TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, December 18, 2017

The 2017 Law School Transfer Market

This blog posting updates my blog postings of December 2014, December 2015, and March 2017 regarding what we know about the transfer market. With the release of the 2017 Standard 509 Reports, we know have four years of more detailed transfer data from which to glean insights about the transfer market among law schools.

NUMBERS AND PERCENTAGES OF TRANSFERS: 2011-2017

The number of transfers increased slightly to 1797 in 2017 from 1749 in 2016, still down from 1,979 in 2015, and from 2,187 in 2014 and 2,501 in 2013. The percentage of the previous fall’s entering class that engaged in the transfer market also increased only slightly to 4.8%, on the low end of where it has been since 2011.

In other words, there is no reason to believe the transfer market is “growing” as a general matter. It has been fairly consistently in the 4.7% to 5.8% range for the last six years. In fact, there might be a reason to believe the general transfer market is declining, given that roughly 200 of the transfers this year, more than 10% of all transfers, are from Charlotte, Whittier and Indiana Tech.   Excluding the transfers out from Charlotte, Whittier and Indiana Tech, the number of transfers likely would be below 1600, which would be less than 4.5%, the lowest level in the last several years.

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Number of Transfers

2438

2501

2187

1979

1749

1797

Previous Year First Year Enrollment

47,600

43,200

39,800

38,000

37,100

37,100

%   of Previous First-Year Total

5.1%

5.8%

5.5%

5.2%

4.7%

4.8%

SOME LAW SCHOOLS CONTINUE TO DOMINATE THE TRANSFER MARKET

The following two charts list the top 15 law schools participating in the transfer market in descending order in Summer 2015 (fall 2014 entering class), and Summer 2016 (fall 2015 entering class), and Summer 2017 (fall 2016 entering class). One chart is based on “numbers” of transfers and the other chart is based on the number of transfer students as a percentage of the prior year’s first year class.

Note that in these two charts, the “repeat players” are bolded – those schools in the top 15 for all three years are in black, those schools in the top 15 for two of the three years are in blue.   Ten of the top 15 have been on the list for the largest number of transfers all three years.  All of the top six law schools in 2016 for transfers in welcomed a smaller numbers of transfers in 2017, although George Washington saw the largest drop in its transfer class between 2016 and 2017, with a decline of roughly 40 from where it had been the two previous years. Two of the three law schools that are new to the list, Charleston and Lincoln Memorial, took significant numbers of transfers from Charlotte.

Largest Law Schools by Number of Transfers from 2015-2017

School

Number in 2015

 

Number in 2016

 

Number in 2017

Georgetown

110

Georgetown

111

Georgetown

105

George Wash.

109

George Wash

106

George Wash

67

Arizona St.

65

Arizona St.

66

Charleston

61

Harvard

55

Columbia

50

NYU

58

Emory

51

Emory

49

Arizona St.

56

NYU

51

UCLA

43

Columbia

46

Cal. Berkeley

49

Loyola Marymount

43

SMU

42

Rutgers

45

NYU

43

Emory

41

Columbia

44

Florida

36

Loyola Marymount

41

Miami

44

Houston

36

Harvard

40

UCLA

43

Harvard

35

UCLA

36

Texas

37

Cal. Berkeley

33

Cal. Berkeley

33

American

33

Miami

31

Lincoln Memorial

33

Florida St.

32

American

30

Miami

33

Minnesota

31

Florida St.

30

Florida

31

 

799

 

741

 

723

 

0.404

 

0.423

 

0.402

In terms of law schools with the highest percentage of transfers in as a percentage of their previous year's first-year class,  only four law schools have been on the list each of the last three years – Arizona State, Emory, Georgetown and George Washington.

Most interestingly, for 2017, several of the leading law schools for percentage of transfers are new to the list because they have absorbed large numbers of transfers from Charlotte (Charleston – 58, Lincoln Memorial – 28, Appalachian – 16, and North Dakota - 11) or Whittier (Western State – 22) or Indiana Tech (Toledo – 8).

Largest Law Schools by Transfers as a Percentage of Previous First-Year Class - 2015-2017

School

2015%

School

2016%

School

2017%

Arizona State

45.5

Arizona State

30.3

Lincoln Mem.

54.1%

Emory

22.9

George Wash.

21.6

Appalachian

50.0%

George Wash.

20.2

Emory

20.9

Charleston

28.4%

Miami

19.2

Georgetown

19.3

Arizona State

24.6%

Georgetown

19

Florida St.

17.1

Southern Methodist

19.1%

Cal. Berkeley

17.9

Houston

16.7

Georgetown

18.2%

Florida St.

17

Loyola Marymount

16

Western St.

17.3%

Florida Int’l

16.7

Southern Cal

14.7

Toledo

16.5%

Minnesota

16.1

UCLA

14.7

North Dakota

15.7%

Utah

16

UNLV

14.2

Emory

15.7%

UNLV

14.3

Columbia

12.9

George Wash.

