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Law school transfer advice from working attorneys

Hi everybody. Long time lurker, first time poster here. lolstudent01/27/18
I never transferred, but when would you need to decide by? M thirdtierlaw01/27/18
Outside of the top 10 or 20 law schools in the country, wher trickydick01/27/18
No guarantee your grades hold up next semester. Outside isthisit01/27/18
The local county DA and PD offices are usually open to hirin guyingorillasuit01/27/18
In this scenario, I would stay. If you were at a lower rated trollfeeder01/27/18
Congrats on your first semester. I personally would not tra themapmaster01/27/18
Keep your debt levels very low. Get a full scholarship if po physicssezno01/27/18
Do not under any circumstances transfer from a law school wh wolfman01/27/18
Thank you all for your advice. It seems like it would onl lolstudent01/27/18
I would take the time and spend the money to apply to any sc superttthero01/28/18
I personally know 3 attorneys who transferred during LS. Thi cacrimdefense01/28/18
Op, I don't have much to offer other than what my colleagues nubiansage01/28/18
Have you thought about just applying, seeing where you got i thirdtierlaw01/28/18
Hi there. Yeah I'll at least apply and see what happens. lolstudent01/28/18
OP, top 100ish law school is not going to open up that many hairypalms01/28/18
Law school rank is not the answer to the question, as many h malletofmalice01/29/18
You need to look at the big picture and make a balancing tes nighthawk01/29/18
"Do you want corporate law in the DC area? GW may be a reali wolfman01/29/18
I took on huge debt, went to a T2, was not on law review, an nighthawk01/30/18
A good rule of thumb is that a student who was top of the cl onehell01/29/18
I came back here to say that I agree with everything written wolfman01/29/18
I agree 100%. Law review students in that range tend to do f downwardslope01/30/18
Thanks for posting that. FWIW, I think your friend still mad onehell01/31/18
If you get into big law, you'd probably quit after paying yo orgdonor01/29/18
Anyone who can get biglaw should take it. Even if you don't onehell01/30/18

lolstudent (Jan 27, 2018 - 6:37 pm)

Hi everybody. Long time lurker, first time poster here.

I'd love some advice from non-students that actually know the realities of the legal world and have some wisdom to impart to a 1L student.

My situation: I'm the top (maybe #2) student at a school with a USWNR ranking between 98-102. This is after 1L fall semester so I only have one semester's worth of grades under my belt. I'm nearly receiving full tuition (8/9ths) from my current school. I'm interested in working for the government, although I haven't narrowed it down much past that.

Should I just stay put and do the whole "big fish in a small pond" thing, or would it be prudent to transfer and have a higher ranked school on my diploma. Anybody here regret transferring?

Thanks so much,


lolstudent

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thirdtierlaw (Jan 27, 2018 - 7:21 pm)

I never transferred, but when would you need to decide by? Maybe see what OCI looks like for you. I'm not sure transferring to a school ranked 98 to a school ranked 30th would make a huge difference, unless it's located in the region you want to practice.

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trickydick (Jan 27, 2018 - 6:49 pm)

Outside of the top 10 or 20 law schools in the country, where you went to law school doesn’t matter much over the course of your career.

Assuming you’re even able to start a career as an attorney.

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isthisit (Jan 27, 2018 - 7:25 pm)

No guarantee your grades hold up next semester.

Outside of top 10, your law school doesn't matter. So I'd recommend going to the best school in your target state.

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guyingorillasuit (Jan 27, 2018 - 8:19 pm)

The local county DA and PD offices are usually open to hiring new attorneys if they have the funding. These are also considered "good" places to start your career (at least the DA office, not always the PD). I would reach out to them to see if you can intern there or spend your 1L summer. If you want to start out working for the government, try it out.

I think for local government jobs, you are better off as a top student in the local school.

