January 6, 2017

What it's Like to Transfer Law Schools

What it's like to transfer law schools. What to expect when you transfer law schools. | brazenandbrunette.com

In case you're new here, I went to one school for my 1L year and then transferred to my current school for my 2L year. Some of you have mentioned to me that you want to transfer for the next semester, and I'm sure some of you are considering or will consider transferring after this year. These are my un-sugarcoated thoughts on that.

Who are you??

My very first realization about transferring is that it can be awkward. When I went orientation at my new school, at least once an hour an eager 1L would ask me what section I was in with hopes of making a new friend in their class. Each and every time I had to explain to them that I was actually a 2L who transferred. Sometimes they would ask me about my experience or for advice regarding the 1L year and I got to go full on Brazen and Brunette on them and share my knowledge (I never ended up telling them about this, though, because I couldn't think of a non-tryhard way to be like check out my blog). 

Even in my upper-level classes, people will be talking to me and realize that they don't know me so 2L's will ask if I'm a 3L or what section I was in and again I have to explain to them that I wasn't here last year. I'm pretty sure why this keeps happening is because law schools are usually like 200-300 people so it's pretty easy to spot faces after only a year. 

Another thing that happens a lot when I'm talking with other 2L's or 3L's is that people will joke about a professor and I miss out on the joke and when I don't laugh I again have to explain that I wasn't here last year. I just never considered how many times I would have to say "I transferred," but damn if I had $1 for every time I did... 

And of course, because people like to show that they're interested in your life story, every time I mention that I transferred I always have the same followup questions of Where did you transfer from? and Why did you transfer? and often What did you think about your old school? Which do you like better? I have a friend who goes there, do you know so and so? Im not complaining or saying that these questions bother me, I'm just pointing out that it was definitely something I hadn't even thought of. 

Missing your old school

Whether you loved your old school or not, you're going to miss it. It just happens. I think it's because you spent a year (or at least a semester) integrating yourself into a certain school atmosphere, and now you have to leave it all behind and start all over again. Right now I'm taking a class that I had registered for at my old school with one of my favorite professors, and now every time I get confused in my current class I can't help but wonder if I'd be doing better with my old professor.

People transfer for all kinds of reasons

While I obviously transferred as a way to move on to a better school, that's not always the reason why people transfer. Through seeing other students from my old school transfer and meeting transfer students at my new school, I've seen people transfer because they got married and want to live with their spouse, or their spouse got a job opportunity too good to pass up so they had to move, they wanted to move back closer to family, they wanted to move out of the state to get away from family, they decided they'd rather take the bar/practice in another state, or they just realized that their first school wasn't for them. Moral of the story, there's no reason to be embarrassed about transferring. 

Other transfers are a great help

I've ran in to a few great transfer students this semester and it's been such a help. I thought because I was transferring back to my alma mater that I'd adjust instantly. I was wrong. Law school is a whole new animal from undergrad so it helps to have someone else who has been where you have been to catch you up on things that you only would've learned through experience if you spent all 3 years at one school. It's nice to have these people to ask for and give help, like when one of my transfer friends came from another state to Texas and had no idea what to do about the Dec (which is what made me want to do this post).

Missed opportunities

Probably the hardest part about transferring schools is that you miss a lot of opportunities. I was planning on trying to write-on for one of the journals at my old school, but quit the application as soon as I was accepted into my current school. This also means that I missed the window to try to get on to any journal at my new school so now I feel like I'm not doing as much as I can since journals are such a big thing in law school. (PS journals are also referred to as Law Reviews, so don't be confused).

I also had to give up employment opportunities when I transferred. The week after I received my acceptance to my new school, my LRW emailed me that I had gotten the (paid!!) job of TA for his class for the next semester. It was really sad for me to be giving up this opportunity to earn good money while gaining insight and advice from a practicing attorney and gaining a potential great rec letter. I also was in the middle of the interview process for an externship for credit for the spring semester of my 2L year when I was accepted. 

It just sucks having to give up these opportunities to build my résumé. Also, any clout that you've been building up so that you could take on a leadership position in a student organization flies out the window once you become a newbie again at a new school (and also you might miss the elections for these, too). And you also lose any chance to be a class ambassador, or be on a mock trial/moot court/arbitration/negotiations/any other Board of Barristers team. 