14.6%

UCLA

13.7

SMU

12

NYU

13.5%

Texas

12.3

Northwestern

11.8

Loyola Marymount

13.4%

Chicago

12.1

Florida Int’l

11.8

Houston

12.7%

Rutgers

12.1

Florida

11.6

Northwestern

12.6%

The number of law schools welcoming transfers representing more than 20% of their first-year class has fallen from nine in 2013 (not shown), to six in 2014 (not shown), then to only three in 2015 and 2016, and now four in 2017 (two of which are in excess of 50%).

Largely because of the decline in the number of transfers in at George Washington and the other top law schools for transfers, and because several different law schools received transfers from Charlotte, Whittier and Indiana Tech, for the first time in the last several years, the concentration in the transfer market declined, as the ten law schools with the most students transferring in captured a slightly smaller share of the transfer market, 31%, down from 33.3% in 2016 (although still well above the 23.5% in 2011). 

Top Ten Law Schools For Transfers In as a Percentage of All Transfers

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Total Transfers

2427

2438

2501

2187

1979

1749

1797

Transfers to 10 Law Schools with Most Transfers

570

587

724

625

623

583

557

Transfers to 10 Law Schools with Most Transfers as % of Total Transfers

23.5%

24.1%

28.9%

28.6%

31.5%

33.3%

31%

NATIONAL AND REGIONAL MARKETS

Starting in December 2014, the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar began collecting and requiring law schools with 12 or more transfers in to report not only the number of students who have transferred in, but also the law schools from which they came (indicating the number from each law school). In addition, the law schools with 12 or more transfers in had to report the 75%, 50% and 25% first-year, law school GPAs of the students who transferred in. This allows one to look at where students are coming from and are going to and to look at the first-year GPA profile of students transferring in to different law schools. The following chart focuses on the ten law schools that have been among the top-15 in terms of transfers in for each of the last three years, presented in descending USNews rank. It indicates the extent to which these law schools were attracting transfers from their geographic region and also identifies the law school that provided the largest number of transfers to each listed law school in 2017 as well as the percentage of transfers that came from that school.

Percentage of Transfers from Within Geographic Region 2015-2017 and Top Feeder School(s) for 2017 at the Ten Law Schools Among the Top-15 for Transfers in 2015, 2016, and 2017

School

# of Transfers

15/16/17

Reg,

Regional # of Transfers

15/16/17

Regional % of Transfers

15/16/17

School from Which Largest Number of Transfers Came in 2016

#/% of Transfers from Largest School 2016

Harvard

55/35/40

NE

15/13/10

27/37/25

American

6/15%

Columbia

44/50/46

NE

19/24/21

43/48/43

GWU

7/15%

NYU

51/43/58

NE

15/16/20

29/37/34

Fordham/GWU

11/19%

Berkeley

49/33/33

CA

29/22/20

59/67/61

Santa Clara

6/18%

Georgetown

110/111/105

Mid-Atl

43/36/31

39/32/30

American

13/12%

UCLA

43/43/36

CA

26/25/23

60/58/64

Loyola, LA/Hastings

5/14%

Emory

51/49/41

SE

31/25/26

61/51/63

Charlotte

6/15%

Arizona St.

65/66/56

SW

48/57/39

74/86/70

Arizona Sum.

24/43%

GWU

109/106/67

Mid-Atl

70/77/45

64/73/67

American

30/45%

Miami

44/31/33

SE       

28/24/21

64/77/64

Nova Southeastern  

7/21%

For these top-ten law schools for transfer students in 2017, six law schools (Berkeley, UCLA, Emory, Arizona State, George Washington, and Miami) obtained most of their transfers (51% or more) from within the geographic region within which the law school is located during each of the last three years. On the other hand, four law schools (Harvard, Columbia, NYU, and Georgetown) had 49% or fewer of their transfers from within the region in which they are located in each of the last three years. 

Moreover, two of the ten law schools had a significant percentage of their transfers in from one particular feeder school.  For George Washington, roughly 45% of its transfers came from American University, while for Arizona State, roughly 43% of its transfers came from Arizona Summit.

VARIED QUALITY OF THE TRANSFER POOL

The chart below shows the tiers of law schools from which these ten law schools in the transfer market received their transfer students.  Six of the ten law schools that consistently have high numbers of transfers are ranked in the top 15 in USNews, while all but one are ranked in the top 30. Four of the ten law schools had 89% or more of their transfers from law schools ranked between 1 and 99 in the USNews rankings – Harvard, Columbia, NYU, and UCLA. Three additional schools, Berkeley, Georgetown, and George Washington had between 59% and 71% of their transfers from law schools ranked between 1 and 99.  The remaining three law schools (two of which are ranked in the top 25 in USNews (Emory and Arizona State)), had more than 65% of their transfer students from law schools ranked 100 or lower. 

Percentage of Transfers from Different Tiers of School(s) for 2015, 2016 and 2017 at the Ten Law Schools Among the Top-15 for Transfers in 2015 and 2016 and 2017

(Bolded data indicates the modal response for each law school.)

