TaxProf Blog

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

Monday, December 17, 2018

2018 ABA Data Show Continued Decline In Number And Percentage Of Transfers

This blog posting updates my blog postings of December 2014, December 2015, March 2017, and December 2018 regarding what we know about the transfer market. With the release of the 2018 Standard 509 Reports, we know have five years of more detailed transfer data from which to glean insights about the transfer market among law schools.

NUMBERS AND PERCENTAGES OF TRANSFERS: 2011-2018

The number of transfers decreased to 1494 (4%), continuing a steady decline since a peak of 2,501 (5.8%) in 2013. It is also the lowest number and percentage of transfers we have seen since at least 2011.

For the last five years, the transfer market has not been growing, it has been shrinking, having declined from 5.8% in 2013, to 5.2% in 2015, to 4.8% in 2017, to 4.0% in 2018.

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Number of Transfers

2495

2438

2501

2187

1979

1749

1797

1494

Previous Year First Year Enrollment

52,000

47,600

43,200

39,800

38,000

37,100

37,100

37,300

%   of Previous First-Year Total

4.8%

5.1%

5.8%

5.5%

5.2%

4.7%

4.8%

4.0%

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), Summer 2016 (fall 2015 entering class), Summer 2017 (fall 2016 entering class), and Summer 2018 (fall 2017 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 four years are in black, those schools in the top 15 for three of the four years are in blue.  Nine of the top 15 have been on the list for the largest number of transfers all four years.  Even though George Washington remains one of these nine law schools, the number of transfers it has accepted has declined from over 100 in 2015 and 2016, to 67 in 2017, to 31 in 2018.

Largest Law Schools by Number of Transfers from 2015-2017

School

Number in 2015

School

Number in 2016

School

Number in 2017

School

Number in 2018

Georgetown

110

Georgetown

111

Georgetown

105

Georgetown

105

George Wash.

109

George Wash.

106

George Wash.

67

NYU

58

Arizona St.

65

Arizona St.

66

Charleston

61

Arizona State

50

Harvard

55

Columbia

50

NYU

58

Emory

42

Emory

51

Emory

49

Arizona St.

56

Cal. Berkeley

36

NYU

51

UCLA

43

Columbia

46

Columbia

35

Cal. Berkeley

49

Loyola Marymount

43

SMU

42

Loyola Marymount

34

Rutgers

45

NYU

43

Emory

41

Northwestern

33

Columbia

44

Florida

36

Loyola Marymount

41

Harvard

32

Miami

44

Houston

36

Harvard

40

UCLA

31

UCLA

43

Harvard

35

UCLA

36

George Wash.

31

Texas

37

Cal. Berkeley

33

Cal. Berkeley

33

North Dakota

28

American

33

Miami

31

Lincoln Memorial

33

Florida

27

Florida St.

32

American

30

Miami

33

Houston

25

Minnesota

31

Florida St.

30

Florida

31

Hofstra

24

Total

799

 

741

 

723

 

591

Percentage

0.40

 

0.42

 

0.40

 

0..40

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

Most interestingly, for 2018, the leading law school for percentage of transfers is North Dakota, having absorbed a large numbers of transfers (25) from Arizona Summit, with Arizona State also taking 12 of its 50 transfers from Arizona Summit. Three other schools that had appeared at the top of the percentage transfer list in 2017 are not in the top-15 this year -- Lincoln Memorial, Appalachian and Charleston.

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

School

2015%

School

2016%

School

2017%

School

2018%

Arizona State

45.5

Arizona State

30.3

Lincoln Mem.

54.1

North Dakota

39.4

Emory

22.9

George Wash.

21.6

Appalachian

50.0

Arizona State

23.2

George Wash.

20.2

Emory

20.9

Charleston

28.4

Georgetown

18

Miami

19.2

Georgetown

19.3

Arizona State

24.6

Emory

17.7

Georgetown

19

Florida St.

17.1

SMU

19.1

Northwestern

14.5

Cal. Berkeley

17.9

Houston

16.7

Georgetown

18.2

NYU

13.6

Florida St.