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trollfeeder (Jan 27, 2018 - 8:53 pm)

In this scenario, I would stay. If you were at a lower rated school, I would say transfer, because bottom tier schools have terrible prospects. If you were at a higher ranked school, you might get into a t13, and your career prospects become broader. At best, you would move up to a trap school, and get lost in the shuffle. Instead, go to career services, and apply for internships, sign up for interviews with firms, etc. Become the model student for the school, and milk it as much as you can.

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themapmaster (Jan 27, 2018 - 9:04 pm)

Congrats on your first semester. I personally would not transfer. Very top of your class at a local school like yours should set up you for good local job opportunities, and government work whether federal or local. That would suffice for me.

Transfer if you want to break into another legal market, or get interviews at 2L OCI with biglaw firms, since these firms won't be visiting your law school's 2L OCI to any significant degree.

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physicssezno (Jan 27, 2018 - 10:23 pm)

Keep your debt levels very low. Get a full scholarship if possible. Only transfer if the job you want is a laser beam target prospect from a school you’d transfer to and you’d leave without debt.

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wolfman (Jan 27, 2018 - 11:24 pm)

Do not under any circumstances transfer from a law school where you have an 8/9 scholarship to a school where you do not. There are six exceptions to this rule called Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Chicago, Columbia and NYU (and I question how real the NYU exception is and might replace it with Penn/UVA... or with nothing). You're welcome.

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lolstudent (Jan 27, 2018 - 11:38 pm)

Thank you all for your advice.

It seems like it would only be worth transferring to a t6, if anywhere. The only ones that interest me are Stanford or Harvard but Stanford barely takes any transfers and Harvard would be a stretch.

Looks like I'll stay put and just hustle.

Thanks again.

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superttthero (Jan 28, 2018 - 12:24 am)

I would take the time and spend the money to apply to any schools that intrigue you, including Hawvad, but I wouldn't transfer unless it was a to a t6 and you want prestigious BIGFED, or if a school higher ranked in a place you rather live is somehow close in terms of total cost of attendance (maybe they throw you a bone and the school is in a low COL area--unlikely, I know).

I don't think going from 100 to something like 30-60 (just throwing out numbers) really makes sense if you have to take out a lot more loans for the bump. Sure, rankings do correlate to job prospects, but there are some key points of inflection and geography often matters more at these rankings.

I think you'll regret not applying, so set the money and time aside to find out what's out there. Note though, if you want local PD or ASA and your school has a good track record of sending people to the local gov't or has strong clinics that give you exposure to key people, you probably want to stay put if that's what you want to do.

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cacrimdefense (Jan 28, 2018 - 2:01 am)

I personally know 3 attorneys who transferred during LS. This trio is composed entirely of Californians.

1. The #1 student, as a 1L, at an ABA accredited school very much on the same prestige level as LaVerne or TJSL. He transferred to the Univ. of Richmond. Upon graduating, opened his own firm (built it up by marketing and hustling like crazy), employed several lawyers for a five year period, and then wildly flamed out. He no longer practices. The dude was brilliant but bipolar.

2. Transferred to UCLA from a Bay Area LS that was neither Cal nor Stanford. A career small-firm lawyer. Very bright, an effective litigator, but kind of a sketchy character (free spirit). He walked out of one firm at lunch and never came back, simply b/c he decided he was fed up. Said goodbye to no one and left all his files in his office. He doesn't really like being an attorney, but has a wife and child to support. The guy goes from one firm in L.A. to another, every few years. Always working.

3. I attended middle and high school w/ this guy. A career prosecutor, now in his mid-50's, who started out at Southwestern Law School. Like about 40%+ of the 1L students who attended Southwestern in the 80's, he failed out. He then transferred to an unaccredited LS in SoCal that no longer exists. This guy completed his degree at that institution, passed the CBE, joined a DA's office somewhere in between Fresno and San Diego, and is a lifer.

