A Transfer Timeline

I took the back door into the law school I graduated from, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. After all, my law degree doesn’t have an asterisk next to my name like Barry Bonds’ 756th home run.

People transfer for a variety of reasons. I personally did not get a fantastic LSAT score and couldn’t get into my top choice law schools on the first go around. I attended a safety school that I’d been accepted to and immediately made plans to transfer after my first year.

Knowing right off the bat that I wanted to transfer helped me do well in my classes because I had a lot of motivation with a very clear goal in mind. It also helped me to craft a strategy and develop a timeline to get things accomplished in an orderly manner.

Hopefully this timeline will be helpful to those of you who have decided to transfer or are actively considering it as an option.

Update: Before you read any further about how to transfer, however, I encourage you to first read my post about whether you should even consider transferring at all. And, if you’ve landed decidedly on the “I’m going to transfer” side of the fence, I’ve compiled a list of FAQ’s about transferring law schools.

September:

  • Know what you’re getting into. Prep for the reality of starting law school so that you hit the ground running with realistic expectations of what your experience will be like. Have your study space set up and your supplies ready. I highly recommend Robert Miller’s Law School Confidential, which lays out every aspect of your next three years, from selecting a desk to searching for jobs.
  • Find a study group, if you haven’t already. Carefully select bright and disciplined people who you can get along with for long periods of time, and who will be able to really help you master the material for the exam.
  • Stay caught up with your reading. Try to stay ahead if you can, but definitely do not get behind. If you are currently behind, catch up now.

October:

  • Begin outlining your classes. Outlining is an iterative process and thus you should start early because your outlines will change and go through several versions as you refine them. A note about outlining: It’s absolutely okay to avoid reinventing the wheel by using others’ outlines (including mine) to supplement your own outlining process and check for things you may have overlooked or missed. However, in order to do well as possible on your exams, it’s absolutely essential that you do make your own outlines (and study them!).
  • Develop relationships. Once you have settled into the school routine, begin developing relationships with professors who you might want to provide you with recommendations. It’s okay to demonstrate genuine interest in a class, but do not become a gunner.

November:

  • Start studying for finals. This process should begin about six weeks before your first exam. Aim to master one subject per week and do practice questions. Iron out the kinks in your outlines; meeting with your study group is helpful in accomplishing this goal.
  • Finish your outlines. Have all of your outlines up to date for the most recent class session by the time you break for Thanksgiving. Enjoy some turkey and stuffing as a reward!

December:

  • Ace your final exams! With well-prepared outlines and a disciplined study schedule, you should be able to kick some ass on your first semester final exams.
  • Take time to reflect. With your first semester finals behind you, take this opportunity to decide whether or not you really want to transfer. Think about the qualities you are seeking in your ideal law school environment, both academically and environmentally.
  • Research. You have two weeks off for the holidays; make them productive. Using the criteria that you have determined are important in a prospective law school, select several schools that you want to apply to. Look at their transfer criteria, application requirements, tuition costs, etc.

January:

  • Evaluate your fall semester grades. Once your fall grades are posted, evaluate your performance and determine which schools from your list you actually have a realistic shot at being accepted to. You might need to revisit your list and add some schools and delete others.

February:

  • Stay caught up. Just like fall semester, you need to stay caught up with your reading during the spring. This can be particularly challenging if your law school adds an additional class for spring semester, but is nonetheless imperative.

March:

  • Begin outlining. Again, you’ll want to begin outlining during the middle of the semester or so.
  • Start crafting your personal statement. For me, writing my personal statement was the most challenging part of the transfer application. Start early so that you can have several people read over it before you have to submit it with your applications. You may need to write more than one statement if the schools you are applying to give different essay prompts. Spring break is a good time to start your personal statement.

April:

  • Take care of administrative issues. Finalize the list of schools you’ll be applying to. Register for LSAC. If your LSAC subscription has lapsed, you’ll need to register again. Make sure you have transcripts from your previous degree-granting institutions sent to LSAC. Begin filling out the individual applications. Budget for application fees. Write down due dates.
  • Approach your selected professors for recommendations. This can be intimidating and nervewracking. I was afraid that my professors would be insulted that I was leaving their school. To the contrary, they were supportive and more than willing to write me excellent recommendations to my schools of choice. One professor asked me why I was transferring, another said that it wasn’t her business to ask. Be prepared for either reaction. Have all forms ready to give them, with postage-paid envelopes attached and a post-it with due dates on each one.
  • Begin studying for spring finals. As with last semester, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to study, beginning about six weeks before your first exam.

May:

  • Submit your applications. Have you applications submitted before finals begin so that you only have to tackle one hurdle at a time.
  • Finish the year with a bang! You’ve almost made it – do great on your finals so that you will place high in your 1L class and optimize your chances of getting into the law school of your dreams.

June:

  • Request transcripts. As soon as your law school releases first year grades, request official transcripts be sent directly to each of the schools you’ve applied to. Some schools may want your 1L transcripts to go through LSAC, but that usually takes too long considering the admissions directors’ short deadline.
  • Sit back and wait. Although it’s difficult to do, you just have to be patient. Many schools don’t make their transfer decisions until sometime in July.

