You may consider taking a gap year before law school if you're an aspiring lawyer. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of taking a gap year.
When you enter law school, expect to spend the next three years dedicating all of your time to your studies and opportunities that can facilitate your education.
You’ll have to be mentally and financially prepared to get through these three grueling years and excel in them! After all, law school grades are considered one of the most important factors in determining your job prospects post-graduation!
If you’re unsure if you’re ready for this commitment, this article will go over the potential risks and benefits of taking a gap year.
Deciding whether or not a gap year is the right choice for you depends on your unique situation, career plans, and life goals. To help you make this decision, consider the pros and cons of taking a gap year.
Let’s begin with the positives! Here are some pros of taking a gap year.
By taking a gap year, you can dedicate more effort to your LSAT prep and increase your chances of reaching your target score.
It’s no secret that law school costs an arm and a leg, and most students acquire copious amounts of debt with their law degree. To help ease the financial burden of law school, you can work during your gap year!
Going off the last point, during your time off, you can gain valuable experience that will make you stand out as a candidate and maximize your chances of getting into your dream school!
Most fresh grads don’t have much experience on their resumes because they are busy focusing on school. If you have a year of relevant experience on your resume, your application will already be one step ahead of the game.
It would be best to get direct law experience during your year off. Still, you can also find other opportunities to help you hone some of the key skills that lawyers need, including leadership, initiative, communication, critical thinking, adaptability, and interpersonal skills.
As we stated, your JD is a huge time commitment. A time commitment that will likely take precedence over any other major life goals you plan on achieving, like backpacking across Europe.
With your summers between your JD years being short and best used for clerkships, you can kiss backpacking goodbye for at least three years.
Once you graduate with your JD, you’ll likely be searching for a job to begin paying off your debt as soon as possible, making it difficult to check off certain bucket list goals.
By taking a gap year, you can backpack through Europe, travel elsewhere, pick up a hobby, or fulfill other life goals you have!
You can rest after completing your undergrad to explore other interests and passions. Doing so will allow you to enter law school refreshed, regret-free, and with happy places to imagine when the program gets tough!
For students who don’t take a gap year, their applications will be submitted during their senior year of college, leaving them little time to think about what they truly want to do with their undergrad.
While you might think law is the perfect path for you, taking a gap year can help you confirm this passion. Whether you choose to explore a different career or try gaining some legal experience, taking a gap year can help you decide if you’re making the correct decision by going to law school.
Now, the negatives. Here are some cons of taking a gap year.
If you decide to take a gap year, you’ll have to fill this time with something meaningful; law school committees don’t like seeing gaps of more than a few months on their candidates’ resumes.
If you plan on taking a gap year just to kick back and relax, then you’re going to harm your chances of admission when you want to go to law school.
While you don’t have to pick up a full-time job and volunteer in your free time, you should find at least a part-time job or volunteer position that will prevent you from having a large gap in your resume.
If you aren’t willing to stay busy during your gap year, you’re better off just applying straight out of college. As a new graduate, admissions committees won’t expect your resume to be jam-packed or have direct law experience. However, if you take a gap year, they might.
There is also a high risk that you will enjoy the freedom you have with your gap year too much to end it after just one year.
You may take one more year off and then continue doing so. In this case, you’re leaving more room for admissions committees to question your time off and decisions, you risk having your LSAT score become invalid, and you may not be able to secure letters of recommendation from your professors anymore.
You should only take a gap year if you’re sure law school is the right path and are dedicated enough to fight the urge to extend your gap year.
While we’ve already made some suggestions on what you can do during your gap year, the opportunities are endless. Since you’ll have a whole year to yourself, you should try to check off some of your bucket list items and spend time de-stressing before going to law school.
You should dedicate a decent amount of your time to pursuing meaningful professional or volunteer experiences that can boost your application and set you apart from other applicants.
You may also want to learn more about the law and perfect your writing, reasoning, and reading skills to get through law school more easily!
If you need help deciding what law school to attend, check out this “Where Should I Go to Law School? Quiz!”
If you decide to take a gap year, you should get a job to boost your resume and make yourself a competitive applicant for law school. Here are the jobs to consider for your gap year.
Choosing a legal assistant position during a law school gap year provides practical, hands-on experience, enhancing essential legal skills and offering financial stability. The role fosters valuable networking opportunities with legal professionals, strengthens resumes, and provides insights into daily legal operations.
This choice helps with skill development, provides networking opportunities, and contributes to professional growth.
Working in a research position refines crucial legal skills—analytical reasoning and writing. Additionally, it offers the opportunity to contribute to published works, enhancing your resume and providing valuable content for interview discussions.
A research position can showcase similar capabilities if you lack the chance to write a thesis or significant paper during college. Some institutions, like Harvard Law School, explicitly inquire about substantial written works in their admissions process.
Law schools value applicants with a proven commitment to service work, whether through political, civic, or faith-based organizations. Involvement in assisting vulnerable populations helps identify causes aligned with personal values.
Despite being demanding and modestly compensated, such service-oriented roles provide excellent entry-level opportunities. Due to understaffing, these organizations have ample room for personal growth and initiative. Whether working individually or as part of a team, engaging in grassroots efforts can contribute to compelling personal statements.
If you’re still unsure if you should take a gap year, here are frequently asked questions about taking time off before law school.
If students use their gap year to make themselves better candidates through a higher LSAT score or a richer resume, then yes! A gap year can help them get into law school more easily and give them time to fulfill other goals.
A lot of people wonder what to do in a gap year.
A lot of people wonder what to do in a gap year.
You should ideally work or volunteer in a legal environment or retake the LSAT if your score is low. If you cannot gain experience in the legal field, find an opportunity that allows you to develop skills that will still be useful in it.
Yes, if you feel you won’t have enough time during your undergrad to study for and write the LSAT, or your current LSAT score is too low to give you a competitive chance at admission, taking a gap year to study is a great idea.
Most undergraduate students don’t work before law school; if they do, it isn’t directly in the legal field. Students who take gap years generally work, though, and try to find employment in the legal field.
Yes, it is recommended that you disclose your gap year plans in your law school application. This transparency demonstrates honesty and gives the admissions committee insights into how you plan to spend the gap year.
Clearly outlining your intentions during the gap year can enhance your application by showcasing your commitment to personal and professional development, potentially strengthening your candidacy.
Law schools generally value gap year activities that demonstrate a commitment to personal and professional development, with a preference for experiences like legal internships, paralegal work, or related positions that enhance relevant skills.
Leadership and community service are also appreciated. It's important to show how chosen activities align with career goals and contribute to your preparedness for law school. Law schools seek purposeful and thoughtful gap year plans that reflect dedication to the legal field and personal growth.
If you take a gap year and make it meaningful, you can open more doors of opportunity for yourself. It can help you get into law school, excel in it, and even feel fulfilled with your life outside of law!