How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

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How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:57 pm

I was a 1L at BU/BC/Fordham/GW who entered in Fall 2011. However, I had to take a leave of absence mid-semester due to personal health reasons, and will consequently re-start 1L year in fall 2012 and (hopefully) graduate in Spring 2015. I theoretically could have continued, but my counselor (as well as several family members) suggested that if would be greatly beneficial that I take a leave of absence from law school and get myself together. Honestly, for the bulk of the semester, my health issues made it difficult to be even marginally productive. I had been experiencing an abnormal amount of anxiety (including panic attacks) and related depression throughout the semester, became physically ill in connection with this, and felt distracted and extremely unprepared to take the finals. What kind of effect will this have on my employment prospects? How will employers look at a leave of absence? Is there any way I could put a positive spin on this? In the mean time, I'll focus on taking better care of myself (mentally, physically, emotionally, etc.), seeking long-term help, and gaining additional work experience.

In addition, how will my mental health issues affect me in C&F? Will the board of bar examiners know that I sought personal counseling services or have access to my health records?

If anyone has any insight, it would be greatly appreciated.

LawIdiot86
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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby LawIdiot86 » Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:27 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I was a 1L at BU/BC/Fordham/GW who entered in Fall 2011. However, I had to take a leave of absence mid-semester due to personal health reasons, and will consequently re-start 1L year in fall 2012 and (hopefully) graduate in Spring 2015. I theoretically could have continued, but my counselor (as well as several family members) suggested that if would be greatly beneficial that I take a leave of absence from law school and get myself together. Honestly, for the bulk of the semester, my health issues made it difficult to be even marginally productive. I had been experiencing an abnormal amount of anxiety (including panic attacks) and related depression throughout the semester, became physically ill in connection with this, and felt distracted and extremely unprepared to take the finals. What kind of effect will this have on my employment prospects? How will employers look at a leave of absence? Is there any way I could put a positive spin on this? In the mean time, I'll focus on taking better care of myself (mentally, physically, emotionally, etc.), seeking long-term help, and gaining additional work experience.

In addition, how will my mental health issues affect me in C&F? Will the board of bar examiners know that I sought personal counseling services or have access to my health records?

If anyone has any insight, it would be greatly appreciated.

You really need to speak with your school's ethics officer. As far as C&F goes, the amount you need to disclose varies by state. For example, in Florida, they probably will require you to disclose it per http://www.floridabarexam.org/public/main.nsf/rules.html#3-11 ("evidence of mental or emotional instability;"). In NJ the questions you would need to disclose are on page 21 of --LinkRemoved-- ("Are you currently suffering from an emotional, mental, or nervous disorder that impairs your judgment or what would otherwise adversely affect your ability to practice law in compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Rules of Court, and applicable case law?"). In NY the question you would need to answer is on page 10 of http://www.nycourts.gov/courts/ad1/committees&programs/cfc/AdmissionsPackage-NoLetterFillable.pdf (". . . any mental or emotional condition of substance abuse problem that could adversely affect your capability to practice law?"). Only a trained ethics counselor can advise you on what is a complete and honest answer to whatever question applies in the state you are seeking admission.

Career prospects? Your career center probably has a counselor who specializes in diversity matters and they would tell you what employers can and can't ask, but expect to have to explain it to most legal employers to some extent. Don't forget that if you want to practice in a firm, it is as stressful as law school and it isn't worth your health to have some arbitrary salary figure.

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:37 pm

LawIdiot86 wrote:You really need to speak with your school's ethics officer. As far as C&F goes, the amount you need to disclose varies by state. For example, in Florida, they probably will require you to disclose it per http://www.floridabarexam.org/public/main.nsf/rules.html#3-11 ("evidence of mental or emotional instability;"). In NJ the questions you would need to disclose are on page 21 of --LinkRemoved-- ("Are you currently suffering from an emotional, mental, or nervous disorder that impairs your judgment or what would otherwise adversely affect your ability to practice law in compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Rules of Court, and applicable case law?"). In NY the question you would need to answer is on page 10 of http://www.nycourts.gov/courts/ad1/committees&programs/cfc/AdmissionsPackage-NoLetterFillable.pdf (". . . any mental or emotional condition of substance abuse problem that could adversely affect your capability to practice law?"). Only a trained ethics counselor can advise you on what is a complete and honest answer to whatever question applies in the state you are seeking admission.


so if you do have a mental or emotional condition or substance abuse problem, will it take longer for the bar to process your application?

