Transferring Law Schools: Why I Jumped Ship

Ashley KirkwoodWondering about the law school transfer process? Today, we’re thrilled to welcome Ashley Kirkwood, a recent transfer to Northwestern, for a series on the transfer decision and process. First up, the background of her personal law school transfer story.


Applying to Law School Three Times

Getting into law school once is tough, but doing it twice presents its own set of challenges.

I have been through the law school application cycle three times.

The first time I applied, I didn’t get into a single law school. The second go-round, I got into the only law school that I applied to. The third time was the transfer application process.

Once I got accepted into a law school, I went—no questions asked. I went and planned to excel. I also planned to transfer after my 1L year to a higher ranked law school.

I get a lot of questions regarding why I transferred, how I transferred, and how I like being at a new law school. I am going to answer those three questions in a series of posts. First, I will give the cliff notes version of my journey to law school.

My Undergrad Experience

I went to a Big Ten university to complete my undergraduate degree and had a blast. It was a great school and I made lasting friendships.

However, I bombed my tests in undergrad.

I learned the material, did well on group projects and assignments, got amazing internships with fortune 500 companies, BUT did horrible in test taking conditions—which explains my LSAT score. A lot of people have this problem. But, I was also the director of cultural programming at my school and won the homecoming pageant, so I had a bit of an ego problem. Namely, I was too embarrassed to speak with a specialist about why I wasn’t excelling on exams—until my senior year.

I had a professor that basically said, “If you don’t figure out why you aren’t performing well on exams, you’ll never be an attorney.” I took this to heart, sought help and figured out that I get anxiety when I take tests. We talked through strategies and what I can do to improve—it helped a lot. But, when this revelation occurred I was a senior and close to graduating. That being said, I graduated and my GPA from undergrad was less than stellar—way less.

So, how do you get into law school with a bad GPA? You don’t—well I didn’t the first time. Luckily, the power is in persistence.

Getting Into Law School

I worked a job down the street from the law school I applied to during my second time applying for law school.

This was strategic.

It allowed me the ability to walk to the law school on my lunch breaks and speak with the admissions director rather frequently—more frequently than I am sure she liked. It also allowed me to go to the law school and visualize myself actually attending law school. I had to see myself where I wanted to be. This helped.

When I applied the second time I was accepted with one condition—that I keep my GPA above a 2.5. That was no problem, well it was hard work, but that was not going to be an issue.

Succeeding in Law School

Armed with techniques for conquering exams, I started law school. My first year, I never received less than an A- in any law school course. It wasn’t by accident either. I read almost every blog—including this one—about how to exceed in law school.

Also, I found people at the school who received all A’s and asked them how they excelled. I listened to them and took their advice.

At the end of my first year I had a choice, I could stay where I was excelling or leave to attend a law school ranked as one of the top fourteen law schools in the nation (commonly referred to as a “T14 law school”).

The choice also came with a price tag—literally. I chose the road less traveled and opted to transfer.

Why I Decided to Transfer

Here’s why I transferred—opportunities.

Transferring was a huge decision and not as easy as one might think for a variety of reasons.

However, your career is in your hands and no one will look out for you better than you will.

As a former business major, I think analytically and looked at the numbers. I also seek counsel from those who know a lot more than I do. I looked at the average salaries of graduates from my previous law school and compared them to those who graduated from the school I currently attend—the difference was close to $100,000. I spoke with legal recruiters, partners at firms, general counsel, judges, and hiring attorneys for government agencies and all of them said the same thing: transfer.

The resounding advice was go to the highest ranked law school that you can get into.

Why you may ask? Because of the opportunities that it gives you.

Put differently, schools that have higher rankings can open more doors—exceptions aside. So, after looking at the numbers—additional debt contemplated, increased earning potential and rankings, I jumped ship. I left my previous law school and entered the land of T14 law schools.

In doing so, the metaphorical doors seemed to swing open. Since transferring, I have enjoyed having my pick of which ones to walk through.

  • Then, I will give details about my experience, thus far, at my new school. (“Transferring Law Schools: My New Digs”)

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Thanks, Ashley! Looking forward to the rest of the series.

More about Ashley
Ashley Kirkwood graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (“UIUC”) with a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration. While attending UIUC, she majored in international business. Currently, Ashley attends Northwestern University School of Law. She writes for a law journal at Northwestern and recently accepted a summer associate position with a large Chicago law firm. To contact Ashley, email her at View her LinkedIn profile here.

Read On:

A few more first-person accounts you might enjoy:

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  1. I am a transfer student as well from a school in the 50-70 range to a t-14. Besides the obvious reasons for transferring, I also had very bad professors during my second semester in my first year- and that was a big reason why I transferred. My Con Law professor studied in Germany, and had never taught Con Law before. He used notes from another professor- anyway a disaster. I felt like law school was a joke. So I transferred. Best decision of my life! And don’t worry about being a small fish- my GPA did not change one bit even though I went to a T-14 school.

  2. Ashley Kirkwood says

    Thanks for your comment.Yes, transferring was definitely worth it! I am glad you found it to be worthwhile also!

  3. Awesome read. Thanks for sharing. Continue to provide your insight into your law school experience. Best of luck!

  4. Phenomenal advise, forwarded to a friend!

  5. Ashley Kirkwood says

    Thanks for the positive feedback! Please be sure to see the next article, where I detail the process.

  6. This article was really helpful, as I’m looking to transfer into the T14 after my first year at a 2nd Tier school. Weighing the opportunities like you did, there really is no reason not to transfer if you have the numbers and are willing to take the time and effort to apply! Thanks for your advice!

  7. Hi Ashley-

    Your articles have been very helpful. I am a incoming 1L and Kent and want to transfer to Northwestern. Where did you transfer from and do I even have a chance from this school? Please let me know what you think. Thanks!

    • Hi!

      I transferred from John Marshall in Chicago, which is ranked lower than Chicago Kent, so you definitely have a chance! In fact, there were at least two other transfer students from Kent the year I transferred!

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