First and foremost congrats on the great semester!
Before I say anything substantive realize that anyone posting on this board or others my post included is coming from anonymous internet posters and should be taken with a major grain of salt. For all you know I am the Dean of Georgetown Law or a crackhead in a public library on anonymous internet forums either individual can post the same as the next.
With that intro Doctolaw's post is typically true to transfer up at all you need to be in the top 10-20% and to transfer to a T14 in the top 5% or higher. Obviously 80-90% of first year classes do not finish in the top 10-20% and 95% don't finish in the top 5%. However, ranking in the top 3% after your first semester there is a chance of transferring assuming you keep your grades up, but the bigger question becomes do you want to transfer?
There are pros and cons to transferring. I went to a low-mid-level school the rankings have changed so drastically since I graduated I don't even know what it is anymore. Anyways, I finished in the top 10% after 1L and could have transferred, but choose not to. Many of classmates transferred and many stayed some loved the transfer others hated it. Below are some factors to consider when choosing to transfer or not and it is up to you analyze them and make the decision.
I think the following factors in this order are what any law student should consider when choosing a law school.
(1) Location; (2) Cost; (3) Personal Feelings about school and your network at current school; (4) Understanding the reality of legal education; (5) Last and least U.S. News ranking. Here is a pretty good article explaining it, but it is more geared towards 0L's not transfers. http://www.legalmatch.com/choose-the-right-law-school.html
Things to consider as a transfer: Ask for scholarship money:
You mention costs and one thing to definitely do with your class rank is negotiate scholarship money. Many of my classmates that stayed and myself said we would transfer if they didn't give us scholarship money and our school did. If you don't ask they won't give it to you, but if you are in the top 3% you are an excellent performer and they don't want to you leave. You should apply to the other schools and tell Widener you are thinking about transferring, but you can stay if they offer you scholarship money. If they don't budge then f em you can transfer to a new school. Your current network at school:
One thing a lot of my classmates that transferred struggled with was adjusting to the new school. During 1L clicks are formed and you typically have your group and it makes law school enjoyable. If you don't have that then not really something to consider, but I know I made several really good friends in law school that I would have lost had I transferred after knowing them for just one year.
Also, just adjusting to a new school as the new person can be tough if you are a bit shy and reserved. If you are a super outgoing person then that is less of a factor, but that is a question only you can answer. Being the Big fish in a small pond or normal fish in a giant pond?
If your in the top 3% there is a chance you could graduate as the number 1 student in your class, which is impressive at any ABA school. Odds are the students above you will transfer up making you the top 1%, which is more impressive than being in the middle of the pack at Temple. You can basically be the star at a small school or be another guy at a better school, but schools like Rutgers, Drexel, Villanova aren't going to impress employers they are fine, but nothing special. I interview people and if I saw 1 at Widener or middle of the class at Villanova I personally would choose to speak with 1 at Widener. Obviously, other people might think differently, but that is the world some people will love Widener others hate it. Some will love Georgetown others will hate it so on and so on.
One other thing to realize is the importance of confidence particularly in preparation for the bar exam. If you are just killing it at Widener and doing a great job you are going to feel good and confident. If you transfer to Villanova and struggle 2L, which can happen you might lose confidence and think you should have stayed at Widener. Or you might be super motivated to be the best at Villanova or wherever you transfer, again I don't know you or how you will react and odds are you don't either.
One final thing to consider is that before you choose to transfer visit every school you are considering. I know as a 0L I visited a number of schools and some I loved others I hated. I can't explain, but they just me a feeling, but others might love it. Much like a City I live in San Francisco and I love it, but plenty of people hate it. I personally do not like Sacramento, but there are plenty of people that love it there. The same is true of law schools and you need to visit each and determine if it is a good fit for YOU.
Whether to transfer or not is a highly personal decision. Before even considering that you should focus on this next semester and keep your grades up. I knew several people that did well first semester and thought they had it all down only to get back second semester grades, so you are still a 1L with a lot to learn. Stay focused on the school you are at for the time being.
If you do great after 1L and have the option to transfer negotiate for scholarship money. I know several of my friends got $25,000 per year scholarships for not transferring. I do not know if Widener will do that or not, but there is absolutely no harm in asking.
Then consider how you feel about Widener do you like the professors, have friends, so on and so on is it worth it to transfer to some mid level school like Villanova? Maybe.
One final point I want to reiterate is the U.S. News rankings please do not let it be to large of a factor in your decision. Schools like Penn & Georgetown can open some doors, but Villanova or Temple etc change drastically year by year. See attached chart http://www.top-law-schools.com/rankings.htmlRealities of U.S. News Rankings and their irrelevance
In 2009 Villanova was ranked 61st today it is in a 7 way tie for 93rd. In five years it could easily be back at 61. In 2009 Template was 65th in 2011 it got up to a three way tie for 58th now it is in a 3 way tie for 61st. The rankings aren't actually based on anything it is just a for profit magazine offering an opinion. Nothing wrong with them doing it, but they rank more than law schools. Alberqueue, New Mexico is the #1 place to live according to U.S. News http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/slideshows/best-places-to-live
. I do not see New Mexico on your places to transfer to, because it probably seems crazy to move to a new city based on what a magazine says. However, for some reason and I was no different when I was in the law school students make life altering decisions regarding their careers based on a magazine and it is not a good idea.
Georgetown and Penn are well known schools that even if U.S. News ranked them dead last people would still know and U.S. News would lose credibility by doing that. However, Villanova, Widener, Drexel they could be top 50 or 180 nobody would think much of it they are all fine schools that will teach you the law.
Good luck in your decision and congrats on your strong first semester.