Transferring Law Schools – Statistics, Personal Statement, and More

If you are a current law student, you probably dedicated a significant amount of time to  researching different law schools, crafting the perfect personal essay, and submitting stellar applications with the hopes of attending the school of your dreams. 

Receiving an offer for admission from any law school is an accomplishment you should be proud of, regardless of your particular school’s ranking. 

Of course, there is no guarantee that the school you thought would be the best fit for you actually will be a good fit. 

You might study at one law school for a semester or more, only to realize well into the experience that you are not as content as you thought you would be at that school.

If this sounds like you, there is no need to panic: you have the option to better the circumstances of your legal education by transferring to a different law school. 

The prospect of transferring law schools may sound like an utter headache, or even just downright daunting. 

Fortunately, we are here to help you through this transition. Read on to learn more about how to transfer law schools, including some statistics about the process, tips for writing a compelling personal statement, how to increase your chances of being accepted as a transfer law student, and more. 

Can You Transfer Law Schools?

Georgetown University Law Center
Xp040407, Georgetown University Law Center along New Jersey Avenue, CC BY-SA 4.0

Yes, you can transfer law schools. 

Every year, many law students decide to transfer to a different school, and in many cases, they do so successfully.

On top of that, students do not just transfer from their current school to a similarly ranked or more poorly-ranked school. 

Law schools that are ranked among the top 14 in the country regularly accept transfer students from law schools all across the rankings, including third- and fourth- tier schools and lower.

In fact, in the 2017-2018 academic year alone, 10 students — which equals 10% of the school’s 1L class — transferred from the unranked John Marshall Law School to the Emory University School of Law, which was ranked #26 at that time

However, depending on the particular school’s admissions policies regarding transfer students, there may be restrictions on who is eligible to transfer to their law school. One example of this is that some law schools only accept transfer students who are just completing their first year of law school. 

This means that students interested in transferring as a 2L or 3L student will have to research whether their intended law school accepts transfer students into second- or third-year programs. 

Additionally, it is essential to know that transferring law schools may be more complex than transferring undergraduate schools. 

Moreover, it is even more challenging to transfer to a highly-ranked law school than a lower-ranked one, since acceptance rates tend to decrease with rank. 

Importantly, however, generalizations like the above statement do not accurately reflect the reality that there are some schools that do not fit the general trend. 

Georgetown University, which is currently sits at the #14 spot on US News and World Report’s annual list of the best law schools in the country, is one of such exceptions, which we will examine in more detail in the following section.  

Law School Transfer Statistics

According to the most recent transfer admissions statistics, the number of transfer students that law schools in the United States receive annually has been declining somewhat steadily over the past several years. 

For example, in 2017, the number of students who transferred law schools successfully was 1,797

This figure represents about 4.8% of the total first-year law enrollment for the previous academic year, which was 37,100 students. 

In 2021, however, a considerably smaller number of transfer students — or more specifically, 1,375, according to one source — were able to transfer to a different law school. 

This means that, out of the 38,500 law students enrolled the year prior, only 3.6% of all 1Ls chose, and were able, to transfer schools. 

As a result, the concentration of transfer students versus non-transfer students has also been dropping, especially at the top 14 law schools. 

In 2020, the ratio of transfer students to others at the 15 most highly-ranked law schools was 50%, falling to only 43% in the following academic year.  

However, as previously noted, there are exceptions to the general trend, one of which is Georgetown University. 

The Georgetown University Law Center regularly accepts far more transfer students than any other law school in the country. On top of that, the school also has a history of accepting students from law schools that rank much lower than Georgetown does. 

For example, in the 2017-2018 admission cycle, Georgetown admitted 105 transfer students. Of this group of students, 15 came from the American University Washington College of Law — currently ranked #73 — and five came from the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, which is tied for #94 in the law school rankings.

In sum, it can be said that transfer students are a minority at any law school, and especially few-and-far-between at top-ranked law schools. 

Regardless, there are exceptions to this general observation, and statistics should not be interpreted as a surefire indicator of your likelihood of transfer admission to a given school.

