I'm sure I'm just like many law students - we get humanties degrees, don't know what to do, our lawyer-filled families suggest we go to law school, we say 'what the hell?' and do it.
I'm in the second semester of my first year. I don't like it; I dislike most of my classmates, find much of the material mind-numbing, and .. just don't really want to be a lawyer at this point. Then again, I've still got the same problem I had when I walked out of the auditorium with my philosophy and english BAs in that I have no earthly idea what sort of career I could go into other than law.
I've been itching to get out of the country for a while, perhaps with some foreign aid work - peace corps, etc - or maybe teaching english as a secondary language (TESL).
Let's say I went with either after this semester and spent 2-3 years overseas.
If I felt like coming back to law school, how would potential employers view a 2-3 year break between the first and second years?
I assume it would be with skepticism and they might think it shows a lack of dedication, comittment, seriousness (and it probably does).
I realize most of yall will say that I really should drop out anyway, and that's probably true, but I am curious anyway. I don't have any other idea what to do. I had some hopes of being a philosophy professor once, but the job market in academia is shakier than even that of lawyering.
Aloha, Stylee -
First, congratulations. Really. We often think that "finding ourselves" means justifying a path we've already taken, but the fact that you've expressed serious reservations (albeit in the heat of the semester) is important. You're quite right that many law students fall into law school as much as they choose it. Paradoxically, this isn't always bad. But it's certainly cause for the sort of circumspection your question exemplifies. So, thus the congratulations are genuine. (I'd bet 92% of your classmates are thinking exactly the same thing.)
To your question: employers won't care (usually), as they WILL care about two things: (1) school + grades; and (2) personability.
Believe it or not, taking a year or two off will not usually be determinative. Clearly it presents logistical challenges (depending upon the school and OCI process), but again, legal employers are looking at the world rather differently than law students.
However . . . it seems that your perspective is not likely to be conducive to a big firm job (to which the above is generally directed). Anyone seeking a stint in the Peace Corps is likely to find more comfort taking a job as counsel in the Peace Corps (or like organization) after the stint, rather than an 80-hour-a-week highly paid legal sweatshop.
(Note: I am NOT commenting on the wisdom of this, as that's really the question for each of us. It's easy . . . too easy . . . to assume that the six-figure job is the way to go. The truth? It is, but only for some . . . and not based just on grades, but more importantly on the soft factors you mention. Some people are happy in a big firm; most are not. Will YOU be?)
A thought: whether you decide to teach English abroad, join the Peace Corps, VISTA, or some such, there's really no impact in terms of your current options. In other words, completing your first year or not is unlikely to make a difference. It IS, however, likely to make a difference in terms of your asking the nagging "What ifs" years later.
My suggestion? Complete your first year. If you plan to take a break thereafter--perhaps a permanent one--you'll have a different perspective on law school. Chances are, you'll have a healthier perspective, and chances are almost as good that you'll actually perform better than had you stayed in your (dis)stressed mode. Why? Because the way most law students study and act is inefficient and, usually, counterproductive. This is because the world of the law student is viewed as a student, not as a future professional. Etch this in your mind: while you might find discomfort in how law school makes certain people act out in hypercompetitive and negative ways, ALL of that will be irrelevant. The ONLY thing that is relevant (to employers especially) is how one learns the law. For employers, this is viewed through the prism of the law exam. So, as much as you can, ignore the bad and do NOT succumb to this. It is absolutely essential, regardless of what you decide (and, if you do continue, how you place) to stay true. Presumably, this means staying honest and cheerful--or at least honest and pleasant. I know this sounds outrageously chipper, but it really, really will make a difference. For all, remember that you will be WORKING with these people for decades. Even if you move elsewhere, you'll be surprised at how many times your colleagues' names come up.
I hope this helps,
PS: For thoughts on what employers will care about, there's a book I read that might be helpful. It's "The Insider's Guide to Getting a Big Firm Job: What Every Law Student Should Know About Interviewing." Your question reminded me of the foreword to that book, by Morten Lund, who wrote the two "Jagged Rocks of Wisdom" books. His books are excellent. (Better than mine!) Morten is a partner in a big firm, and he tells it straight. I highly recommend all three, regardless of what you do. (Seriously, even if you decide to join an ashram, Lund's two books will be invaluable. Okay, maybe not an ashram. But an MBA and nearly everything in between, yes.)