Devastated. Kicked in the gut. Blindsided. That’s how it might feel when you check your Gmail and read the first sentence from your top-choice school: “We regret to inform you…”
If you’ve clung to the dream of attending a particular law school since your senior year of high school, you’ll undoubtedly feel deeply discouraged by this rejection. But, before you scream profanities at your computer screen and delete that email, read on a little further. Even the most elite schools include “please keep us in mind” reminders about the 2L transfer process in their rejection emails. You see, law schools know that all hope is not lost for you to attend your dream school — so you shouldn’t give up either. Let me explain.
During every cycle, law school admissions officers must perform a difficult balancing act: they must field the very best class they can from the current applicant pool, while not damaging their ability to attract talent for the next admissions cycle. Decisions about who they admit this year — particularly with respect to applicants’ LSAT scores and UGPAs — can negatively impact next year’s US News rankings, a tool that most schools rely on for attracting candidates to apply in the first place. Therefore, if you’re in the unfortunate group of this year’s rejections, don’t take it too personally — the Dean of Admissions may have really liked your personal statement and letters of recommendation, but simply can’t stomach reporting your LSAT and/or UGPA to the ABA (and US News) out of fear that those numbers could drag down next year’s rankings.
Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Lose All Hope
Almost all law schools — even the most elite ones — accept transfer students during the 2L year. Some schools accept A LOT of transfers. For instance, in 2019, Columbia Law School accepted 44, GWU Law accepted 74 and Georgetown admitted a whopping 105 students to join as 2Ls. Why, you ask? Well, it’s a smart business decision on the part of law schools, with almost zero downside.
You see, when deciding who to admit to a 1L class, law school admissions officers use LSAT scores and UGPAs as “predictors” of how well an applicant will perform at a particular law school. However, when admitting 2L transfer students, law schools have the very best predictor of how well those students will perform relative to the rest of the class — how well they already performed in law school. Consequently, top students who “transfer up” to other law schools typically outperform their new classmates and, because of their 1L performance, are more likely to be employed within 10 months of graduation and pass the bar exam on their first try — two other data points that schools must report to the ABA and which get included in the U.S. News Rankings.
“Of the three people I know who took Law Preview at Emory: one is in the top 10%, one is in the top 5% and I am right outside the top 5%. Law Preview made it possible for me to understand the overall layout of all of the substantive first year courses. Almost all of the cases that I read in Law Preview were foundational cases, so when I read them again during the semester, I had an advantage in that I was reading them for the second or third time. I now have any and all doors available to me and it is largely due to Law Preview giving me a strategic way to handle the stress and enigma that is your first year of law school. The investment for that week of classes puts you many steps ahead of the competition, which will pay dividends in the form of your first job, or, in my case, transferring to my dream school.” – RALEIGH W., EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, CLASS OF 2015 (TRANSFERRED TO UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW SCHOOL)
Another advantage of accepting transfer students is that law schools do not have to report their LSAT scores or UGPAs to the ABA (and US News). This is huge because most of the students accepted as transfers would likely fall below the higher-ranked school’s entering median in both those categories and, as such, negatively impact that school’s US News rankings.
“Because of Law Preview I was able to transfer to Harvard Law School. Each day at Law Preview I experienced what it was like to go to law school and be in an actual law class. This exposure to the law school environment combined with study and time management tips to give me a definite edge in my first year classes. Best of all, Law Preview did not stop providing guidance after the course ended. I received supportive emails throughout my first year and access to a host of helpful lectures and study guides from Barbri. Moreover, Law Preview helped me through the transfer processes and even put me into contact with lawyers at the firm I will be working at this summer. I would recommend Law Preview to every incoming law student. It gives you a real look into what one experiences in law school, lets you build your professional network, and, most importantly, provides you with an invaluable edge when it comes to performing in your first year. If you want to excel in law school, Law Preview is a must. — MATTHEW S., BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL, CLASS OF 2016 (TRANSFERRED TO HARVARD LAW SCHOOL)’
Oh, there’s one more thing that makes 2L transfers attractive to law schools — they typically pay “sticker price” for the privilege of attending the higher ranked school. So, the transfer schools receive top students who’ll likely boost their U.S. News Rankings AND who are willing to pay full price? What’s not to love about accepting transfers if you’re a law school?
“I earned a ranking in the top 19% and a 3.60 GPA overall. I truly believe that Law Preview helped me learn to study appropriately and gave me the tools to focus in the weeks prior to 1L year so that I could hit the ground running from day one. After such a great year, my grades were strong enough to apply to transfer schools and I was accepted to Georgetown University Law Center! I will likely be transferring there for my 2L year. The Law Preview monthly updates throughout the year were both informative and encouraging. I attribute much of my success to having a strong foundation and a great support system thanks to Law Preview. I cannot thank you enough for your time and your effort this past year, but most of all, THANK YOU LAW PREVIEW!” — PATRICK M., BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL, CLASS OF 2017 (TRANSFERRED TO GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER)
So, this begs the question, what does it take to transfer as a 2L? The answer is simple: grades that put you at the very top of your 1L class. Let’s use Harvard Law School as an example (why not aim high!). According to its ABA 509 Report, in 2019, Harvard accepted 43 transfer students from schools that include Albany, BC, Brooklyn Law School and UMaryland. When you dig into the numbers behind the students Harvard accepted as transfers, you will see the 1L GPAs of those transfer students broke down as follows:
|75th Percentile 1L GPA||4.02|
|50th Percentile 1L GPA||3.95|
|25th Percentile 1L GPA||3.89|
So, if you weren’t admitted to your “dream school” as a 1L (or didn’t even apply because your stats wouldn’t have made you a reasonable candidate in the first place), your 1L grades can those open doors. Start strategizing now about how you’ll achieve those top grades and truly excel during your 1L year.