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nubiansage (Jan 28, 2018 - 12:58 pm)

Op, I don't have much to offer other than what my colleagues have already said. If your focus is on government, then it wouldn't make sense to transfer elsewhere outside of T6. If your focus is on working as a local DA, then I would focus on getting an internship as a rising 2L or 3L with a target DA office you wish to eventually work for. But if you're looking to work at Biglaw then T6 is pretty much mandatory. And even then that's not a guarantee depending on your ranking.

I would think twice about moving on elsewhere if you already have a scholarship secured at your existing school. Personally, it's not worth it to take on debt for any law school outside of T6. And even then I would think twice about it depending on your career aspirations, etc.

Congrats on your performance!

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thirdtierlaw (Jan 28, 2018 - 2:39 pm)

Have you thought about just applying, seeing where you got in, and then leverage that to get your last 1/8 part of your scholarship?

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lolstudent (Jan 28, 2018 - 7:47 pm)

Hi there.

Yeah I'll at least apply and see what happens. I've spoken with some upper-division students and it looks like the school never gives full rides. I'm already at the max award.

Nevertheless, I'm going to apply just to satisfy my curiousity. And if by some grace of God Harvard throws me a bone, then hello Cambridge.

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hairypalms (Jan 28, 2018 - 8:06 pm)

OP, top 100ish law school is not going to open up that many doors. I also graduated from a top 100ish law school. Ask yourself, where do you want to live? No matter where you end up initially, there will likely come a time where you say, I want to move back home or be closer to family. I think transferring could be a good idea in your case, but you need to transfer to the "right" school. What is the right school? One that is in your target geographic area (within a 100 miles), has good alumni connections in the area, and will improve your chances of landing a job, again in your target geographic area. It doesn't do you any good if you land your first job in Nebraska if your ultimate goal is to practice in upstate New York.

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malletofmalice (Jan 29, 2018 - 2:19 pm)

Law school rank is not the answer to the question, as many have suggested.

The real issue is what type of job you want. If you want Biglaw/clerkship, or prestige-oriented jobs, then you need to transfer to a top school. Otherwise, if you want to work as a local DA, it won't matter whether you went to Harvard or a top-100.

Look at data at law school transparency, and see what the chances are for getting a certain type of job. If you transfer, assume that you're about top 40-50% of your new school. Since you lose your rank, only schools where the top 60-75% of students get biglaw are worth it, in general.

In your specific case, unfortunately "government" isn't helpful as to what specific type of job you're going for. There are "government" jobs that require biglaw credentials and/or biglaw experience, and there are those that are not.

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nighthawk (Jan 29, 2018 - 2:46 pm)

You need to look at the big picture and make a balancing test determination. On the one hand, you will end up with minuscule student loans with prospects working for the PD or government office dealing with zoning issues. On the other hand, you have potential of working at a big firm or corporation doing highly sophisticated work and that will be 100k plus of student loans just for 2 years. Even though the student loans are high, you will have many doors open for you at that level and the student loan issue would not be significant.

What do you want to do? If you want to be a small town PD then stay put, no question. If you want to go big corporate then you should transfer. You seem to feel confident that you can perform well in law school so why not take it to the next step?

It also depends on your prospects. You do not need to go to a T14 school to be successful; however, you need to target your practice area. Do you want corporate law in the DC area? GW may be a realistic option. NYC area? Fordham may be a good choice. Southern California? USC can be a great place to go. Much of the hires are local.

In the long run, your law school, grades etc do not matter, unless you let it matter. Be bold.

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wolfman (Jan 29, 2018 - 9:41 pm)

"Do you want corporate law in the DC area? GW may be a realistic option. NYC area? Fordham may be a good choice. Southern California? USC can be a great place to go. Much of the hires are local."