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2011 7:47 pm

LawIdiot86 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I was a 1L at BU/BC/Fordham/GW who entered in Fall 2011. However, I had to take a leave of absence mid-semester due to personal health reasons, and will consequently re-start 1L year in fall 2012 and (hopefully) graduate in Spring 2015. I theoretically could have continued, but my counselor (as well as several family members) suggested that if would be greatly beneficial that I take a leave of absence from law school and get myself together. Honestly, for the bulk of the semester, my health issues made it difficult to be even marginally productive. I had been experiencing an abnormal amount of anxiety (including panic attacks) and related depression throughout the semester, became physically ill in connection with this, and felt distracted and extremely unprepared to take the finals. What kind of effect will this have on my employment prospects? How will employers look at a leave of absence? Is there any way I could put a positive spin on this? In the mean time, I'll focus on taking better care of myself (mentally, physically, emotionally, etc.), seeking long-term help, and gaining additional work experience.

In addition, how will my mental health issues affect me in C&F? Will the board of bar examiners know that I sought personal counseling services or have access to my health records?

If anyone has any insight, it would be greatly appreciated.

You really need to speak with your school's ethics officer. As far as C&F goes, the amount you need to disclose varies by state. For example, in Florida, they probably will require you to disclose it per http://www.floridabarexam.org/public/main.nsf/rules.html#3-11 ("evidence of mental or emotional instability;"). In NJ the questions you would need to disclose are on page 21 of --LinkRemoved-- ("Are you currently suffering from an emotional, mental, or nervous disorder that impairs your judgment or what would otherwise adversely affect your ability to practice law in compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Rules of Court, and applicable case law?"). In NY the question you would need to answer is on page 10 of http://www.nycourts.gov/courts/ad1/committees&programs/cfc/AdmissionsPackage-NoLetterFillable.pdf (". . . any mental or emotional condition of substance abuse problem that could adversely affect your capability to practice law?"). Only a trained ethics counselor can advise you on what is a complete and honest answer to whatever question applies in the state you are seeking admission.

Career prospects? Your career center probably has a counselor who specializes in diversity matters and they would tell you what employers can and can't ask, but expect to have to explain it to most legal employers to some extent. Don't forget that if you want to practice in a firm, it is as stressful as law school and it isn't worth your health to have some arbitrary salary figure.


Thank you. I will check out the policies of the bar examiners in the states I am interested in practicing. I don't feel comfortable going into details, but my "issues" go much deeper than the normal and anticipated stresses of 1L, although law school has certainly kicked things into overdrive. :( I expect to have to explain the leave of absence to interviewers, but will it be a strike against me? Would they be judgmental of me if I just say, "health reasons" and leave it at that? Wouldn't it be inappropriate of them to pry further into the matter? (And even if if they did, personally, I'd rather explain away taking time off versus explaining away potentially crappy 1L grades).

As to your last comment, I am not really keen on working in a Big Law firm, and lifestyle concerns do play a role in why I'm more inclined towards PI/Gov't. From what I've heard from practitioners, PI/Gov't employers generally have a greater respect for work-life balance compared to Big Law, and studies corroborate this. According to a Michigan Law Review survey a couple years ago, after five years of practice, 32% of attorneys in private practice said they were very satisfied with their careers. 48% of corporate counsel said the same, as did 67% of government attorneys and 78% of public interest attorneys (See note 99, on page 16 of this: http://www.vallexfund.com/download/Bein ... Member.pdf) I don't expect law school or the practice of law to be a stroll through the meadow, but some semblance of work-life balance is really important to me.

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:24 pm

someone at my t14 did this. they are now a 2l and have a sa position.

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:35 pm

First, how do you take a leave of absence before completing a semester? I thought it was the policy of most schools to require 1Ls that withdraw during the first semester to reapply the following year.

Second, this should not be detrimental to your employment opportunities as long as it does not become a habit.

Good luck!

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby MrAnon » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:42 pm

Why would you want to carry on with a legal career at this point? Law school is like babysteps compared to actually having some responsibilities later on for clients. Maybe look into a less pressure filled line of work?

