Paul L. Caron
Dean


Monday, December 16, 2019

2019 Transfer Data Show Continued Decline In Number And Percentage Of Transfers

This blog posting updates my blog postings of December 2014December 2015March 2017, December 2017 and December 2018 regarding what we know about the transfer market. With the ABA’s posting of the 2019 Standard 509 Reports, we now have six years (2014-2019) of more detailed transfer data from which to glean insights about the transfer market among law schools.

NUMBERS AND PERCENTAGES OF TRANSFERS SHOW CONTINUING DECLINE SINCE 2013

As shown in Table 1 below, the number of transfers decreased to 1294 (3.3%), 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 several years, the transfer market 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, and now down to 3.4% in 2019.

Table 1 – Number of Transfers and Percentage of Transfers from 2011-2019

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Number of Transfers

2495

2438

2501

2187

1979

1749

1797

1494

1294

Previous Year First Year Enrollment

52,000

47,600

43,200

39,800

38,000

37,100

37,100

37,300

38,390

% of Previous First-Year Total

4.8%

5.1%

5.8%

5.5%

5.2%

4.7%

4.8%

4.0%

3.4%

While it is hard to know for sure what might be causing this decline in transfers over the last several years, I believe the most likely explanation for the continuing decline in transfers over the last several years is the corresponding decline in law schools with conditional scholarship programs.  As I noted in a blog posting on conditional scholarship programs in January 2018, the number of law schools with conditional scholarship programs declined from 140 to 89 between 2011-12 and 2016-17.  As of the 2017-2018 academic year, there were only 77 law schools with conditional scholarships that were reduced or eliminated.  This decline in the number of law schools with conditional scholarship programs likely has reduced the number of rising second-year law students considering transferring.  In past years, it is likely that a reduced or eliminated conditional scholarship was a catalyst for some law students to consider transferring.  If they were going to have to pay more to continue their legal education because of a reduced or eliminated scholarship, they might as well consider transferring to a more highly ranked law school.  With the reduction in the number of law schools with conditional scholarship programs, however, this financial incentive to consider transferring has been diminished.

SOME LAW SCHOOLS CONTINUE TO DOMINATE THE TRANSFER MARKET

Table 2 lists the top 15 law schools participating in the transfer market in descending order in Summer 2016 (fall 2015 entering class), Summer 2017 (fall 2016 entering class), Summer 2018 (fall 2017 entering class), and Summer 2019 (fall 2018 entering class).

(Note that in Table 2 and in Table 4, 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.  Ten of the top 15 have been on the list for the largest number of transfers all four years.) 

TABLE 2 -- Largest Law Schools by Number of Transfers from 2016-2019

School

Number in 2016

School

Number in 2017

School

Number in 2018

School

Number in 2019

Georgetown

111

Georgetown

105

Georgetown

105

Georgetown

105

George Wash.

106

George Wash.

67

NYU

58

George Wash.

74

Arizona St.

66

Charleston

61

Arizona State

50

NYU

54

Columbia

50

NYU

58

Emory

42

Columbia

44

Emory

49

Arizona St.

56

Cal. Berkeley

36

Harvard

43

UCLA

43

Columbia

46

Columbia

35

Loyola Marymount

41

Loyola Marymount

43

SMU

42

Loyola Marymount

34

Florida

40

NYU

43

Emory

41

Northwestern

33

Northwestern

34

Florida

36

Loyola Marymount

41

Harvard

32

UCLA

34

Houston

36

Harvard

40

UCLA

31

Chicago

27

Harvard

35

UCLA

36

George Wash.

31

Hofstra

26

Cal. Berkeley

33

Cal. Berkeley

33

North Dakota

28

UNLV

24

Miami

31

Lincoln Memorial

33

Florida

27

Cal. Berkeley

24

American

30

Miami

33

Houston

25

Arizona St.

22

Florida St.

30

Florida

31

Hofstra

24

Rutgers

21

Total

741

Total

723

Total

591

Total

613

Percentage

42%

Percentage

40%

Percentage

40%

Percentage

47%

With the overall decline in the number of transfers, there has emerged an even greater concentration of transfers among the ten law schools with the most students transferring in, which now claim 38.3% of the transfer market.  As shown in Table 3, this is by far the largest percentage in the last nine years.

