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Getting Work Experience

Seeing many of your classmates apply to law school may give the impression that the “normal” time to attend law school is right after college. However, only about one-third of law students begin their studies in the fall after college graduation. The average age to begin law school is about 25, reflecting the fact that many people take at least one or two years off after college. 

Taking time to work, study, or pursue other opportunities after college does not hurt your chances of admission to law school, and it often helps. Indeed, law schools typically pride themselves on having a student body that brings a diverse range of experiences to their studies.

Consider the following statements by law school deans of admissions:

“If applicants come to us with a little bit of experience, they have more leverage in their application. If you take time off you usually are more focused.” U.C. Berkeley Dean of Admissions.

“Students who have spent some time out of school tend to have greater self-awareness and life perspective than someone who has remained in the bubble of school their whole life. So, often these students tend to have more mature, sophisticated personal statements that can give them an advantage in the admissions process.” Yale Law School Dean of Admissions.

Advantages of Waiting

Taking time to do other things after college can provide other benefits unrelated to the chances of admission.

Work experience may provide you with a clearer idea of what you hope to get out of law school. Although the slate of courses generally is predetermined for the first year, many students are surprised by how soon after unpacking they are faced with making choices that can affect their post-graduation opportunities. “What summer jobs should I target?” “Should I try out for a law journal?” “What extracurricular organizations and activities should I pursue?” Knowing what you want out of law school will furnish a more solid frame for making these kinds of decisions. 

Work experience also may provide you with a clearer understanding of your own preferences, which will be helpful to you in selecting a law school. For example, your work experience may help you determine where you would like to work after law school, and seeking work in the same region as your law school generally provides a substantial leg up in the employment market. 

Law school is intense. Taking time between college and law school may allow you to begin law school refreshed and energized. This “gap period” can be a wonderful time to pursue a rewarding experience that might be impractical after beginning law school. 

The following remarks speak to the point:

“Law school includes many long nights, busy summers and a whole lot of work. . . Once you’ve begun, it will be exceedingly difficult for you to take a significant break. You will be on a path that transitions quickly from school to career. After law school, you will study for the bar exam and start a job that will most likely require sixty, seventy or even eighty hour work weeks. As this timeline demonstrates, if you feel like you need a couple years to rest and recharge or travel or have a significant volunteer experience, the time to do so is before law school.” Washington & Lee Law, Director of Admissions.

“Before attending, take whatever time you need to make sure that law is the right choice for you. If that means taking some time to do something else, do it. Law school will still be there when you’re ready. The last thing you want to do is start law school and then spend the first few weeks second-guessing your decision.” Cornell Law School, Dean of Admissions.

Some students rush to law school right after college due to a mistaken impression that waiting will hurt the quality of their applications. In particular, some worry that they will not be able to get recommendations or support from their mentors. The reality is that waiting may well improve the quality of your application.

If You Don't Go Straight To Law School

If you think you will apply to law school in the future, then before (or shortly after) graduating, you can (and should) set up your LSAC account and ask your professors for recommendations. (In most instances, two academic recommendations suffices.) LSAC will hold the recommendations in your file, and, if necessary, they can be updated at a later time. 

Your career advisors at the University of Richmond will continue to support you in your pursuit of a legal education after graduation. Moreover, you may even pick up new mentors and recommendations through your work or other experience after college.