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:56 pm

MrAnon wrote:Why would you want to carry on with a legal career at this point? Law school is like babysteps compared to actually having some responsibilities later on for clients. Maybe look into a less pressure filled line of work?


OP here. Like I said in my second post in this thread, there are some deeper non-law school related stressors underlying why I needed to take time off which I discussed extensively with the Dean of Students and Personal Counseling. I don't feel I need to elucidate them in detail here. In addition to the severe depression, I did become physically ill for a prolonged period, which caused me to miss many classes and prevented me from devoting enough time to schoolwork.

I knew law school and the practice of law are pressure-filled, and I am confident that taking time to recharge myself and care for my health will place me in a better position next fall. I'm was just paranoid that this might a red flag to employers.

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:someone at my t14 did this. they are now a 2l and have a sa position.


Anonymous User wrote:First, how do you take a leave of absence before completing a semester? I thought it was the policy of most schools to require 1Ls that withdraw during the first semester to reapply the following year.

Second, this should not be detrimental to your employment opportunities as long as it does not become a habit.

Good luck!


Thank you, this is reassuring. No, my school is not requiring me to reapply. I will automatically be added to the class of 2015 so long as I send an update in April.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Dec 02, 2011 11:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby NinerFan » Fri Dec 02, 2011 11:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
MrAnon wrote:Why would you want to carry on with a legal career at this point? Law school is like babysteps compared to actually having some responsibilities later on for clients. Maybe look into a less pressure filled line of work?


OP here. Like I said in my second post in this thread, there are some deeper non-law school related stressors underlying why I needed to take time off which I discussed extensively with the Dean of Students and Personal Counseling. I don't feel I need to elucidate them in detail here. In addition to the severe depression, I did become physically ill for a prolonged period, which caused me to miss many classes and prevented me from devoting enough time to schoolwork.

I knew law school and the practice of law are pressure-filled, and I am confident that taking time to recharge myself and care for my health will place me in a better position next fall. I'm was just paranoid that this might a red flag to employers.


Law school is a lot less stress than what you'll encounter as an actual practicing attorney, so I hope you've actually eliminated the causes of your stressors because it's only going to get worse. If 1L year was enough to cause problems like this, then yeah, I think legal employers would consider it a bit of a red flag, because in the grand scheme of things, 1L year is stressful, but nowhere near as bad as what can happy as an associate at a large law firm.

Anyways, the real question is, will they find out about the exactly reasons why you took a leave of absence? If you say it was for a serious health reason, my guess is they wouldn't probe too far, but I have no personal experience in the matter. Try asking lawfirmrecruiter or anyone you might know in the legal industry that works in hiring. Or really, ask your career people how they think you should frame it.

I don't know how it will affect C&F.

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2011 11:23 pm

NinerFan wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
MrAnon wrote:Why would you want to carry on with a legal career at this point? Law school is like babysteps compared to actually having some responsibilities later on for clients. Maybe look into a less pressure filled line of work?


OP here. Like I said in my second post in this thread, there are some deeper non-law school related stressors underlying why I needed to take time off which I discussed extensively with the Dean of Students and Personal Counseling. I don't feel I need to elucidate them in detail here. In addition to the severe depression, I did become physically ill for a prolonged period, which caused me to miss many classes and prevented me from devoting enough time to schoolwork.

I knew law school and the practice of law are pressure-filled, and I am confident that taking time to recharge myself and care for my health will place me in a better position next fall. I'm was just paranoid that this might a red flag to employers.


Law school is a lot less stress than what you'll encounter as an actual practicing attorney, so I hope you've actually eliminated the causes of your stressors because it's only going to get worse. If 1L year was enough to cause problems like this, then yeah, I think legal employers would consider it a bit of a red flag, because in the grand scheme of things, 1L year is stressful, but nowhere near as bad as what can happy as an associate at a large law firm.

Anyways, the real question is, will they find out about the exactly reasons why you took a leave of absence? If you say it was for a serious health reason, my guess is they wouldn't probe too far, but I have no personal experience in the matter. Try asking lawfirmrecruiter or anyone you might know in the legal industry that works in hiring. Or really, ask your career people how they think you should frame it.

I don't know how it will affect C&F.