Starting off behind

Luckily for me, all of my classes transferred so I didn't lose any credit by changing schools. But that didn't mean that I started off at my new school caught up with everyone else who had been there for their 1L year. I ended up having 5 credits for my core classes of Property, Torts, and Contracts because I took those for 2 semesters, but my new school only required 4 hours for each of these so now I have 3 elective credits more than everyone else. So of course that means I came in lacking at least 3 hours less than everyone else. My new school required all 1L's to have 6 hours worth of "legal practice" and I came in with only 2 from my 2 semesters of a 1-hour legal research and writing. But I needed I think 4 hours of that plus another class worth of legal practice. 

What all of this ended up meaning was that I had to take LRW again (yep, another memo and another brief). At least they put me in the LLM class so it was only a one semester condencsed version with the international students who already were lawyers in their own country instead of me having to be with all of the 1Ls and starting all over again. This was a little frustrating for me because I already had passedthis class so I didn't see the point of retaking it, but it turned out to be advantageous for me because I had already taken this exact class and they hadn't so I already knew all of the rules and requirements. I had one other transfer student in that class with me and he'd already taken it too so it was pretty obvious from the beginning that it would be us two gunning for the A grade in the class.

For my other "legal practice" class, I was signed up for a Negotiations workshop. I guess my school makes all of the transfers take that because I was in there with two other transfer students and the guy from my LRW class is signed up for it for this next semester. Other non-transfers were in there too, but mostly 3L's who want to go in to corporate law or are already on the school's negotiation team through BOB. I probably wouldn't have thought to sign up for this class on my own but I ended up really enjoying it so if you ever need an elective, you might try to take something like that.

You'd think spending my first semester taking these classes (which was half of all that I was registered for) would catch me up but nope I'm still behind :/ I already had my Spring semester full with 16 hours when the registrar emailed me and informed me that I'm still lacking an "experience" class so sometime or another I'm going to have to get in to a clinical program or something and then I will finally be caught up as if I'd been going here all along.

Learning a new school

Like I was saying earlier, you come to a new school and start to get that fresh-faced-1L nervous feeling because again everything is a mystery. Not only did I spend this last semester catching up in my classes, but I also feel like I've been catching up on the school atmosphere as well. At my old school, I knew which professors were great in which subjects and which professors were easy and which were hard asses. So again I had to ask around and find out which professors to take for which class and who to avoid.  

And I had to figure out the curve all over again. Not only do different schools have different curves (ex. a C+ is the average at one school vs a B- is the average at another school), but also it's super normal for schools to have different curves for different levels (a C is the average for 1Ls to weed them out but it goes up to a C+ for 2Ls). So when you're asking your classmates what the curve is, make sure to also ask them what it will be for you for the next year too.

Grades start over

More about grades again, but this time it's good news :D I didn't realize this until mid-semester but when you transfer your grades start over! Yes, I'm sure this sucks if you had a fantastic GPA at your last school, but for the majority of us this is a great opportunity. Let me explain-- at my old school the curve for 1L's was a B- but at my new school the 1L curve is a C+. That means that even if the grades didn't reset I would have started out an average of a quarter grade above everyone else.

The curve for 2L's at my new school is a B so even if I'm just perfectly average this year, my GPA will be a B while everyone else who is average (majority of them) will have a GPA of a B- because their C+ will bring them down more than me. So just starting off, I'm in a really good position to be on the top half of my class rankings! Once I realized this is was kind of a motivator for me because it's hard to imagine yourself getting even a B+ as a 1L, but it's a more realistic goal as a 2L once you know how things work a little. 

Final Thoughts

Too long;didn't read of transferring- you start out behind in credits and being accustomed to the school, but you can use it to your advantage for the "law school game." This past semester has felt like a waste just catching up and I am stressing that I might not graduate in 3 years, but I still don't regret my decision. I ended up learning to love my old school, but all along I always knew that my new school was were I was supposed to be so for me all of this adjustment has been worth it. 


  1. What school did you transfer from?

    1. Hey! I transferred from St. Mary's in San Antonio after my 1L year. If you're thinking about transferring, you can check out my post with my advice on that here >> http://www.brazenandbrunette.com/2016/07/im-transferring.html