July:

  • Select a law school! With a little determination and a lot of hard work, you’ll have a very difficult, but great decision to make – which law school will you attend?
  • Get in touch with career services at your new law school. You don’t want to miss the early interview process, as this is when many firms start their hiring process for the following summer.
  • Withdraw from your old school. Contact the registrar and any other administrators you need to in order to make sure that you are withdrawn from your classes and that you won’t receive a tuition bill from your old school.
  • Notify your friends. It’s a hard thing to do, but make sure you let your friends at your old school know that you’re leaving.

August:

  • Start classes at your new law school! Congratulations, you did it! You’ve worked hard, so enjoy your final two years of law school at your new law school.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting more detailed articles about some of the action items listed in the timeline. But for now, this will hopefully provide a helpful perspective of the big picture for those of you already considering transferring. Best of luck, and check back for future transfer articles!

This entry was posted by Erin on Monday, September 17th, 2007 at 11:19 pm and is filed under Law School, Transfer. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

27 Comments

  1. Catherine says:

    Hello dearie! How nice of you to share the wisdom of your experience with the kids out there. :) As a comment to your last post (the one preceding this) I must disagree with the warning against dating fellow law students. Both of my law school relationships were with fellow law students, and they were GREAT. #1 wasn’t bad – and it obviously did not last, but #2 certainly did – and we’re still madly in love. If it’s right, it’s right!

    Hope all is well. Sure do miss you!

  2. bob says:

    I don’t think study groups are effective for some people. Personally my grades were lousy first semester using a study group. The problem I find is that they are helpful for people who aren’t efficient at studying but if you are efficient at reading, outlining, and reviewing your own stuff all a study group will do is slow you down. I left the study group and my grades soured (two book awards in the next 2 semesters and sitting at cum laude honors as I write this).

    • I have to say, my first year study group was fantastic, and this is coming from someone who had always been a lone wolf. My group was highly disciplined and stayed on-task during our sessions. The group was particularly effective in keeping me disciplined, especially when it came to taking practice exams prior to the real thing. I think the key is picking a group that is most beneficial to you as a student, rather than having a group pick you and letting them drag you down.

  3. Brittany says:

    Should you try to visit with the transfer school? Just to like “put your name out there” sort of thing. Or just apply for transfer and have no contact at all?

  4. Kristen says:

    Thank you very much for posting this! I just successfully transferred law schools and your timeline was immensely helpful and honest! Thanks again!

  5. Rob says:

    I’m a spring start at a 4th tier. Grades were released last week. I earned all As. A 2L who’s at the top of her class (ranked #1) said that my average is higher than hers. I’m off to a great start.

    Problem is: my second semster grades (currently in the summer term — second semester) wont be released until Septemeber. I will have missed the deadline for transfers at most schools. In fact most schools will have started classes by then let alone considering transfer applicants.

    Two profs told me to transfer and would write highest recs.

    What does my timeline look like? What should I do? Am I screwed?

  6. Brittany says:

    Can anyone who has successfully transferred tell me how to reflect both schools on my resume for purposes of OCI?

  7. AM says:

    Thanks for the timeline! Do you think having a summer internship or study abroad is a good idea if trying to transfer?
    Rob, if possible, will you please let me know if you were able to transfer? aastha.uci@gmail.com. Thanks a lot!

    • Robert Pearson says:

      Just now seeing your post. See my reply below. I’d be happy to answer any questions about the process. What I do know is first-year grades are the primary factor used to assess prospective transfers. There’s no magic bullet, I’m afraid. Ace your exams and develop relationships with your first-year professors. These things will help.

  8. Allison says:

    Hello,

    I just started my 1L year. I am from Kentucky, but chose a school in New York. I will most likely end up in Kentucky (maybe not immediately following graduation, but just in general – that is where my and my husband’s families are).
    My LSAT was not as high as I wanted and my GPA was high for my school (no grade inflation), but not amazing comparatively. I have no issue with my current school other than it costing me a ton of money and the fact that it is regionally, maybe not so “nationally”, well-known. I feel like it is a good school for someone who is staying in NY.
    I want to transfer to either a better ranked school or, if that is not possible, one closer to home (to save money). I have no regrets with choosing law, it is what I want to do. I am just wondering whether transferring is the best idea. If I do very well this year (my school is T2, US News top 100), is it likely that I can make it to a T1 school? Again, I also intend on putting in transfer applications to schools closer to home, which may not have the national prestige, but would have the local prestige.

    Any information is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    • First-year grades and class rank are the primary factors in determining transfer admittance, in my experience. I transferred from a school that was a low Tier 2/high Tier 3, and got accepted to two schools in the top 25 (one of which was in the top 15).

      Different schools also accept a different number of transfers each year. Some schools take 12-15 students each year while others only accept transfers to compensate for attrition (the school I ended up attending usually admits 4-6 transfer students a year, if any).

      I’m working on a follow-up post about the pros and cons of transferring, and things to consider if you do transfer, so keep an eye out for that.

      Good luck to you!