 

# of Trans

15/16/17

Top 50

# -- %

15/16/17

51-99

# -- %

15/16/17

100-200

# -- %

15/16/17

Harvard

/55/35/40

41/28/27

75/80/68

13/7/13

24/20/32

1/0/0

2/0/0

Columbia

44/50/46

30/33/36

68/67/78

10/16/9

23/33/20

4/1/1

9/2/2

NYU

51/43/58

40/35/55

78/81/95

10/8/3

14/20/5

1/0/0

2/0/0

Berkeley

49/33/33

15/11/13

31/33/39

26/8/8

53/24/24

8/14/12

16/42/36

Georgetown

110/111/105

30/32/21

27/29/20

30/41/41

27/37/39

50/38/43

45/34/41

UCLA

43/43/36

15/18/9

35/41/25

23/21/23

53/49/64

5/4/4

12/10/11

Emory

51/49/41

5/3/5

10/6/12

8/17/9

16/35/22

38/29/27

75/59/66

Arizona St.

65/66/56

0/3/5

0/5/9

6/7/8

9/11/14

59/56/43

91/85/77

GWU

109/106/67

21/15/5

19/14/7

63/68/43

58/64/64

25/23/19

23/22/29

Miami

44/31/33

3/2/2

7/6/6

7/3/3

16/10/9

34/26/28

77/84/85

If one focuses just on the reported GPAs from these ten law schools, one quickly sees that of the six law schools ranked in the USNEWs top-15, three have a 50th GPA for transfers in 2017 that is a 3.75 or above, and a 25th GPA of 3.68 and above. These three law schools – Harvard, Columbia and Berkeley – are clearly accepting transfer who could have been admitted to those law schools in the first instance.

The other three top-15 law schools – NYU, Georgetown and UCLA – are a step below in terms of the credentials of their transfers, with 50th GPAs of between 3.55 and 3.65 and with 25th GPA of between 3.42 and 3.56. Some of these transfer students might have been admissible at these law schools as first-years, but some probably would not have had the credentials to be admitted as first-years.

Once you drop out of the top-15, however, the other four law schools have a 75th GPA that drops below 3.5, a 50th GPA that drops below 3.35, and a 25th GPA that drops below 3.15 (and below 3.0 in 2017 for one of the four law schools). Emory, Arizona State, George Washington and Miami are welcoming as transfers students those whose entering credentials likely are sufficiently distinct from each of those law schools’ entering class credentials that the transfers they are admitting would not have been admitted as first-year students in the prior year.

First-Year Law School 75th/50th/25th GPA of Transfers at the Ten Law Schools Among the Top-15 for Transfers in 2015, 2016 and 2017 

School

GPA 75th

GPA 50th

GPA 25th

15/16/17

15/16/17

15/16/17

Harvard

3.98/4.0/3.96

3.92/3.94/3.92

3.85/3.88/3.87

Columbia

3.82/3.84/3.86

3.76/3.71/3.76

3.66/3.6/3.68

NYU

3.76/3.72/3.66

3.68/3.6/3.57

3.52/3.41/3.49

Berkeley

3.87/3.92/3.9

3.81/3.8/3.81

3.69/3.75/3.71

Georgetown

3.77/3.76/3.73

3.66/3.63/3.64

3.59/3.54/3.56

UCLA

3.7/3.67/3.71

3.58/3.56/3.58

3.46/3.52/3.42

Emory

3.45/3.41/3.35

3.3/3.16/3.2

3.06/3.02/2.96

Arizona St.

3.5/3.4/3.44 3.17/3.09/3.22 2.95/2.96/3.06

GWU

3.46/3.45/3.44

3.32/3.26/3.33

3.15/3.14/3.13

Miami

3.26/3.16/3.20

3.05/3.01/3.08

2.9/2.88/3.02

With the addition of law schools like Charleston, Lincoln Memorial, Appalachian, Western State and North Dakota to the top-15 law schools in terms of percentage of transfers enrolled, one can see even more precipitous declines in the GPA profiles of the transfer students. For four of these five law schools the 75th percentile was below a 3.0 and for three of them the 50th was below a 2.5 and the 25th was below a 2.3. These are five law schools that could see significant bar passage problems in 2019 largely because of the number transfers they took in this summer whose first-year grades place them at greater risk of bar failure.

School

Number

75th

50th

25th

Appalachian

19

3.18

2.87

2.51

Western State

26

2.94

2.86

2.74

North Dakota

14

2.91

2.47

2.14

Lincoln Memorial

33

2.74

2.42

2.27

Charleston

61

2.48

2.33

2.17

STILL MANY UNKNOWNS

As I noted for the last few years, this more detailed transfer data should be very helpful to prospective law students and pre-law advisors, and to current law students who are considering transferring.  This data gives them a better idea of what transfer opportunities might be available depending upon where they go to law school (or are presently enrolled as a first-year student).

Even with this more granular data now available, however, there still are a significant number of unknowns relating to transfer students, particularly regarding gender and ethnicity of transfer students and regarding performance of transfers students at their new law school (both academically and in terms of bar passage and employment).

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2017/12/updates-on-the-transfer-market-for-2017.html

Jerry Organ, Legal Education | Permalink

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