How to Approach First Year of Law School if Planning a Transfer

If you are starting law school this year, you must have a lot on your mind. Besides adjusting to the rigors of legal education, from deciphering cases to handling cold calls, you confront the unprecedented impact of a pandemic that wholly disrupted campus life.

Thus, give your current school a fair shot before giving serious thought to transferring law schools. By spring, you will have a firmer grasp of what you appreciate and want to change about your law school education. You will also have a better sense of your competitiveness as a transfer applicant with your first semester grades in hand.

However, some applicants know from the start that they want to transfer law schools, either because they want to move to a higher-ranked program or attend a school that better fits their personal or professional interests. For example, maybe they hope to make a life and a career in a different city.

[Read: 5 Traits That Help People Get Into Top Law Schools.]

Applicants who plan to transfer should approach their first year of law school with the following three goals in mind:

— Get good grades.

— Get to know a professor.

— Get involved in an extracurricular activity.

Get Good Grades

It’s stressful to hear but there’s no way around it: Transfer applicants need good grades, especially in their first semester. While law school applicants are judged on their academic potential in law school based on their undergraduate grades and LSAT score, transfer applicants are judged on their academic performance. Law schools want students destined for career success and will look skeptically at applicants with middling marks, particularly if those grades are earned at a lower-ranked law school.

Unfortunately, it can be hard for 1L students to guarantee good grades in their first semester. Not only are they adapting to an unfamiliar environment, but first-year grades are typically determined by final exams graded on a strict curve.

[Read: How to Address a Low GPA in Law School Applications.]

Thus, if you wish to transfer, begin preparing for exams early. Take advantage of professors’ office hours and other academic resources. Outline cases and concepts as you go along and review study materials for additional perspective. Familiarize yourself with what law school exams look like and how to succeed.

Get to Know a Professor

Besides a strong transcript, transfer applicants need at least one recommendation letter from a law school professor. Two would be even better.

It’s hard enough to get to know a law school professor in your first year, when classes are large and the material feels overwhelming. It’s even harder during a pandemic when classes are online. So strategize early on about professors who could write you a good letter of recommendation. Ideally, it should be a class that you find interesting and feel capable of performing well in, taught by a professor who is available outside of class to develop a strong relationship.

Get Involved in an Extracurricular Activity

By joining a law society, journal or other law-related campus activity, you can advance your transfer application in multiple ways. First, you can demonstrate your ability to contribute positively to a campus community and serve others. Second, you show commitment to a legal career path. Third, you may gain insight into a potential legal specialization that could help you find a school that feels like a better fit. Fourth, you might work more closely with a professor through an activity than through a 1L lecture class.

[READ: Follow 3 Steps to Choose a Law School Specialization.]

More practically, you might find material for a new personal statement. Law schools want transfer applicants to write a fresh personal statement rather than reuse one from previous applications, and engagement in a law school activity could give you a current and relevant topic.

Of course, first-year law students who get good grades, get to know their professors and get involved in extracurricular activities also set themselves up to succeed in law school and in their careers afterward. So even if you end up deciding that transferring law schools isn’t the right move, your efforts will pay off!

More from U.S. News

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How to Approach First Year of Law School if Planning a Transfer originally appeared on

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