Thanks for the dose of reality, lol. It is kind of sucky how mental illnesses are not taken as seriously as physical ones, when they can be just as debilitating. :? Hopefully future employers will have the decency not to probe and judge me for it.

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby choochoo » Sat Dec 03, 2011 1:14 am

Will your transcript show a bunch of withdrawals and say that you took time off? Is there a chance that it might not say anything and then employers might just think you're a regular 1L next year with your resume now saying class of 2015?

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 03, 2011 1:20 am

I took a leave of absence from my second semester of 2L, so our situations are not exactly alike, but I can offer you some insight.

First, nobody will pry. At all. I've been on many interviews since then, and they either don't ask about it at all, or, if they do, all you have to say is it was for "personal reasons" and that's the end of it. Those are the magic words. I've never had a single question beyond that.

As far as mental health issues, that shouldn't be an issue for C&F. The only thing for which it will come up is if you have to undergo a background check for a federal government job (e.g., DOJ Honors).

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 03, 2011 1:23 am

choochoo wrote:Will your transcript show a bunch of withdrawals and say that you took time off? Is there a chance that it might not say anything and then employers might just think you're a regular 1L next year with your resume now saying class of 2015?


Nope, my transcript won't show a bunch of W's for this semester.

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby romothesavior » Sat Dec 03, 2011 1:31 am

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks for the dose of reality, lol. It is kind of sucky how mental illnesses are not taken as seriously as physical ones, when they can be just as debilitating. :? Hopefully future employers will have the decency not to probe and judge me for it.

I don't think anyone will necessarily doubt you, but they may "judge" you in the sense that they will wonder if you can handle the pressure and the workload. It is a justifiable concern.

If you had a serious non-mental illness that also contributed, would it be possible to pin your leave of absence on that rather than on your psychological problem? Or, as the poster above said, just say personal reasons and try to avoid bringing up the underlying causes if you can.

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby choochoo » Sat Dec 03, 2011 1:49 am

Anonymous User wrote:
choochoo wrote:Will your transcript show a bunch of withdrawals and say that you took time off? Is there a chance that it might not say anything and then employers might just think you're a regular 1L next year with your resume now saying class of 2015?


Nope, my transcript won't show a bunch of W's for this semester.



If it's not showing W's, unless I'm missing something, I don't see how interviewers would even know you took time off to be able to ask about it. Won't they just think you're a regular 1L? Get a PT job or something until next fall so you don't have a huge gap on your resume (see if you could work at a small law firm perhaps?).

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I took a leave of absence from my second semester of 2L, so our situations are not exactly alike, but I can offer you some insight.

First, nobody will pry. At all. I've been on many interviews since then, and they either don't ask about it at all, or, if they do, all you have to say is it was for "personal reasons" and that's the end of it. Those are the magic words. I've never had a single question beyond that.

As far as mental health issues, that shouldn't be an issue for C&F. The only thing for which it will come up is if you have to undergo a background check for a federal government job (e.g., DOJ Honors).


Thanks. I am actually interested in fed gov't jobs...will the mental health issues bar me from such positions (I'm assuming no, so long as I keep them in control through treatment/meds), or will the process simply take longer?
Last edited by Anonymous User on Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:49 pm

choochoo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
choochoo wrote:Will your transcript show a bunch of withdrawals and say that you took time off? Is there a chance that it might not say anything and then employers might just think you're a regular 1L next year with your resume now saying class of 2015?


Nope, my transcript won't show a bunch of W's for this semester.



If it's not showing W's, unless I'm missing something, I don't see how interviewers would even know you took time off to be able to ask about it. Won't they just think you're a regular 1L? Get a PT job or something until next fall so you don't have a huge gap on your resume (see if you could work at a small law firm perhaps?).


What kind of legal jobs could I get with just a BA and a year's worth of WE in an unrelated field? Wouldn't I need a paralegal certificate or something like that?

I'm sending out a bunch of resumes/cover letters by Monday morning. I'm strongly considering working PT for two domestic violence agencies (the hours combined would amount to a FT job). They pay a whopping ~$14/hour, but I can't expect much better with an Anthropology/Spanish degree from a no-name UG, lol. Even though I wouldn't be doing legal work, both organizations provide legal advocacy services for DV survivors and would present a good opportunity for me to network with attorneys practicing in an area of law I'm strongly interested in. I'll also continue gaining experience through a pro-bono project I started volunteering in this fall. Good plan for my hiatus?