Law School Transfer Personal Statement

Rutgers Law School
Rutgers Law School – Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

What law school admissions offices are really looking for in a transfer applicant’s personal essay is that the student showcases some key aspect of who they are as an individual, and not just as a student. 

While it is certainly crucial that applicants exhibit a solid, strong understanding of grammar and English language writing skills, it is also vitally important to give the reader a clear look into your personality, values, passions, and ambition to pursue a law degree in service of those things. 

As you start drafting your essay, one crucial thing to remember is that there are essential differences between transfer application personal statements and first-year undergraduate application essays, like the one you likely had to submit to get into your current school. 

For one, the personal transfer statement should identify and explain the student’s reasons for wanting to transfer. 

Law school admissions want to see that you have the potential to be a great student and how that potential is stunted or underutilized at your current institution. 

The personal statement should show that the student has done their research about the school to which they are applying, especially with regard to what qualities make the two schools substantially different from each other. 

Using details, be specific about whatever it is the school has — courses, extracurriculars, resources, and so on — that leads you to believe that you would reach your full academic potential, be a strong addition to the classroom, and positively contribute to the campus community if accepted to transfer to their school. 

Your background research — which is valuable enough already as far as it informs your decision about what school you should transfer to —is essential to the applicant’s ability to  make an incisive and compelling case for why they should be accepted as a transfer student, rather than just finishing out their law degree at their current school. 

How to Boost Your Chances for Successfully Transferring Law Schools

In order to be a viable transfer student candidate at a reputable law school, it is crucial to maintain high grades at your current law school. 

While first-year law school applicants are evaluated primarily on the basis of grades earned during undergrad and LSAT scores, admissions departments put much more emphasis on current law school GPA when considering transfer applications. 

This may sound daunting — especially if your grades are less-than-ideal as a result of your discontentment at your current school — but it is the inevitable truth. 

To increase your chances of earning solid grades in your first semester of law school, do not be afraid to reach out to professors for help, access campus resources, and use whatever forms of academic assistance may be available to you. 

Beyond striving for high grades, it is also advisable to ensure that while you are attending your current school, you make it a point to establish good relationships with your professors. 

This is partially because getting to know your professors can make it easier to reach out when you need help in their course, and partially because you will more than likely need to ask one or two of your professors to write a letter of recommendation for you to submit as a part of your application to the law school to which you wish to transfer. 

Just as regular undergraduate and graduate admissions personnel look for candidates who are well-rounded, admissions officials also look favorably upon prospective transfer students who are involved in extracurricular activities at their current law school. 

For this reason, joining a club or other student organization may also improve your likelihood of being accepted as a transfer law student.

Last, you will need to write a killer personal statement. This essay is your opportunity to show off whatever you find most important or interesting about yourself that could not be shown in the other parts of your application, so take the above advice for writing your personal statement to heart. 

Should You Consider Transferring Law Schools?

Whether or not transferring law schools is the right decision for you and what you want to get out of your legal education depends on a variety of considerations. 

Depending on your reasons for wanting to transfer, transferring may not be the right way to address whatever issues contribute to your dissatisfaction at your current school. 

There is no sense in avoiding that if your current GPA is below a 3.5, then it is statistically quite unlikely that you would be accepted as a transfer student at any of the top 14 law schools. 

If you want to transfer because you want to go to a more prestigious school, you will need to be honest with yourself about your chances of admission. 

On the other hand, there are certainly many different cases in which transferring law schools is a wise course of action. 

You might find great success applying to a second- or third-tier school with a 3.5 GPA or lower, so you have a lot of options for courses of action to take in this process. 

For example, it can be beneficial to transfer law schools if the school you transfer to has a higher bar passage rate than the one you currently attend. 

This is because a high bar passage rate indicates that the school provides a sufficiently comprehensive, enriching legal education to its students. 

Additionally, passing the bar is a requirement for all attorneys, so a high passage rate shows that students at that school have a greater likelihood of employment placement opportunities.

Another thing to consider when debating transferring law schools is what other schools have to offer compared to your current one in terms of externship opportunities, student organizations, concentration areas, and course offerings that accord well with your personal interests, professional goals, and preferences.