  9. Sahj says:

    Rob,

    I want to know how things turned out for you as well. Were you able to transfer?

    Thanks

  10. Bruce says:

    Hello,

    I just started my 1L year. I am from Kentucky, but chose a school in New York. I will most likely end up in Kentucky (maybe not immediately following graduation, but just in general – that is where my and my husband’s families are).
    My LSAT was not as high as I wanted and my GPA was high for my school (no grade inflation), but not amazing comparatively. I have no issue with my current school other than it costing me a ton of money and the fact that it is regionally, maybe not so “nationally”, well-known. I feel like it is a good school for someone who is staying in NY.
    I want to transfer to either a better ranked school or, if that is not possible, one closer to home (to save money). I have no regrets with choosing law, it is what I want to do. I am just wondering whether transferring is the best idea. If I do very well this year (my school is T2, US News top 100), is it likely that I can make it to a T1 school? Again, I also intend on putting in transfer applications to schools closer to home, which may not have the national prestige, but would have the local prestige.

    Any information is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

  11. Winnifred Ranch says:

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  12. Robert Pearson says:

    re: SAHJ

    Yep, I transferred. I got into my top choice, a tier 1 school. I earned straight As my first semester at my new school and was just as highly ranked. My ranking –and new school– allowed me to land a summer associate job at a large private firm, an opportunity that simply wasn’t available at my tier 4 school.

    Best of luck to all you prospective transfers.

    Rob

    • Congrats, Rob! Sounds like transferring was the right decision for you.

      I frequently waver on whether or not it was a good decision for me, and actually just wrote a follow-up in that vein: http://lawschooltransplant.com/?p=263.

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Rob- that is amazing that you were able to follow your dream- I will be starting law school at Touro – T4. I hope to have an amazing year- but in an ideal world, I would love to transfer to a school like Rutgers, NY Law, Brooklyn or even Fordham. I am already anticipating- which is okay to do, but I should just take a deep breath and relax, right? I am definitly going to follow your timeline- I have been doing light reading throughout the summer- including a book entitled “How to Ace the Law School Exam”. I have what may be the silliest question of them all- if I study, which I love doing- and create great outlines, get to know my professors, etc… do you think I can get all A’s this first year? I am just scared to death that depending on how the professor wants his students to write, I may not do well. How will I know?! In undergrad (Rutgers), I majored in Political Science- and with that type of major, I needed to know what each professor wanted of us. It was so easy to stay after class and talk to the professor- ask for help, etc… but I feel like law school won’t be the same? The professor won’t have time to talk to one of his law school students who is simply asking “How can I ace this class?” Please tell me I am wrong!!!

  13. [...] recent weeks I’ve noticed a sharp uptick in the amount of traffic coming to my blog, and to my transfer timeline post in particular. As much as I want to shove all the remnants of law school and practicing law to a [...]

  14. sona says:

    many thanks dea
    i owe u

  15. Transfer brah says:

    Writing your personal statement during Spring Break is about the worst advice I ever read. You should be studying during Spring Break… your PS won’t mean crap if you don’t get the grades. Moreover, the PS is the icing on the cake and it is not dispositive of whether or not you will get into your transfer school. Thus, the only focus you should have during your second semester are grades, grades, and grades. Of course, if you did well 1st semester, and you are dead set on transferring, you should have immediately approached at least one professor and asked for an LOR. I asked for my second LOR from a professor I had 2nd semester in early April.

    Anyway, I did not even think about my personal statement till the day after my last final. Why? Because your personal statement doesn’t mean squat without the grades. I had a month and a half to write a 3 page personal statement, which is more than enough time.

    • Erin says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, albeit in an unconstructive manner. Of course, you should be studying and outlining during spring break. But, if you’ve been keeping up and maintaining a consistent effort throughout the semester as I’ve emphasized time and again, you shouldn’t have to work overtime during that week. Thus, when you have a little bit of down time, spring break actually is a good time to start thinking about your statement. I never said that your personal statement is more important than your grades. However, it IS important and should not be treated as an afterthought.

      Certainly, everyone has a different experience and a different approach. Mine was highly successful, which is why I have shared it. I hope you’ve had an equally good experience.

  16. [...] outlined the timeline I used when I transferred. Of course, your individual experience may vary – and please feel free to share it with [...]

  17. Katie says:

    Hi,
    So it looks like on your timeline you sent out your applications in May. When is the right time to send them out if some of the deadlines are already open? I.e. BC and BU are open March 1st, is it “too late” if I send them out in May? Thanks and great website!

    • Erin says:

      Katie, great question. When I applied, the transfer application period didn’t even open until much later. If you feel like you have a good, complete application with solid letters of recommendation, I don’t see why you shouldn’t go ahead and submit them. You’d then have one less distraction on your plate while studying for finals, which is great.

      I would also suggest that a call to the admissions offices of each of the schools might be in order to determine whether transfer applications are considered on a rolling basis. If they are, then certainly the earlier you submit, the better.

      In any case, the final deadlines are typically before 1L grades and class rankings are released, so you’ll probably need to supplement with that information regardless of when you submit your initial application.

      Good luck, and do let me know where you end up!

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