Tips for Law School Transfer Applicants With Low Grades

Welcome to the latest installment of Law Admissions Q&A, a feature that provides law school admissions advice to readers who send in inquiries. If you have a question about law school admissions, email us for a chance to be featured in a future post.

I’m in my first year at an unranked law school, but I’m hoping to transfer into a top law school. My first semester GPA is less than perfect at 3.0, which I think I can bump up to 3.2 or 3.3 by year’s end. I am an older student with considerable work experience in investment banking and corporate finance and I already accepted a summer internship at the U.S. attorney’s office. Can my work experience and a fairly good 1L summer internship boost my odds of getting into a top law school, perhaps top 30? I’m willing to go out of state for the right opportunity. SH

Congratulations on your internship with the U.S. attorney’s office! Clinching such a highly competitive internship, despite admittedly unspectacular grades, reveals two things about your career potential. First, you must have excellent interpersonal skills like networking and persuasive speaking and writing. Second, discerning lawyers recognize what you bring to the table.

As I have advised other transfer applicants, the most important things you can do this semester to strengthen your transfer application are raise your grades, secure a favorable recommendation letter from a professor and develop a compelling argument for your transfer.

[Read: How to Stand Out as a Law School Transfer Applicant]

If your transfer application makes it sound like you are merely chasing after a high-ranked law school, don’t be surprised if the admissions officers who review it focus on your numbers as well. To make the case that schools should look beyond your grades and consider soft factors like your work experience, draw upon your persuasive writing skills. Show what you can contribute to your target law school and how the school fits your specific interests and career goals.

It sounds like you can make a good case that you are poised for success in a field like corporate finance or white-collar criminal investigations. Diligently research the websites of potential target law schools, looking for relevant programs, clinics, faculty and campus organizations. Look for signs that schools value older applicants with professional experience.

[READ: Advice for Older Law School Applicants to Consider.]

Frankly, moving up from an unranked school to a top law school may be a Herculean lift. Transfer data shows that successful applicants to top law schools have grades at the top of their first-year class, or at least in the top 10%.

If your second-semester grades fall short, it would be more realistic to set your sights on transferring to a lower-ranked law school suited to your career goals. Consider schools in strong legal markets with more affordable tuition or high median starting salaries.

[READ: How to Spot the Red Flags in Lower-Ranked Law Schools.]

If you fall in love with prosecution in your internship but doubt you can land a job at the U.S. attorney’s office, consider moving to a law school in an overlooked legal market. After all, there are 93 offices of the U.S. attorney nationwide and in U.S. territories, plus thousands of state and county prosecutors’ offices. Many of those offices would be grateful for your expertise to take on complex white-collar crimes.

The career advantage of attending a top-ranked law school is most important for law graduates at the start of their career, as well as those seeking prestigious clerkships or positions in top law firms.

In your case, you have a proven track record of high performance in the workplace, along with specialized expertise in the financial sector. If you make the most of your summer internship as well as clinics and other activities, you can set yourself up for success without a brand-name diploma.

More from U.S. News

Why Work Experience Matters for Law School Applicants

How to Address a Low GPA in Law School Applications

How to Discuss the Appeal of a Top-Choice Law School

Tips for Law School Transfer Applicants With Low Grades originally appeared on

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