Law School Discussion

taking a year off b/t college and law school?

taking a year off b/t college and law school?
« on: June 07, 2008, 03:51:02 PM »
I'm a rising senior at UPenn double-majoring in math and English. My GPA is around 3.4 (and will go up next year, I suspect -- I took a good number of graduate-level math classes in the last few years which I got B's in, but next year is very English-heavy, which generally means higher grades for me). I unfortunately missed the June LSAT date, so I was planning to take it in October. I have only been studying on my own, and only for about two weeks, and my practice scores are generally in the ~150-160 range, and steadily climbing. I think that I could break 170 on the LSAT in October if I work hard this summer. But what I'm really wondering is this: What are people's thoughts regarding going straight v. taking a year off to work? Because I always thought I'd just go straightaway, but since then I've heard many recommendations to take a year off and get some work experience -- I've heard that it's good to get a break from school just to gain some perspective, and that it's easier to get internships with prior experience, and also just that people who have taken a year off are generally just handle the first year better. What do you all think about this?

ETA: I should probably also mention that my far and away first choice is, unsurprisingly, Chicago (because it's such a great school, not because EVERYONE should want to go there). I'm also looking at NYU, Stanford, Georgetown, Northwestern, and schools in that range. I'm kind of looking to get out of the Ivies for a while. :-p

Re: taking a year off b/t college and law school?
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2008, 08:37:29 PM »
Yeah, I'm in pretty much the same boat as Madeline. I'm curious though what kind of work experience one would suggest. Would it be possible for one to get a paralegal job? Or is legal work not really be necessary? I hear rumblings about Teach for America. Think that might be good?

Re: taking a year off b/t college and law school?
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2008, 08:51:22 PM »
legal work is not necessary. tfa is a nice soft, but realize that a lot of ppl in LS did TFA, so it won't help you out THAT much.

i recommend taking a year off...your brain needs a rest. plus, you can save money.  and WE is a *slight* soft factor (especially for a school like Northwestern, since you expressed interest in it.  IIRC, 98% of the entering class has at least 1 year of WE).

Re: taking a year off b/t college and law school?
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2008, 09:45:18 PM »
Taking a year off was the best decision ever - thanks Penn for WLing me last year ;)

I think it's something you don't fully appreciate until you actually do it. I've gotten some legal work experience, saved money, traveled, spent lots and lots of time with friends & family, visited my UG for things like homecoming/roommate reunions that I know I wouldn't have been able to do if I went straight through... it's been a great year and now I'm really anxious and excited to get back in school mode. The time flies by.

Re: taking a year off b/t college and law school?
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2008, 09:57:28 PM »
I took a year off and did absolutely nothing but relax, travel, hang out with friends, etc.  I have no work experience.  I don't think it matters at all.


Re: taking a year off b/t college and law school?
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2008, 10:30:32 PM »

May take a year off as well

Re: taking a year off b/t college and law school?
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2008, 11:19:13 PM »
I also recommend taking at least a year off. Even if you won't make a huge amount of money, it's worth it for the experience, the ability to hang out with friends, travel, whatever. I'm working 50+ hrs/week now and I still have time for friends. And I'm able to save a decent amount of money, too.

Re: taking a year off b/t college and law school?
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2008, 08:35:54 AM »
When I was set to graduate from undergrad in 04, the weekend before I was set to take the LSAT, I decided to take a year off because I wasn't prepared for the LSAT (scoring in the 140's). My dad is a lawyer and needless to say, he wasn't real thrilled about my decision. He was a firm believer in the myth that "if you don't go right away, you'll never go." We both admit now that taking a year off was probably one of the best decisions I've ever made.

From a work related standpoint, I don't really think it's worth it to just take up a job as a paralegal (if you have better non-law opportunities) on the basis that this job will be a greater resume builder for you once you attend law school. I think if you're going to explore meaningful employment, that the year off is the perfect opportunity to explore a non-legal career that may be of interest to you.  In the best case scenario, you might end up finding a career that you like without having to endure the expense and time commitment that law school requires. On the flipside, you should become more comfortable with your decision to attend law school once you've had a taste of what's really out there. I always had an interest in seeing what the corporate world was like and worked as an entry-level trade analyst for a large corporation. Within a month or two, not only did I realize that the corporate world was not for me (asskissing, job insecurity, mundane tasks), but it made my desire to attend law school even stronger.

Also, you can use your work experience as a positive selling point whether or not it's law related. During interviews, I have explained to employers that I wanted to try a non-legal career before taking the plunge into law school, and while that career wasn't a good fit for me, the experience I obtained in negotiating with outsiders and working with other employees will serve me well in the future. A partner from a mid-sized firm that I applied to told me during my interview that if two employment candidates are on relatively equal footing, that he almost always chooses the one who has taken a year or two off from undergrad. Another interviewer praised my decision to take a year off and said she wished she had done the same when she was my age.

As other people have stated, the year off is worthwhile for many other reasons. You'll finally have a paycheck and can go visit friends, head back to your UG school to party, go on road trips, and save up for a vacation, spend time with family, etc. Also, with the money I stashed away that year, I was able to fully furnish my apartment and cover my 1L health insurance payments. IMO it's a win-win situation: you can enjoy yourself, have more time to prep for the LSAT, save money, and you'll head into law school fresh and motivated. I truly believe that I wouldn't have done as well in law school if I went straight out of undergrad.


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Re: taking a year off b/t college and law school?
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2008, 08:49:31 AM »
Tag. I'll be out a semester early before law school. I'm already glad I decided to take some time off because I was burnt out on school at the end of the semester, but after working, I'm chomping at the bit to get back to school work. And, as previous posters have pointed out, I'll have some cash saved up so I won't have to take out loans for things like living expenses.

Re: taking a year off b/t college and law school?
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2008, 09:05:55 AM »
Hmm... This all good advise. My only concern is actually GETTING an entry level job. I'm going to receive a BA in Classical Humanities so it's not like I'll have a relevant degree to any job to which I may apply (unless I teach) and I'm really concerned about that. Also, I'm right now under my parent's health insurance and that would be lost if I took a year off, another financial worry of mine. What would be a good entry-level job to take? Again, I understand the benefits of it all but I'm not sure I CAN get a good, fairly well-paying job that will allow me this freedom.