17

Loyola Marymount

16

Western St.

17.3

UNLV

13.3

Florida Int’l

16.7

Southern Cal

14.7

Toledo

16.5

Mercer

12.3

Minnesota

16.1

UCLA

14.7

North Dakota

15.7

Cal-Berkeley

11.8

Utah

16

UNLV

14.2

Emory

15.7

Houston

11.0

UNLV

14.3

Columbia

12.9

George Wash.

14.6

UCLA

10.5

UCLA

13.7

SMU

12

NYU

13.5

Loyola Marymount

10.4

Texas

12.3

Northwestern

11.8

Loyola Marymount

13.4

Florida St.

10.1

Chicago

12.1

Florida Int’l

11.8

Houston

12.7

Hofstra

9.6

Rutgers

12.1

Florida

11.6

Northwestern

12.6

Chicago

9.6

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, four in 2017 (two of which were in excess of 50%), and now only two in 2018.

Largely because of the decline in the number of transfers in at George Washington over the last two years, the concentration in the transfer market continued to decline, as the ten law schools with the most students transferring in captured a slightly smaller share of the transfer market, 30.5%, 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

2018

Total Transfers

2427

2438

2501

2187

1979

1749

1797

1494

Transfers to 10 Law Schools with Most Transfers

570

587

724

625

623

583

557

456

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%

30.5%

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 nine law schools that have been among the top-15 in terms of transfers in for each of the last four 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 2018 as well as the percentage of transfers that came from that school.

Percentage of Transfers from Within Geographic Region 2015-2018 and Top Feeder School(s) for 2018 at the Nine Law Schools Among the Top-15 for Transfers in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018

School

# of Transfers

15/16/17/18

Reg,

Regional # of Transfers

15/16/17/18

Regional % of Transfers

15/16/17/18

School from Which Largest Number of Transfers Came in 2018

#/% of Transfers from Largest School 2018

Harvard

55/35/40/32

NE

15/13/10/5

27/37/25/16

Fordham, GWU, Tulane, UCIrvine

3/9%

Columbia

44/50/46/35

NE

19/24/21/17

43/48/43/49

Brooklyn, Cardozo

4/11%

NYU

51/43/58/58

NE

15/16/20/19

29/37/34/33

Fordham

9/16%

Berkeley

49/33/36/36

CA

29/22/20/26

59/67/61/72

UCHastings

8/22%

Georgetown

110/111/105/105

Mid-Atl

43/36/31/42

39/32/30/40

American

15/14%

UCLA

43/43/36/31

CA

26/25/23/17

60/58/64/55

Loyola Marymount

6/19%

Emory

51/49/41/42

SE

31/25/26/21

61/51/63/50

Atlanta’s John Marshall

10/24%

Arizona St.

65/66/56/50

SW

48/57/39/28

74/86/70/56

Arizona Sum.

12/24%

GWU

109/106/67/31

Mid-Atl

70/77/45/21

64/73/67/68

American

13/42%

For these nine law schools, five (Berkeley, UCLA, Emory, Arizona State and George Washington) obtained most of their transfers (50% or more) from within the geographic region within which the law school is located during each of the last four 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 four years. 

Moreover, four of the nine law schools had a significant percentage (more than 20%) of their transfers in from one particular feeder school.  For George Washington, roughly 42% of its transfers came from American University. For Arizona State, 24% of its transfers came from Arizona Summit. For Emory, roughly 24% of its transfers came from Atlanta’s John Marshall. For Cal. Berkeley, roughly 22% of its transfers came from UC Hastings.

VARIED QUALITY OF THE TRANSFER POOL

The chart below shows the tiers of law schools from which these nine law schools in the transfer market received their transfer students.  Six of the nine law schools that consistently have high numbers of transfers are ranked in the top 15 in USNews, while the other three are ranked in the top 30. Five of the nine law schools had 83% or more of their transfers from law schools ranked between 1 and 99 in the USNews rankings – Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Cal-Berkeley, and UCLA. Two additional schools, Georgetown, and George Washington, had between 69% and 75% of their transfers from law schools ranked between 1 and 99.  The remaining two law schools, Emory and Arizona State, had more than 50% of their transfer students from law schools ranked 100 or lower. 

