Should I move for a change of venue?
March 31, 2010 8:22 PM   Subscribe

Is transferring to a different law school after 1L a good idea, or a bad idea?

If anyone can give me some advice, I'd be glad to hear it. I'm looking for people's personal experience in transferring between their first and second years of law school.

I've done really well this year, and am at the top of my class, but the school is not well ranked (3rd tier). I was accepted as a 1L at a 1st tier school, but came to this school for other reasons with the understanding that I would transfer to that 1st tier school after the first year was over.

I'm interested in the original school I wanted to go to because of it's name recognition, higher ranking (not ivy league, but top 30), and perhaps most importantly, proximity to family. I have also secured a paying law clerk position in the town where that school is, so I'm pretty much set to go back after this semester is over.

On the other hand, I feel pretty integrated now after two semesters here. I'm a shoe-in for law review, have some potentially great job connections through a teacher (who wants me to stay and take this job), and there are some clinical opportunities that are uniquely interesting to me. If I stay here I probably graduate top of my class.

Does anyone have experience transferring? How did things go when you started fresh as a 2L at a different school? Was it hard to get integrated into student organizations? What were the pros and cons? I'm just having a hard time making this decision, and could use some anecdata. Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Education (13 answers total)
A 3rd tier law school to a top 30 is a huge leap and you probably need to do it.

As much as I hate to say it, prestige is everything when it comes to law school. My friends who transferred up from my low tier 1 school did well for themselves. That being said they were already at the top of our class and most of the people at the top of my class in law school did similarly, but I think they had a lot more options (if at the end of the day all those options were pretty similar really how many big law offers do you need after you've got one or two?)

I did not transfer, but here is what I learned from those that did. While they now went to these better schools, they were transfer students and did not have as easy of a time as the students already there. It was harder to get onto journal, moot court and other programs. Employers did look at them differently than the other students.

On a personal level, I don't think the people I know were socially happier. I made some amazing friends my 1L year and I'm glad I didn't give them up, it would have been very hard to start over.

However, we're talking a 3rd tier to top 30. You're career will be much easier and you will have far more options if you go to a top 30 school rather than a 3rd tier. The economy is god awful for attorneys, I would definitely make the switch.
posted by whoaali at 8:43 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

This happens pretty regularly. People who transferred to my school had no problem integrating with the class, getting involved with SBA, etc. I say do it.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 9:06 PM on March 31, 2010

You should definitely transfer, especially if you eventually want to practice in the geographic location where the 1st tier school is.
posted by rkent at 9:22 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Definitely transfer. I knew many people who transferred into my school, made a lot of great friends, and went on to get fantastic jobs (though sounds like you already have the last covered). When it comes to law schools, I really cannot overstate the importance of going to the best possible school. It really gives you many more options. If you know exactly what type of law you wish to practice, and know you can achieve that where you are, then I don't think there is a need to transfer. But if you are at all uncertain about what you want to do with your degree, you should definitely transfer. Regardless, congrats on doing a great job your first year!
posted by slide at 9:36 PM on March 31, 2010

I think geography is probably the single most important thing about law school and success afterwards. If the top 30 school is in your desired job market, you should go there.
posted by Happydaz at 11:15 PM on March 31, 2010

This is a brutal market for legal employment. If you transfer, you'll still be able to use your awesome first year grades, and you'll get exposure to a much larger base of employers that at your current school. This is a no-brainer.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:39 AM on April 1, 2010

You should probably transfer. But what does your debt situation look like? If you have a full ride at your T3 and will be paying full price at the T1, think hard. The job market is atrocious right now. There are a few 2Ls at Harvard without jobs and there are plenty of unemployed 2Ls throughout the rest of the T14. I'd want to be pretty damn sure that I was getting a job paying market before I signed up for six-figure debt at a T30.
posted by ewiar at 7:09 AM on April 1, 2010

Seconding ewiar. You should transfer up and shouldn't have many problems fitting in. It'll be a new start of course, but there will probably be 20-40 other transfers right there with you, and the 2L class will be mixing with 3Ls for the first time, it's a new year for everyone. Jump on OCI as soon as you can, play up having enough grades to transfer- they won't have a picture of your academic record at the harder school before they make a summer internship decision .

But don't take on more debt. If you're leaving a free ride at your lower school, turn back around and beg for your scholarship back unless your new school is T10. The carnage in the legal job market cannot possibly be overstated, and there's a very good chance transfering won't improve your job prospects that much. Don't take out more loans that you wouldn't have already taken out.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:28 AM on April 1, 2010

As others have said, give a lot of consideration to money and to geography. With some notable exceptions, a T30 is probably going to be a strong regional school, not one with a national reach as far as name recognition and alumni networks go. If you think you'll want to live near your family once you graduate, that is another point in the T30's column. If not, I'd look more closely at other factors.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:15 AM on April 1, 2010

I would definitely say transfer from 3d tier to top 30. You'll work your way into the opportunities you need to (be very proactive) and the ranking and geography are important for your future prospects.
posted by Pax at 8:32 AM on April 1, 2010

It's not a no-brainer, but it is probably a good idea. I've been in nearly the same situation and decided not to transfer. I think the decision was a wash; it opened some doors and closed others. I have the same job and career prospects I would have had if I had transferred, but it was a different economic climate. Mefi-mail me if you'd like to chat about specifics.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:23 AM on April 1, 2010

Transferring to a higher ranked school after 1L was a no brainer. It opened doors for me. Those doors opened more doors. I am happy in my career currently.

I am much more marketable forevermore for having the more prestigious degree on my resume, which is something no amount of law review/clinic/professor connections at a lower-ranked school could replace.

Remember, if you're interviewing for a job 10 years down the line, your law school experience doesn't matter as much. The name of the law school, however, will be a one-liner on the resume and the first means by which many larger-market recruiters will sort you from the pile.

My friends 2L and 3L are now amongst my best friends, and I've kept my 1L friends as well.
posted by slateyness at 10:26 AM on April 1, 2010

I'm late to the party here, but I went to a highly-ranked law school that accepted MANY transfers (cash cow!); they integrated well (or as well as law students, a miserable bunch, can be expected to do). They had all the opportunities that those of us who came in as 1Ls enjoyed. When I started my practice in Prestigious BigLaw in NYC, we had several people who had transferred.

Generally, I view transfers who end up at higher ranked schools as being people who should have been at the higher ranked schools in the first place, but happened to misread a couple of LSAT questions.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:21 PM on May 13, 2010

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