I am not trying to start a fight on the law board, but this particular advice is, IMHO, truly, completely, entirely factually incorrect and anyone who follows it is likely to ruin his life, especially if he takes on debt to do so. This is NOT the case. If you are not at the top of your class at these schools you WILL NOT get "corporate law" in these areas - and as onehell helpfully points out below, a transfer student by definition cannot be at the top of his class at his new school, but only at median, at least as far as treatment during 2L OCI is concerned (which determines EVERYTHING for "corporate law" jobs).

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nighthawk (Jan 30, 2018 - 5:38 pm)

I took on huge debt, went to a T2, was not on law review, and decided to make things work. I work in corporate law. Fortune favors the bold. Being passive leads you to the doc review basement or the ID mill. Does OP want to crank out workers' comp claims and disability applications? Or does he want to make things work? According to your logic, he is destined for fighting traffic tickets. To me, he sounds like someone who believes that he can make something of himself.

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onehell (Jan 29, 2018 - 6:17 pm)

A good rule of thumb is that a student who was top of the class at his original school will be treated like a median student at his new school, because the OCI interviewers don't know how you would have performed against your new classmates. So you only transfer if the outcome for a median student at the new school tends to be better than the outcome for law review types at your old school.

If you were at an unranked school, I'd definitely focus on transferring. Even the law review kids at NESL or Cooley or whatever still come up empty handed a frightening amount of the time. I've heard of entire years where literally no one gets a job from OCI at those horrible places.

But you're not at an unranked school. Schools in the 50-100 range send the top 5%-ish to biglaw pretty reliably, and the top couple of kids in the class are essentially a lock. So if you keep this up, odds are quite good that you'll be among those lucky few, and once you have an offer, school prestige will no longer matter unless we're talking HYSCCN. Those are pretty much the only places where the average outcome may be better than the outcome for the top of the class at a school like yours.

For now, focus on keeping those grades up. If you succeed at doing so, then by all means put in transfer apps to the top 6, but I wouldn't give up the scholarship for anyplace lower than that. If you stay put, you might even be able to automatically "grade on" to law review if your school allows for that, which makes the case for staying put all the better.

The often-tragic reality is that a transfer student will find out if his decision was a good one within a few weeks of the start of the year, because that is when OCI takes place. There's no way to actually participate in both OCIs and see which one you do better in, so all you can do is compare the top-of-class outcome at your current school with the median outcome of the one you might transfer into, and base your decision on that.

The absolute worst is when a transfer kid bombs OCI, and has to spend the entire next two years (as well as most of the rest of his working life) wallowing in regret as he goes into far deeper debt than he would have otherwise, knowing the whole time that his outcome is now set in stone as being no better (and very possibly worse) than it would have been if he had stayed put. It's tragic that not only is the decision irrevocable, but you find out SO QUICKLY whether you made the right call.

Fortunately, you can guard against that by understanding that prestige at this point comes more from your class rank than your school rank. Heavy presumption in favor of staying put, with only a very tiny number of exceptions at the absolute top of the law school hierarchy. You don't transfer unless it's to either (A) escape from the third or fourth tier (not applicable to you); or (B) to go to a school where biglaw is a virtual guarantee, which again, is basically the top 6.

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wolfman (Jan 29, 2018 - 9:41 pm)

I came back here to say that I agree with everything written above (by onehell), and OP would do very well to follow his advice to the letter.

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downwardslope (Jan 30, 2018 - 6:35 pm)

I agree 100%. Law review students in that range tend to do fairly well and have a lot of job options open to them. If you are actually top 5 (students) you might even have a chance at a federal clerkship. I know that the fed appeals court judge in my hometown typically has a slot for a top 5 or so student from the local school, which typically ranked around 100 nationally. The other students he accepts are from the other state schools in the 40-50 range and his alma mater that is ranked around 25, and I assume those students are also in the top 5 students.

