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Tips for Transferring Between Law Schools

Angel Lockhart and Sandhya Taneja

Tips for Transferring Between Law Schools
urbanglimpses via Getty Images

Transferring from one law school to another can be difficult, daunting, bittersweet, exciting, or joyous, and often transferees may feel more than one of these emotions at the same time. However, the decision to transfer is rooted in a rational plan for one’s future, and those seeking to transfer often find new opportunities and a different set of open doors ahead of them. This article, written by two successful transferees, provides insight into the transfer process and shares advice for those seeking to transfer between law schools in future.

Let us introduce ourselves: I am Sandhya Taneja, a third-year law student at George Washington University Law School (GW) who transferred from Drexel University Kline School of Law (Kline). I serve as the assistant director for Transfer Student Affairs in the GW Student Bar Association. I chose to transfer to attend a law school in Washington, D.C., in light of my future goals to work in Washington, D.C., and practice antitrust and white-collar criminal law.

And I am Angel Lockhart, a recent second-year law student at the University of Chicago Law School (UChicago) who transferred from Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law (ASU). I am a first-generation college graduate hoping to advance the legal profession as a criminal defense and election law litigator and, eventually, as a federal judge. I decided to transfer law schools in light of my goals and my opportunities for advancement.

Personal Experiences with Transferring

Being Brave

It is easy to stay in our comfort zones; taking a leap can be daunting and bittersweet, but it is also a chance to set our eyes on a new horizon. Leaving Kline was only one of the challenges I (Sandhya) had to overcome, including starting over in a new city, navigating a school where everyone else seemingly knows what they are doing except me, and being the odd one out. A year later, I still think, “What if?” In 1L, we built relationships with study groups, summer associates, classmates, professors, and staff members. Upon transferring, there were a lot of “thank-you” and “goodbye” emails reminiscing about unforgettable moments. At the same time, there were also many new faces to meet and people to network with after transferring. There was the hard process of withdrawing from every class you were so excited about, relinquishing teacher assistant positions, stepping down from board positions, and even retracting externship applications. For example, though I was selected for the Drexel Law Review, I did not get accepted into any journal at GW because most of the spots were already filled. However, I managed to find other opportunities to try new activities and spent the time that would have otherwise been devoted to the journal working on other aspects of my career development.

On-Campus Interviewing (OCI)

Transferring to GW posed some hurdles with OCI as well. After I accepted the offer to transfer, I had two days to submit all my OCI applications, which included researching the firm, writing personalized cover letters, and demonstrating my interest. The typical OCI timeline is in July/August before the 2L year. As a transfer student, I did not have any GW grades, rankings, or accomplishments to share with the employers, so I had to provide evidence of my qualifications through other means, including my prior positive performance that allowed me to transfer. Unfortunately, I did not get any interview offers or hear back from any firms during the traditional OCI, but transfer students should still look for other opportunities to attend job fairs and apply for other positions. For many schools in 2020, the OCI process has been pushed back to winter because of COVID-19. This year, transfer students will likely be able to participate in the traditional OCI. These students may have concerns about employers seeing an entire semester of pass/fail grades from spring 2020, but such students should be prepared with a response for interviewers and practice explaining why they are competent and prepared for the job.

Participating in Writing Competitions

During the transfer application process, the timing of applications and write-on competitions may create competing obligations and the need to reassess priorities. I (Angel) applied to transfer to two law schools—Harvard and UChicago. Both institutions and ASU started their write-on examinations in May. ASU allowed students to take the write-on exam May 11–12 or May 15–16. Harvard’s writing competition took place May 16–23, and UChicago’s exam took place May 30–June 11. If you have a month to dedicate to writing competitions, then this timeline may work out well for you. However, as in life and law practice, less-than-ideal circumstances are common and prioritizing goals and time becomes crucial. For instance, your school and the library may be closed, and you may have nowhere to focus to write for the competition. In my case, I am passionate about human rights and Black lives, and I chose to focus on advocacy after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Dion Johnson, and many more. Instead of my initial plan to participate in three writing competitions during my 1L summer prior to transferring, I prioritized, participated in one writing competition, and decided to advocate for Black lives, my brothers’ lives, and my life!

Weighing Different Factors Important to Diverse Students in Transfer Options

Following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, several Black Law Student Associations (BLSAs) released public statements. It was clear that Black students were affected differently than others by the unjust killings in the Black community. Students at New York Law School went on strike as a result of the write-on competition; ASU students started a Public Interest Fellowship; Stanford Law School students relayed their demands on an Instagram video; and others demanded that their law schools release a public statement condemning white supremacy and police brutality. Students expressed their discontent with responses to the unjust and untimely deaths by law schools and the legal profession through social media channels, group chats, and emails regarding the lack of acknowledgment for Black concerns. The universities’ responses to BLSA demands, acknowledgment of wrongdoing, and concrete plans for change were key deciding factors, for me as a Black transfer student, in my transfer process.

Challenges Encountered

There are many unexpected obstacles in the JD transfer process. In 2020, these included transferring amid the COVID-19 pandemic, finding a new support system, and experiencing or participating in the Black Lives Matter protests. Regardless of the challenge, most obstacles can be overcome through creative thinking and other solutions.