TABLE 3 -- Top Ten Law Schools for Transfers In as a Percentage of All Transfers

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Total Transfers

2427

2438

2501

2187

1979

1749

1797

1494

1294

Transfers to 10 Law Schools with Most Transfers

570

587

724

625

623

583

557

456

496

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%

38.3%

In terms of law schools with the highest percentage of transfers in as a percentage of their previous year's first-year class, as shown below in Table 4, only four law schools have been on the list each of the last four years – Arizona State, Georgetown, Loyola Marymount and Northwestern.  Four law schools have been on the list three times in the last four years – George Washington, NYU, UCLA and UNLV.  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%), two in 2018, and now none in 2019. The highest percentages are the lowest they have been in the last four years, at 18.1%, 16.1% and 15.3%

TABLE 4 -- Largest Law Schools by Transfers as a Percentage of Previous First-Year Class - 2016-2019

School

2016%

School

2017%

School

2018%

School

2019%

Arizona State

30.3

Lincoln Mem.

54.1

North Dakota

39.4

Georgetown

18.1

George Wash.

21.6

Appalachian

50.0

Arizona State

23.2

Florida

16.1

Emory

20.9

Charleston

28.4

Georgetown

18

UNLV

15.3

Georgetown

19.3

Arizona State

24.6

Emory

17.7

Chicago

14

Florida St.

17.1

SMU

19.1

Northwestern

14.5

Northwestern

13.9

Houston

16.7

Georgetown

18.2

NYU

13.6

George Wash.

13.1

Loyola Marymount

16

Western St.

17.3

UNLV

13.3

Loyola Marymount

12.9

Southern Cal

14.7

Toledo

16.5

Mercer

12.3

NYU

12

UCLA

14.7

North Dakota

15.7

Cal-Berkeley

11.8

UCLA

10.9

UNLV

14.2

Emory

15.7

Houston

11.0

Columbia

10.7

Columbia

12.9

George Wash.

14.6

UCLA

10.5

Hofstra

10.1

SMU

12

NYU

13.5

Loyola Marymount

10.4

Florida Int’l

9.9

Northwestern

11.8

Loyola Marymount

13.4

Florida St.

10.1

Pepperdine

8.8

Florida Int’l

11.8

Houston

12.7

Hofstra

9.6

Arizona State

8.1

Florida

11.6

Northwestern

12.6

Chicago

9.6

Harvard

7.7

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. 

Table 5 focuses on the ten law schools that have been among the top-15 in terms of transfers in for each of the last four years, presented in descending US News 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 2019 as well as the percentage of transfers that came from that school.  Notably, six of these ten schools are on the East Coast (Harvard, Columbia, New York, Georgetown, George Washington and Florida) while four are in or near California (UC Berkeley, UCLA, Loyola Marymount and Arizona State).

TABLE 5 -- Percentage of Transfers from Within Geographic Region 2017-2019 and Top Feeder School(s) for 2019 at the Ten Law Schools among the Top-15 for Transfers in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019

School

# of Transfers

17/18/19

Reg,

Regional # of Transfers

17/18/19

Regional % of Transfers

17/18/19

School from Which Largest Number of Transfers Came in 2019

#/% of Transfers from Largest School 2019

Harvard

40/32/43

NE

10/5/11

25/16/26

Boston College/George Washington

3/7%

Columbia

46/35/44

NE

21/17/18

43/49/41

Brooklyn

5/11%

NYU

58/58/54

NE

20/19/22

34/33/41

Fordham

10/19%

Berkeley

36/36/24

CA

20/26/17

61/72/71

UC Hastings

6/25%

Georgetown

105/105/105

Mid-Atl

31/42/51

30/40/49

American

21/20%

UCLA

36/31/34

CA

23/17/22

64/55/65

UC Irvine

6/18%

GWU

67/31/74

Mid-Atl

45/21/40

67/68/54

American

19/27%

Arizona St.

56/50/22

SW

39/28/6

70/56/27

DePaul

3/14%

Florida

31/27/40

SE

27/16/31

87/59/78

Barry

9/23%

Loyola Marymount

41/34/41

CA

38/29/34

93/85/83

Western State

15/37%

For these ten law schools, five (Berkeley, UCLA, George Washington, Florida and Loyola Marymount) 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 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 the law school is located in each of the last three years. Arizona State is the only odd duck, having had more than 50% from its region in 2017 and 2018, but dropping to only 27% from its region in 2019.

Moreover, five of the ten law schools had a significant percentage (more than 20%) of their transfers in from one particular feeder school.  For Loyola Marymount, 37% of its transfers came from Western State.  For George Washington, 27% of its transfers came from American University. For Berkeley, 25% of its transfers came from UC Hastings.  For Florida, 23% of its transfers came from Barry. For Georgetown, 20% of its transfers came from American.

VARIED QUALITY OF THE TRANSFER POOL

Table 6 below shows the tiers of law schools from which these ten largest law schools in the transfer market received their transfer students.  Six of the ten law schools that consistently have high numbers of transfers in are ranked in the top 15 in USNews, while three of the other four are ranked in the top 31. Five of the ten 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 77% and 63%, respectively of their transfers from law schools ranked between 1 and 99.  The remaining three law schools, Arizona State, Florida and Loyola Marymount had 55%, 88% and 98%, respectively, of their transfer students from law schools ranked 100 or lower. 

