A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about some of the advantages full-time students might have when they compete for grades against part-time law students. This got me thinking about other situations in which law students may have advantages over others because of their academic status and background. Many law schools admit transfer students who transfer law schools after completing one year of study. I was a transfer student who completed a year of law school at Washington and Lee University School of Law before transferring to Georgetown University Law Center. From my own experiences, transfer students have numerous advantages that other law students might not have.
When transfer students transfer to a new school, their GPA usually does not transfer with them. This might seem like a disadvantage since transfer students likely had high GPAs at their original law schools, but this can absolutely be an advantage. Most of the time, first-year law school classes are the hardest courses that law students will take during their academic year. This is because law students are more likely to be gunners during their first year of law school and pull out all of the stops in order to get good grades. Moreover, some law schools only have strict curves for first-year courses, and then professors are given a little more leeway to provide better grades.
This is what happened to me when I transferred to Georgetown Law. When I started at that school, I had a fresh GPA, and it felt weird comparing my experience to that of people who attended Georgetown Law from the beginning of their law school academic career. I had to take Constitutional Law with the first-year law students since I did not complete this course at my original law school, and I got my lowest grade in law school in this course, probably because first-year law students are more likely to work hardest at their studies. By starting my GPA fresh, I was more likely to earn academic honors and stand out from the law students who had attended my law school from the beginning of their law school experience.
In many circumstances, transfer students have much better access to jobs than students at their previous law schools. This is because students often transfer to better schools that have more robust access to law firms and other potential employers than lower-ranked law schools. However, during the on-campus interviewing process that usually takes place in the summer before a student’s second year of law school, transfer students just have their usually excellent grades from their first law schools to show employers before they take classes at their new law schools.
After I transferred to Georgetown Law, I had full access to Georgetown Law’s on-campus interview process. However, since I had not taken any classes there at that point, all employers could rely on when deciding to hire me were my solid first-year grades at my prior school. In my experience, transfer students who transfer in time to have full access to the on-campus interviewing process usually have a better time in the recruitment process than non-transfer students. This is likely because of their access and their top credentials from prior schools.
Another one of the benefits of transfer students is that they usually have more academic and professional networks than people who only attend one law school. As people progress through their careers, they tend to rely more and more on people they knew in law school. This is because law school classmates can be referral sources when people need to originate business later in their careers and may be helpful as references and contact people who may know about career opportunities. People naturally have a tendency to trust and look out for people with whom they went to law school as law school is a crucible that forges strong bonds between students with that shared experience.
Transfer students have two law school communities that can be useful when they look for contacts and referral sources later in their careers. It is true that the bonds formed at a law school for only one year after you transfer to another school may not be as strong as the bonds that are forged by attending law school for three entire years. However, referrals can sometimes be a numbers game, and the more people you know the more contacts you are likely to know who can refer business and look out for you later in your career.
All told, law students should consider transferring not just to have a diploma from a better school, relocate to a different city, or for the other reasons that people typically transfer schools. Indeed, transfer students may have numerous advantages that can be helpful to these students as they progress through their careers as practicing attorneys.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at email@example.com.