Published: Nov 26, 2018
It’s not them; it’s you. Your priorities have changed. Or perhaps it is them. The classes haven’t challenged you enough, or career prospects are underwhelming. Maybe it was never meant to be, and your heart has always been set on another school that was out of reach. Whatever the reasoning, many law students consider jumping ship from their current law school for a better fit. And if you’re one of them, you should be thinking about your next move now.
I know what you’re thinking—you haven’t even finished 1L semester, and finals are breathing down your neck. Plus, you can’t even apply until summertime after you have all of your 1L grades, right?
Some law schools, including some top ones, accept early applications from 1Ls interested in transferring. Among those schools* are:
Obviously, you don’t need to get these applications done right now when you should be focusing all of your energy on finals. But it’s a good idea to keep the transfer application in the back of your mind for the following reasons:
It will motivate you.
Law school is a tremendous investment, and if your current school isn’t the best fit for whatever reason, you may feel like you’re wasting your time and efforts. Instead of letting your current situation bring you down, use the prospect of transferring as fuel to work your hardest. Like I said above, finals should be your ultimate—and really only—priority right now. But if you keep the transfer carrot dangling in front of you, you’ll push yourself even harder to prepare and stay focused as you study.
Bulk up your resume.
You don’t need to join every club on campus, sign up for mock trial, and become a professor’s research assistant tomorrow. But once you finish finals, and the new semester is on the horizon, you should consider how you can get involved if you already haven’t. I’m never a proponent for joining activities just to write them down. And I also understand that law school requires most of your free time. But surely there is some activity at your school that interests you and can help you develop as a future lawyer. Extracurricular activities and supervised pro bono demonstrate to your prospective school that you’re engaged in your community and reflect some of your interests.
You can’t become best friends with a professor overnight, and these relationships are ones that you can’t force. But if you want to transfer, you’ll need a letter of recommendation (or two), so having a bond with a professor will go a long way. Finals time is actually a great opportunity to get to know professors better. They often hold review sessions and have extended office hours. Take advantage of these opportunities, both to help you best prepare for finals and to get to know your professors better. Show an interest, reserve time to discuss any areas on which you need further clarification, and work on any practice questions that they provide. And once finals are over, let loose and mingle with your professors at your school’s holiday party if there is one. Even if you don’t transfer, these types of connections can help you at every step in your career. Importantly, don’t discuss any desire to transfer at this point; wait to have that conversation once you are sure that you will be applying and are ready to ask for a letter of recommendation.
Prepare in advance.
Once finals are done, you are no doubt looking forward to weeks of lazy bliss. No outlining. No book briefing. No being held prisoner to the Socratic method. But if transferring is in your future, you should use this time to get your application ready. True, you won’t know your grades. But it never hurts to try regardless of your grades, and if you feel you are in the running, it’s better to be prepared than to scramble while balancing second semester. Remember, top grades are the ultimate goal, so once 2L semester begins again, you want to be able to dive in. Take this break to draft, revise, and polish your personal statement. Gather the application dates and materials you’ll need for each prospective school. Fill out the applications. Prepare any documents you need to request transcripts so that once your grades are posted, you are ready. And finally, decide which professors you’d like to request a recommendation from and consider how to phrase that request so that you don’t offend the professor with the fact that you want to leave the school.
Law school is hard enough—you shouldn't be unhappy with the one you're at. If transferring law schools is on your radar, consider applying early if your prospective school offers it. The upcoming break will give you the time you need to get your materials ready and weigh your options.
*This list is not exhaustive.
When I was in law school, I had a final exam routine—from the types of study materials I made and my process for studying them, all the way down to the type of drink I’d bring into the test room and the music I’d listen to right before the test. Some called it crazy; I called it self preservation.
Going to law school isn’t—or at least shouldn’t be—something you decide to do suddenly or aimlessly. Such a commitment of time, money, and effort should be taken on only after much deliberation and preparation, especially since your career and your future are at issue.
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