I know that in my school, the students who transferred in from 4th tier schools by and large did better than students who were transferring from schools that were not really much lower ranked (and probably a lot cheaper). I have a friend who was top 5 (students) in his 4th tier and then transferred to a low first tier and he did not end up with the biglaw result he wanted because the median students there did not get into biglaw. From a monetary standpoint, I think the first tier was cheaper because he moved from private to state school, but he was pretty bitter that great things didn’t happen as a result of his transfer. He is now in government and the person who had his current job before him went to his 4th tier school and one of his 1L sectionmates from the 4th tier actually started in the entry level position before he started. At least in my old state, school pedigree absolutely did not matter. It may matter in some states, but I think most people who got jobs in state government that I know just did internships beforehand and showed an interest in public service.

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onehell (Jan 31, 2018 - 5:27 pm)

Thanks for posting that. FWIW, I think your friend still made the right call. When you're already at a place that is at least somewhat well-respected (which is true of basically all of the top 100) you don't transfer unless biglaw is a near-guarantee, because the real prestige difference between #48 and #27 or whatever really isn't significant, and is certainly less significant than a top class rank which you would give up in such a transfer.

BUT, a transfer from 4th tier to 1st is still worth it IMHO, even without biglaw. People might not respect you more because of where you went, but at least they won't activively respect you less or give you those reactions that make you die a little inside, like "what the heck is a Cooley?"

Florida Coastal and its ilk are a resume stain like no other. The transfer may not have benefitted him initially, but it will help him in a variety of subtle ways over the course of his career (both professionally and in his social/personal life), many of which he might not even notice.

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orgdonor (Jan 29, 2018 - 11:07 pm)

If you get into big law, you'd probably quit after paying your loans. It's not noble work. Since you have the scholly - why waste four or five years of your life pretending to think a bunch of conceited people are important?

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onehell (Jan 30, 2018 - 12:45 pm)

Anyone who can get biglaw should take it. Even if you don't have loans to pay off, still there is no better training in the world, or at least it is regarded as such. Want "noble" work? Well, your opportunity to do it is still going to be a lot better after you've put in your 3-5 years at biglaw.

The exit opportunities coming from biglaw are simply in a whole different universe, even if your long-term aspirations are more noble than financial: Prestigious federal agencies, international NGOs, etc. No biglaw and your public interest opportunities are not only less lucrative, but also much less interesting both intellectually and geographically: Think local/municipal governments, tiny nonprofits, stuff that's located in the middle of nowhere, etc.

Think of biglaw like a doctor's residency, and of OCI like the match. Fail to match and unlike the doctor, you can at least practice. But the settings in which you can practice will be limited for life. Also unlike doctors, imagine if your residency was the highest-paid job you'll ever have.

You may very well hate the time in biglaw. It may seem stupid to "waste" what's left of your 20s working 80 hours a week helping rich people get richer when you don't have huge loans. Doesn't matter. Paying huge loans off is only one of the reasons biglaw must be taken if offered. It isn't fair, but they have the most sophisticated clients with the most sophisticated problems and the most organized training regime in all of law. It can be soul-sucking, and you have to work a LOT, but it does make you into someone who is, or who is at least widely perceived as, a very good lawyer. Docs in residency put in a ton of hours too, and they don't get paid anything close to 160k during that time. So you just suck up the fact that you won't have much of a life for 3-5 years. But the light at the end of that tunnel is bright indeed. Plus, without the huge loans, upon exit you will have saved up quite the nest egg if you live somewhat frugally.

You could go on to do any number of things. But after 3-5 years in biglaw, that golden name will follow you for the rest of your career. Everyone, no matter how noble or "anti law firms" their longer-term aspirations may be, should do their best to get an offer, and take it without hesitation if one is extended.

That's the law for you. You can always move down for more fulfilling work, better hours, etc. but you can rarely if ever move up. With so many of your options later in life dictated by your first job out, you should do what you can to make that first job the best one you can get. That's not to say you can't be happy or that biglaw is essential to a good career. It isn't. But you only get this one shot, and someone in the OP's position should do everything he can to maximize his options.

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