Are time-outs allowed?
November 6, 2007 8:46 PM   Subscribe

LawSchool Filter: From an admissions standpoint does it matter what job I have for the 1yr+ between graduation and law school?

I will be graduating with my BA in December, and am going to apply to law school during the next admission cycle (around Oct 2008) with plans to start in Fall 2009.

Does it matter what I do in-between?

I've managed to save a decent amount, so financially it would be possible for me to move to Boston and take any B.S. job that pays most of the bills (i.e. - barista, waiter, etc). I have the option of staying put at my more 'adult' job in a different city, but feel an overwhelming desire to just relax and enjoy my adopted hometown before heading into law school.
posted by doppleradar to Education (16 answers total)
This really doesn't matter at all. 1 year of work experience is very low on the "soft factor" list. As long as you have something to put on your resume, you'll be fine.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:48 PM on November 6, 2007

As I've always understood it, any good job experience that you can draw from is better than folding t-shirts at the Gap or whatever. If you can, at the very least, volunteer at a legal aid center or do SOMETHING during your time off that can add to your application.
posted by k8t at 8:48 PM on November 6, 2007

No, it does not matter what you do. I guess it could help you a bit if you do something extraordinary, but if you have the numbers (GPA, LSAT) to get in somewhere, the fact that you worked at Old Navy for 8 months will not hurt you. Some of my law school classmates are very accomplished (for example), but plenty others worked as bank tellers, baristas, and waitstaff in the years between college and law school.
posted by Partial Law at 8:51 PM on November 6, 2007

i took a year off from college graduation (6/76) to entering law school (9/77). except for hitchhiking and hopping freight trains from los angeles to maine and back, i spent about 60 hours/week of that year at temp jobs making a ton of money, and they let me into hastings. don't worry too much.
posted by bruce at 8:53 PM on November 6, 2007

It (probably) won't hurt you to take a service-level job, but it would (probably) be better to have a more adult job.

This varies by admissions committee, school, etc... but by and large the reason why law schools like the students who don't go straight through isn't merely because they just took time off, it's because they hope those students will have "real life" experiences to share... and a more balanced outlook on life.

But, in the end, what you do will probably not determine whether or not you get in most places.
posted by toomuchpete at 8:59 PM on November 6, 2007

Best answer: I took a year off before law school and worked for a big law firm. I think it helped me, but I also had a non-traditional major for heading into law school (psychology). It's probably not something you really need to worry about. Honestly though, working in the legal field is what cemented my interest in becoming a lawyer and gave me an inside glimpse into the legal world, which was invaluable to me. I'd consider working somewhere tangentially related to the type of law you might want to go into.
posted by harrumph at 9:00 PM on November 6, 2007

I'd also have to disagree with The World Famous: taking some time off can do a world of good.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:00 PM on November 6, 2007

The answer on this depends on a few things:

First, what kind of school are you looking to get into? The higher the school's rank, the tougher the process, so I'd get the best job you qualify for in your interim year. It doesn't necessarily have to be a legal job, but it's not a bad idea.

Second, how strong is your LSAT score and undergrad GPA? Like others have said, this is primarily what the admissions committee will be looking at, but good work experience can tip the balance in your favor, especially in the event you're applying to a very competitive school.

I'm currently at a top-20 law school, and I know that my work experience after undergrad and related service in the community was what go me in - it certainly wasn't on my numbers alone.

You will not regret taking the time off. Best of luck!
posted by non sum qualis eram at 9:14 PM on November 6, 2007

I don't think it matters much for admissions, but as for getting jobs while in law school it can really help you be in a better position than other students that may have come straight from undergrad and have zero work experience to put on their resume. Also, doing something in business can help you. However, I don't think its such a plus that you should give up what might otherwise be an awesome year to do it.

I also really disagree with The World Famous. I find a lot of kids that went straight from college wished they had taken some time off. Law school is nothing like college work wise and working at a really mundane crap job for a couple years, makes law school a far more appealing alternative. It also forces you to have time management skills which are critical for law school.
posted by whoaali at 9:14 PM on November 6, 2007

Best answer: 1. Contrary to The World Famous, I would highly recommend taking a year or two off, based on lots of data. But that's not what you are asking.

2. Few legal (meaning, not unlawful) jobs will handicap your application. On the upside, if you're able to put on your application that you work in an apiary, there's some possibility that it will catch an admission committee's eye.

3. Think beyond admission. Will the job's location expose you to a new city where you might like to live, or provide an experience that convinces a firm you are committed to that city? Will it give you something interesting to talk about during interviews? Will it let you do something wholly unlike that which you'll be doing with your law degree, and enrich your life? Will it help you keep afloat during school, reduce your debt, and give you slightly greater freedom in selecting a lower paying job afterward? Etc.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:18 PM on November 6, 2007

I got into my top choice school after a) dropping out of a grad program sans degree and b) spending a year working retail and other crap, seasonal jobs in my hometown. Law school can be all-consuming, if you let it -- it's really nice to have had some fun (and hopefully established a bit of a life outside of school) before you start.
posted by katemonster at 9:24 PM on November 6, 2007

The World Famous,

Why? What, precisely, is the downside? And why do you downplay any more indirect benefits? The only argument I see is the last-year-of-income move.

Anyway, the poster IS taking a year off. FWIW, the people I've known who were closest to indifferent about their in-between year(s) were those who worked at law firms, and who think that maybe the year would have been just as well saved to spend as a lawyer. Some of the most pleased have been those who took the opportunity to do something completely different, and look back on it fondly as a frolic and detour.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 4:21 AM on November 7, 2007

Time outs are allowed. A variety of factors can cause students to take whatever job they can get after college, and the fact that it isn't a resume-builder is not held against them.

While an "adult" job is unlikely to help you in the admissions process, it might help your performance in your ultimate job after law school, particularly if you are inclined towards working in a law firm. In my experience, students who have never held adult jobs stick out like sore thumbs in law firms, and can suffer from being tagged as immature.
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 6:07 AM on November 7, 2007

Take five years off. Being a lawyer is serious business, and you might as well have some fun first.

(FWIW, my 2.5 years working at a nonprofit before law school were key to everything that happened after.)
posted by footnote at 6:15 AM on November 7, 2007

Best answer: I'll echo what's been said a couple times; it might help you a bit in LS admissions to have a law job, but it'll help you quite a bit when you're looking for internships/permanent jobs. I worked 2 legal jobs before Law School (while I was in undergrad; I went straight through) and the fact that I did doc review pushed me past some of my peers with similar grades.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:21 AM on November 7, 2007

It won't matter much in law school admissions, but if your year off is interesting, then it can be mildly helpful when interviewing for jobs.

Some of the most pleased have been those who took the opportunity to do something completely different, and look back on it fondly as a frolic and detour.

Ahh, the subtle aroma of repurposing legal terminology for casual conversation. I do this sort of thing all the time.
posted by Falconetti at 11:16 AM on November 7, 2007

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