Percentage of Transfers from Different Tiers of School(s) for 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 at the Nine Law Schools Among the Top-15 for Transfers in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018

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

 

# of Trans

15/16/17/18

Top 50

# -- %

15/16/17/18

51-99

# -- %

15/16/17/18

100-200

# -- %

15/16/17/18

Harvard

55/35/40/32

41/28/27/22

75/80/68/69

13/7/13/10

24/20/32/31

1/0/0/0

2/0/0/0

Columbia

44/50/46/35

30/33/36/20

68/67/78/57

10/16/9/14

23/33/20/40

4/1/1/1

9/2/2/3

NYU

51/43/58/58

40/35/55/48

78/81/95/83

10/8/3/10

14/20/5/17

1/0/0/0

2/0/0/0

Berkeley

49/33/33/36

15/11/13/13

31/33/39/36

26/8/8/17

53/24/24/47

8/14/12/6

16/42/36/17

Georgetown

110/111/105/105

30/32/21/27

27/29/20/26

30/41/41/45

27/37/39/43

50/38/43/33

45/34/41/31

UCLA

43/43/36/31

15/18/9/11

35/41/25/35

23/21/23/19

53/49/64/61

5/4/4/1/1

12/10/11/3

Emory

51/49/41/42

5/3/5/10

10/6/12/24

8/17/9/24

16/35/22/29

38/29/27/22

75/59/66/52

Arizona St.

65/66/56/50

0/3/5/6

0/5/9/12

6/7/8/12

9/11/14/24

59/56/43/32

91/85/77/64

GWU

109/106/67/31

21/15/5/7

19/14/7/23

63/68/43/16

58/64/64/52

25/23/19/8

23/22/29/26

If one focuses just on the reported GPAs from these nine 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 2018 that is a 3.80 or above, and a 25th GPA of 3.75 and above. These three law schools – Harvard, Columbia and Berkeley – are clearly accepting transfers 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 3.70 and with 25th GPA of between 3.50 and 3.60. 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 three law schools have a 75th GPA that drops below 3.55, a 50th GPA that drops below 3.4, and a 25th GPA that drops below 3.25. Emory, Arizona State, and George Washington 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 in 2018 at the Nine Law Schools among the Top-15 for Transfers in 2015, 2016. 2017 and 2018 

School

GPA 75th

GPA 50th

GPA 25th

15/16/17/18

15/16/17/18

15/16/17/18

Harvard

3.98/4.0/3.96/4.0

3.92/3.94/3.92/3.95

3.85/3.88/3.87/3.89

Columbia

3.82/3.84/3.86/3.87

3.76/3.71/3.76/3.80

3.66/3.6/3.68/3.76

NYU

3.76/3.72/3.66/3.77

3.68/3.6/3.57/3.57

3.52/3.41/3.49/3.51

Berkeley

3.87/3.92/3.9/3.93

3.81/3.8/3.81/3.85

3.69/3.75/3.71/3.75

Georgetown

3.77/3.76/3.73/3.79

3.66/3.63/3.64/3.69

3.59/3.54/3.56/3.56

UCLA

3.7/3.67/3.71/3.80

3.58/3.56/3.58/3.66

3.46/3.52/3.42/3.51

Emory

3.45/3.41/3.35/3.42

3.3/3.16/3.2/3.23

3.06/3.02/2.96/3.09

Arizona St.

3.5/3.4/3.44/3.53

3.17/3.09/3.22/3.25

2.95/2.96/3.06/3.11

GWU

3.46/3.45/3.44/3.48

3.32/3.26/3.33/3.38

3.15/3.14/3.13/3.24

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).

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2018/12/2018-transfer-data-shows-continued-decline-in-number-and-percentage-of-transfers.html

Jerry Organ, Law School, Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink

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