If your reasons are less than noble (or you do not want to risk insulting the professor/school by saying you want to go to a better school with better employment prospects), then feel free to just tell them you want to “apply” to transfer in order to obtain a better scholarship from your current law school. Think of it as standard procedure and that all law students who do well should throw in an application to transfer. This is especially true in this economy, where schools are lacking funds and may be a bit cheaper when it comes to scholarships. I honestly think this is one reason most professors will understand. From reading other people’s stories though, most professors are generally supportive of the transferring process and will understand that law school is a business and that you want to better yourself. Plus, they likely went to a top school.
My personal recommendation is to go for it, but only if you really want to go to the school. Only a few schools allow early action so far, and you are totally limited to these schools. If you had spectacular, knock-em dead grades first semester, you will likely get similar grades second semester. I have actually never heard of anyone getting top grades 1st semester, then getting average grades 2nd semester (though I am sure it is possible). Basically, once you “get it” and understand how to succeed on law school exams, it stays with you.
If you have applied to the law school before, you would obviously have to use new materials. If you have not, then I do not see how the law school actually know if you used parts of your old personal statement or something. However, I do recommend you use new recommendation materials since many things have changed. For things like your resume, I would just update accordingly. Many schools will want you to resend in your undergraduate transcript as part of your LSDAS, even if you sent the same one last year.
1. Yale – due July 1, the legendary Yale 250 word personal statement,
2. Harvard – due July 1
3. Stanford – due June 15, Undergraduate Dean’s Certification
4. Columbia – due July 15, Biographical/Personal Profile Sheet, Undergraduate Dean’s Certification
5. NYU – due July 15, Undergraduate Dean’s Certification, no LORs required, NYU also appears to require you to use paper forms for the College/Law School Transcript, LORs, and Undergraduate/Law School Dean’s Certifications
6. Berkeley – due June 15
6. Chicago – due July 1, no paper applications
8. UPenn – due July 15, complete by August 1
9. Michigan – due July 21, only 1 LOR required
10. Duke – due July 1
10. Northwestern – due July 1, only 1 LOR, one legal writing sample
10. UVA – optimal deadline is June 15
13. Cornell – due July 15
14. GULC – due June 15, only 1 LOR
- The Application Form
- Application Fee ($60-$100)
- Personal Statement (1-2 pages, often requiring you explain why you want to transfer)
- Resume (usually with your 1L summer experience added in)
- 2 LORS (Letters of Recommendations, usually from professors), some schools have special forms for LORS, but I am pretty sure most schools prefer you use LSAC. Feel free to email them to double check.
- Official Undergraduate Transcripts (and any non-law school/graduate school transcripts)
- LSDAS Report and the $12 fee
- 1st Year Law School Transcript (w/ class rank)
- Dean’s Certificate/Letter of Good Standing
How to Approach Your Professor Meeting with your professor in person is the way to go. The reason I suggest this is that you guys will probably want to talk about it. You want to give the professor time to “judge you.” There are too many stories of students trying to catch professors by email or phone and getting ignored.
I personally did not talk about transferring with my professors, mostly because of strong anti-transferring policies at the time. However, many transfer students have been very open and talked to professors about the topic during the year, asking for their opinion. I think this is a great idea and I would have done it if I was not scared out of my mind by my school. People have said that professors have been surprisingly open and understanding when talking about transferring, so do not be shy and feel free to just ask them for their advice and their take on transferring. This also makes it a lot easier when the time comes for you to actually ask them for an LOR.
1. Your personal bond with the professor – Did he or she really like you? Did you guys bond in office hours? Does she even know who you are?
2. Your grade in the class – If you did well enough to consider transferring, this generally should not be a problem. However, do pick professors that gave you A’s. It makes it easier for them to say things about you, especially if you tried hard by not sleeping in class and going to office hours.
3. How nice your professor is – You want someone to write a good LOR with nice things to say. Some professors have high standards and tough exams, and may not think so highly of students. Try your best to make a read on your professor’s personality in this manner.
4. Whether your professor loves students – This piggybacks on the niceness factor, but you will notice that some professors care more about students than others. Did the professor have office hours four times a week or just once on Friday afternoon? Did he look busy and frustrated every time students came to ask questions or did he look happy or relieved? Pay attention to whether your professor truly loves students (aka you as a person). Some professors will consider you their student no matter what you do. These are the professors you want. On the other hand, some professors care more about the school they work for. A few of my professors showed a ton of pride for the school while others hinted at how transferring was bad. One of them even posted horror stories of students who transferred. I would recommend you avoid these professors.
5. How long they have taught at your law school – Is your professor new? If so, she may feel less attached to the school and thus there is less of a conflict of interest. One of the professors I asked for a LOR was a visiting professor and lo and behold, I perceived no conflict of interest. He was very happy to help me out. On the other hand, if your professor has taught at your school for 20 years, he or she may be more attached to the school. However, he or she may be used to this process, since students likely ask them for LORs to transfer every year. Is your professor an associate dean or on one of the school boards? This is another factor that increases the conflict of interest.
6. Communication and ability to get things done – This may not be common but there are incredibly intelligent yet absent-minded professors out there. Make sure you pick a professor who is reliable. Does he answer or respond to email? Can you contact him or her if problems arise? Does he sometimes forget things or is he slow in getting things done?
7. Your professor’s alma mater – This may be obvious, but it is a lot less awkward to ask your professor for a recommendation to Harvard if she went to Harvard. She will understand and may even give you some tips.
Hopefully you decided to transfer rather early and can prepare to get good LORs. What this means is you always go to class, you do not sleep in class, and you try to ask occasional questions and engage in minor participation. In addition, you will go to office hours, which is the most important part. During office hours, you will ask productive questions AND bond with the professor by asking some non-law questions (about their background or their career paths). In addition, your will demonstrate your personality and unique backgrounds so that they will remember you and have things to say when they later write your LOR. I did not go to office hours just to get LORs, I had real questions to ask (and I hope you will too). Plus, going to office hours is a great way to read your professors to prepare for exams.
If you struggle with the PS, I feel your pain. Why would we want to write about ourselves and how awesome we are? We are all too humble for that.