Finances and Scholarships Are Limited

Transfer applications cost as much as $85 per school, in addition to varying transcript fees and a $45 law school report fee for each application. Higher ranked schools are also associated with higher tuition rates and increased cost-of-living expenses. Applicants should consider jobs during law school, outside scholarships, paid summer internships, family members, or financial aid for support. ASU offered transfer students a $5,000 moving scholarship (split between two semesters), whereas GW and UChicago offered zero financial assistance. Law students considering a transfer should take time to carefully assess their financial situation, consider how to afford law school tuition, and ensure that a transfer is also a fiscally responsible decision.

Letter of Recommendations from Professors May Be a Little Harder to Obtain Now

If you transfer during the COVID-19 pandemic, or even at other times, finding a professor who can speak to your academic excellence and class participation after just one year may be a little harder. For instance, most institutions changed to a pass/fail grading scale for the spring 2020 term. So it may not be not clear to students which classes resulted in their best performance. In addition, because of COVID-19, all in-person classes transitioned online. Typical methods of building a relationship with professors ceased and new methods evolved. Choose which professors to reach out to wisely, even if you have to limit yourself to first-semester professors only. Find ways to make connections through office hours, research assistant positions, and look for other intentional opportunities.

You May Feel Like an Outsider

Coming into a school as a 2L means that other students may have preexisting study groups, relationships with professors, and an understanding of the school. In many schools, 1L students are grouped into sections, and as a result, they have study groups in place, took all their classes together, and had insider information about various professors’ reputations. There are a lot of shared experiences that “original” students have that can make you feel like a “fake” student. Imposter syndrome can be prevalent among transfer students. It is important to remember that you worked hard to get to your new school and you deserve to be there.

Advice and Insights

When applying, you generally have to submit your undergraduate and first semester or first year transcript (depending on when you apply), letters of recommendation (the number changes depending on the school), a dean’s certificate or letter, LSAT score, personal statement, and résumé.

Many admissions officers said that they look at whether the applicant would succeed at their law school, whether the applicants would benefit from a legal education from their law school, and whether the applicants would contribute to the legal community. These are pretty broad factors, but quantitatively, law schools focus a great deal on 1L grades.

Update Your Résumé and Personal Statement

Application materials for transfer students should not mimic those used as an incoming JD student. Make sure your résumé and personal statement reflect the additional skills, passions, and experiences gained. Add your first-year law school accomplishments, activities, and summer internships to your résumé. Highlight achieved goals, completed pro bono hours, and student contributions to your personal statement. Using the personal statement you used when you applied for 1L is a good starting point to address why you are transferring. Your path or desired area of law may have changed. These two documents are the most indicative of who you are beyond your transcript, so make sure they are well done, edited, and updated.

Prepare for Your Interview

Many of the top 14 law schools extend interviews to some transfer applicants. Common questions include the following: (1) Why are you interested in transferring generally, and specifically, why are you interested in transferring to X school? (2) Why did you pursue X experience? (3) What are your career aspirations and how can X school help to further them? (4) What contributions do you wish to make at X law school and X community? Interviews may be in person or via video call or a telephone call. Take note of your allotted time, dress appropriately, and prepare two to three questions at the end of each interview. Make sure these questions are not on the website but are questions about the transfer experience. The interview process is a way for both parties to determine if the school is a good fit.

Schedule a Tour

Because of the pandemic, law schools are offering virtual tour experiences. While it is not the same as actually setting foot on the campus, it helps to imagine yourself at the law school. This takes time and effort, but every law school you apply to will know that you are a committed candidate.


Remotely connecting with classmates and professors is different but not impossible. There are numerous resources available, and people are excited to communicate with others. Sign up for student organizations’ events, attend virtual office hours, schedule game nights and happy hours, and join lunch talks with local firms. Also, connect with affinity groups. Law schools like to promote diverse and inclusive environments. Transfer students, especially diverse ones, can participate in the existing groups or even start their own affinity group if they have a different outlook on how to make an environment inclusive.

Find Resources for Ttransfer Students

Transfer orientation is the only mandatory resource. Nonetheless, everyone is encouraged to schedule a meeting with financial aid, career services, and the registrar before the fall term begins. If there are also transfer mentor-mentee programs in place, sign up for them. Mentees may answer a questionnaire and are paired with an upper-class student with similar interests. Some schools may assign transfer liaisons to assist the entire cohort with class registration, connecting with professors, and all other concerns.

Learn from Others’ Mistakes

Prepare in advance, apply for early decision, and schedule writing competitions. Share with your family that your friends are transferring. Support is needed—it is OK to ask for help! Also, if you are confident that you will be accepted to at least one of your transfer schools, do not make any commitments to your first law school as you know you will transfer regardless.

Understand that Rejection Is a Part of the Process

Stay humble, be realistic, but still aim high. Both of us were rejected from at least one law school during the transfer process. Both of us, however, succeeded in our journey to transfer to other law schools. Regardless of the outcome, the process of applying to transfer will be a learning opportunity.


If you are thinking about transferring, apply! There is no harm in having more than one option to continue your education. Ultimately, it is your choice to remain or to take a new path—so block out the noise, ignore what other people are saying you should and should not do, and ask yourself the following four questions:

  1. Why do I want to transfer?
  2. Will I be OK starting over?
  3. Does this make sense for me in the long run?
  4. Can I deal with the (positive and negative) consequences?