TABLE 6 -- Percentage of Transfers from Different Tiers of School(s) for 2017, 2018 and 2019 at the Ten Law Schools Among the Top-15 for Transfers in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 (Bolded data indicates the modal percentage response for each law school.)

 

# of Trans

17/18/19

Top 50 #

17/18/19

Top 50 %

17/18/19

51-100 #

17/18/19

51-100 %

17/18/19

101-200 #

17/18/19

101-200 %

17/18/19

Harvard

40/32/43

27/22/28

68/69/65

13/10/11

32/31/26

0/0/4

0/0/9

Columbia

46/35/44

36/20/30

78/57/68

9/14/14

20/40/32

1/1/0

2/3/0

NYU

58/58/51

55/48/41

95/83/80

13/10/10

5/17/20

0/0/0

0/0/0

Berkeley

33/36/24

13/13/13

39/36/54

8/17/7

24/47/29

12/6/4

36/17/17

Georgetown

105/105/105

21/27/29

20/26/28

41/45/52

39/43/49

43/33/24

41/31/23

UCLA

36/31/34

9/11/13

25/35/38

23/19/17

64/61/50

4/1/4

11/3/12

GWU

67/31/74

5/7/9

7/23/12

43/16/38

64/52/51

19/8/27

29/26/37

Arizona St.

56/50/22

5/6/2

9/12/9

8/12/8

14/24/36

43/32/12

77/64/55

Florida

31/27/40

0/0/2

0/0/5

0/6/3

0/22/8

31/21/35

100/78/88

Loyola Marymount

41/34/41

0/0/1

0/0/2

3/5/0

7/15

38/29/40

93/85/98

Table 7 below highlights the reported GPAs of transfers in for these ten law schools.  In looking at Table 7, one quickly sees that of the six law schools ranked in the USNEWs top-15, three have a 50th GPA for transfers in 2019 that is a 3.77 or above, and a 25th GPA of 3.71 and above. These three law schools – Harvard, Columbia and Berkeley – which also are accepting most of their transfers in from top-50 law schools, clearly are 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 3.63 and 3.68 (below the 25th GPA for Harvard, Columbia and Berkeley) and with 25th GPA of between 3.56 and 3.61. Of this group, NYU is taking 80% of its transfers from top-50 law schools, so the transfers in it is accepting might be people it would have admitted in the first instance.  But for Georgetown and UCLA, with most of their transfers coming from law schools ranked 51-100, many of these transfer students probably would not have had the credentials to be admitted as first-years.

Once you drop out of the top-15, the other four law schools have a 75th GPA that drops below 3.52, a 50th GPA that drops below 3.3, and a 25th GPA that drops below 3.15, with the majority of these transfers coming from law schools ranked 51-100 for George Washington and ranked 101-200 for Arizona State, Florida and Loyola Marymount.  These law schools clearly are welcoming transfer students whose entering credentials almost certainly are sufficiently distinct from each of those law schools’ entering class credentials that the transfer students they are admitting would not have been admitted as first-year students in the prior year.

TABLE 7 -- First-Year Law School 75th/50th/25th GPA of Transfers in 2017, 2018 and 2019 at the Ten Law Schools among the Top-15 for Transfers in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019

School

GPA 75th

GPA 50th

GPA 25th

17/18/19

17/18/19

17/18/19

Harvard

3.96/4.0/4.02

3.92/3.95/3.95

3.87/3.89/3.89

Columbia

3.86/3.87/3.87

3.76/3.80/3.82

3.68/3.76/3.78

NYU

3.66/3.77/3.76

3.57/3.57/3.68

3.49/3.51/3.61

Berkeley

3.9/3.93/3.97

3.81/3.85/3.77

3.71/3.75/3.71

Georgetown

3.73/3.79/3.77

3.64/3.69/3.67

3.56/3.56/3.56

UCLA

3.71/3.80/3.76

3.58/3.66/3.63

3.42/3.51/3.56

GWU

3.44/3.48/3.41

3.33/3.38/3.23

3.13/3.24/3.11

Arizona St.

3.44/3.53/3.35

3.22/3.25/3.29

3.06/3.11/3.11

Florida

3.57/3.56/3.52

3.40/3.33/3.27

3.17/3.10/3.13

Loyola Marymount

3.23/3.28/3.39

3.20/3.22/3.20

3.06/3.07/3.11

STILL MANY UNKNOWNS

As I have 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/2019/12/2019-transfer-data-shows-ongoing-decline-in-number-and-percentage-of-transfers.html

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

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