THE ELEPHANT IN THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE: The Influence of U.S. News & World Report on the Rise of Transfer Students in Law Schools and a Modest Proposal for Reform
57 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2014 Last revised: 23 Nov 2014
Date Written: August 1, 2014
Students who perform well after the first year of law school are increasingly transferring to schools ranked higher by U.S. News to maximize their chances of getting a law firm job immediately following graduation. This phenomena raises two fundamental and understudied issues: how students make the decision to seek to transfer to a higher-ranked and higher-tier law school, and why such law schools are willing to admit transfer students into their second-year class who they were not willing to admit initially. The first issue we explore through interviews with students who transferred as well as those who could have transferred but chose not to. The second issue we explore by highlighting the persuasiveness of U.S. News as a determinant of law school status and the ways in which the magazine has spawned the growth and development of law school competition for transfer students. We conclude that the scale and magnitude of the phenomenon of transfer students is affecting significantly the practices and procedures of all law schools, and that this phenomenon is driven by U.S. News’s failure to account for the LSAT scores and UGPAs of students that both transfer into and out of law schools when determining rankings. We conclude with a modest proposal that the ABA and U.S. News should require law schools to provide the metrics of incoming transfer students and exclude the metrics of departed transfer students.
Keywords: legal education, law school, transfer students, U.S. News rankings, American Bar Association
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