee that you’ll be admitted. Your GPA and class rank are usually the most important factors in your application and are weighed more heavily in transfer decisions than your LSAT score and extracurricular activities.

Most schools will only admit transfers that are in the top 10% of their class. Your class rank must be even higher if your school is ranked relatively low. To improve your chances, focus on getting good grades in your first year. You should also start early on building relationships with professors who might offer recommendations by reaching out to them, attending office hours, and speaking up in class.

A law school transfer personal statement must focus not only on why you want to study law in general but also on why you want to transfer. The reason you cite should be substantive and tied to the institution you want to attend, rather than a purely personal motive, such as being closer to family.

Don’t just cut and paste the essay you submitted when applying to law school initially, and don’t turn in a generic statement. Instead, tailor the essay to the school you want to transfer to, and why they are the right fit for you. Steer clear of trash-talking your current law school — that doesn’t look good to the admissions committee. Instead, speak in positive terms about what you’ve gained and accomplished, and make clear what contribution you would make to the school if you were accepted.

What Are Admissions Officers Looking at in a Transfer Application?

The exact criteria an admissions committee evaluates may vary based on the law school. However, there are commonalities that admissions officers evaluate and opportunities for you to strengthen your application as a law school transfer. Some of the top criteria evaluated include grades, letters of recommendation, résumé, and your personal statement.

•   Grades. The grades you earn during your 1L year can illustrate how you’ll perform in future years of law school. As mentioned, LSAT scores will still likely be a factor, but may fall in importance after completing 1L classes.

•   Letter of recommendation. This can help the committee understand how you performed in your 1L classes and any other criteria that could help you stand out from other applicants. Think carefully about which professor may be the best fit to write a letter on your behalf and be open about your reasons for wanting to transfer.

•   Resume. The admissions committee will also likely evaluate any law-related extracurriculars you participated in during your 1L year.

•   Personal Statement. The personal statement is an opportunity to explain why you are interested in transferring in addition to why you want to pursue a law degree and how it will influence your future career plans.

What to Do if Your Transfer Is Accepted

If you’re admitted as a transfer student, congratulations! Once you’ve committed to switching schools, you’ll need to take care of a number of things to ensure a smooth transition. First, inform your current school of your plans to transfer (and tell your landlord if you’re moving). Next, get in touch with your new school to confirm which of your credits will be transferred, and take careful note of all the classes you need to earn your degree.

You will also want to reach out to the financial aid office to make sure your package is squared away. And don’t forget to contact career services to connect with your advisor and sign up for on-campus interviews and other opportunities. If you’re moving, you’ll need to get set up in a new apartment. Once you’re at your new school, work extra hard to build relationships with professors and peers. These will pay off in terms of future recommendation letters and lifelong networks.

How Student Loan Refinancing Can Help

As a lawyer-in-training, you’re probably on track to make a good living once you graduate. But in the meantime, law school can be an expensive endeavor. That high price tag, especially when combined with the cost of undergraduate education, is one reason why law school students can expect to graduate with more than $100,000 in student debt. In fact, According to a 2020 survey conducted by the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyers Division and AccessLex Institute, median cumulative student loan debt was $160,000.

Maybe you are looking to transfer because your current law school is too expensive, or maybe you’re upgrading to a higher-ranked school that also comes with higher costs. Either way, student loan refinancing can help get your law school debt under control.

What Is Student Loan Refinancing?

Student loan refinancing involves getting a single new loan from a private lender to pay off one or more existing student loans. Your new loan comes with a single payment, and potentially, a different interest rate and repayment term. You can refinance both federal and private loans. However, if you refinance federal loans, you permanently forfeit all federal protections and benefits such as income-driven repayment plans, deferment and forbearance options, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

Lenders will usually evaluate factors such as your credit score, credit history, and income, among other personal factors to help determine the loan terms. It is possible to refinance student loans with bad credit, but this can be more challenging or result in a higher interest rate or less favorable terms. That’s why some borrowers may consider adding a cosigner to strengthen their application.

Refinancing without a cosigner is also an option. Borrowers with limited history or low credit scores may want to spend some time building credit before refinancing if they do not want to rely on a cosigner.

The question is, should you refinance your student loans? The answer is deeply personal, but being an informed consumer can help you make the decision. A major draw of refinancing is to secure a more competitive interest rate, which could help you save money over the life of the loan. You can get an idea of how refinancing can influence your loans by using SoFi’s student loan refinance calculator.

If you think refinancing may be a fit for you, shop around and compare terms to find the best rates and terms available to you. On your way, consider refinancing student loans with SoFi.

Recommended: Guide to Establishing Credit

The Takeaway

There are a lot of reasons students may want to transfer law schools. Typically, this happens after a student has completed their 1L year. Admissions committees will generally evaluate factors including a student’s 1L grades, letters of recommendation, their resume, any law-related extracurriculars, and the student’s personal statement, among other factors as determined by the school.

Nearly 90% of law students graduate with student loan debt. Student loan refinancing might be right for you if you have good credit and could potentially qualify for a lower interest rate. Keep in mind that if you refinance federal loans, you give up the opportunity to take advantage of income-based repayment plans or federal relief offerings such as deferment or forbearance. You can consider refinancing your undergrad loans while in law school, or once you have a steady job after law school, you can refinance your undergrad and law school loans.

You may also consider taking out a private student loan with SoFi to finance the rest of your law school experience. SoFi offers flexible repayment plans and a quick application with no fees.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

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If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

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