Law School Discussion

Does volunteer work matter a lot?

Does volunteer work matter a lot?
« on: July 22, 2010, 10:43:30 PM »

I was wondering if lacking a volunteer experience during college matter a lot in law school application. I have a good internship + research experience, but I feel many of my friends who're applying to top 15 law schools have quite a bit of volunteering experience, whether they went Guatemala to help the poor during the summer or went to teach elementary students on a weekly basis. I have done volunteering throughout my highschool / post-highschool years, but not necessary in college. Would it matter a lot? Would the admissions committee see me as a heartless person?

Thanks! :D

Re: Does volunteer work matter a lot?
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2010, 11:11:42 PM »
It dosnt hurt and might get you some good LOR's but overall no, gpa and lsat matter much more.


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Re: Does volunteer work matter a lot?
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2010, 11:28:18 PM »
I don't think it would hurt you or that they would see you as heartless. Based on what you wrote, it sounds like they'd think you were busy interning and researching. T-14 schools are a little different from a lot of the other schools, so maybe Morten Lund or Bike Pilot will chime in since they went to top schools.

Re: Does volunteer work matter a lot?
« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2010, 01:02:20 AM »
I agree with C, its called volunteer for a reason(not mandatory) Lots of people do it and god bless'em for it.
But yeah, you shouldn't sweat it. The internship will probally look just as good on the resume.

Re: Does volunteer work matter a lot?
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2010, 01:40:44 AM »

Thanks all! ;D

Re: Does volunteer work matter a lot?
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2010, 09:54:38 AM »
I generally agree.  I do not believe that "volunteering" (or not) in a vacuum is particularly relevant.  GPA/LSAT is always the most important thing, and generally there are no specific required soft factors.

That said, a few thoughts on volunteering and other soft factors (which apply to law school and employment both):

- Well-rounded is good.  Don't be all sports, or all academics, or all social work.

- BUT, there is a big difference between being "well-rounded" and being a dabbler.  Trying everything but sticking with nothing makes you look bad.  Somebody (a biglaw partner who is also an interviewer for a NY law school) once told me that he specifically looked for the highest level of achievement on the resume.  He liked Eagle Scouts - not because he gave a hoot about scouting, but because the high rank showed commitment and discipline.  Similarly, he preferred single-sport champions over four-sport lettermen.  Most reviewers will probably not take that extreme of a view, but the principle remains that you want your resume to say something positive about you as a person - not just that you have many hobbies and know how to pad a resume.

- You want to stand out.  Volunteering at the soup kitchen, or the summer volunteering in Honduras, does not make you stand out.  You could fill the Titanic with the resumes of applicants who spent a summer in Honduras.  At some point that stops saying anything about you other than "conformist."  Now, if you are really serious about volunteering, do a two-year stint with the Peace Corps, or spend six months working the leper colonies in Calcutta.  That tells me that (a) you meant it, (b) you probably learned something valuable, and (c) you aren't like the other resume-padders.  I would rather know about how you helped your uncle clear brush in West Texas every summer for a decade.

- It doesn't have to be leper colonies in Calcutta.  Most people can't/won't do that, which is why it is unusual.  But everybody has a leper colony (so to speak) - find yours.  Find something that genuinely interests you, and find a way to show your dedication to that something.  It needn't be volunteering at all.

- Don't worry about "checking boxes" for the resume.  Let your resume be you - so long as "you" are interesting, dedicated, and disciplined.