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:04 am

BUMP. Anyone else?

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby BeenDidThat » Mon Dec 05, 2011 9:30 am

Anonymous User wrote:
choochoo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
choochoo wrote:Will your transcript show a bunch of withdrawals and say that you took time off? Is there a chance that it might not say anything and then employers might just think you're a regular 1L next year with your resume now saying class of 2015?


Nope, my transcript won't show a bunch of W's for this semester.



If it's not showing W's, unless I'm missing something, I don't see how interviewers would even know you took time off to be able to ask about it. Won't they just think you're a regular 1L? Get a PT job or something until next fall so you don't have a huge gap on your resume (see if you could work at a small law firm perhaps?).


What kind of legal jobs could I get with just a BA and a year's worth of WE in an unrelated field? Wouldn't I need a paralegal certificate or something like that?

I'm sending out a bunch of resumes/cover letters by Monday morning. I'm strongly considering working PT for two domestic violence agencies (the hours combined would amount to a FT job). They pay a whopping ~$14/hour, but I can't expect much better with an Anthropology/Spanish degree from a no-name UG, lol. Even though I wouldn't be doing legal work, both organizations provide legal advocacy services for DV survivors and would present a good opportunity for me to network with attorneys practicing in an area of law I'm strongly interested in. I'll also continue gaining experience through a pro-bono project I started volunteering in this fall. Good plan for my hiatus?


Many (most?) states do not require any kind of certificate to paralegal. In some cases, those programs are really scams to make a lot of cash at the expense of folks who don't know any better.

A good way to figure this out would be to go ahead and give a law firm a call. Ask what kind of qualifications they look for and if any kind of certificate is needed. I imagine that someone who could get into a good law school would make for a really solid paralegal.

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby kasey1986 » Tue Dec 06, 2011 6:41 pm

I am in the exact same situation. I go to one of the schools you said, and I just withdrew due to personal health reasons with the wholehearted intent to return next fall. I know someone who did this last year and is a returning 1L, and she seems to be doing just fine. For the person who said the following:

"Why would you want to carry on with a legal career at this point? Law school is like babysteps compared to actually having some responsibilities later on for clients. Maybe look into a less pressure filled line of work?"

you are obviously not understanding what this poster is saying, or else you have very little compassion when it comes to mental health (in which case I pity you, because somewhere down the line, you will encounter a loved one with such an issue). This has nothing to do with the current stress of law school, or with our ability to handle it. For me, there are other factors at play that are, at the moment, hindering my ability to perform at a high level. I am perfectly capable, happy and willing to perform under an enormous amount of stress; I have done so in the past and I intend to in the future. Right now, however, I have have an unexpected health issue that I need to cope with, get treatment for, and then get back on track so that I can return to that high stress environment.

For the person that first posted this, thank you, and you're not alone. I'm also interested in PI/Government, and from what Student Affairs has been telling me, this happens all the time. There is NOTHING to hide here. This isn't like a crime or an academic integrity violation that you have to disclose to get into law school. Even if employers do ask you about it (which would only happen if they notice the 3 month gap, because as you mentioned, there will not be any w's on your transcript), you tell them it was medical leave and that's the end of it. Same goes for C&F and government work- their only concern is going to be that you are well enough at the time of your application, and that you are going to stay well. As long as you can show that you have fully recovered and well enough to perform the job at the level they expect, they are not going to discriminate against you (I'm not even sure they legally can) simply because you have a history of mental illness that caused you to take a leave of absence a couple of years ago. Just think, if you were hurt in an accident just before finals, you would be taking a leave, and no one would question your ability to perform under the stress again next year once you've recovered. It's the same thing here. Taking a leave, for mental health reasons or otherwise, usually does not have anything to do with a lack of ability to perform under pressure. Some people, clearly, don't understand this. But lucky for you, most people do, and even more importantly, you are entitled to privacy in situations like this.

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 08, 2011 2:02 am

Kasey,

THANK YOU! It is so comforting to know that I am not alone. Best of luck during your hiatus. :)

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 31, 2015 5:45 pm

How did this work out? How do you apply for jobs while on leave if you haven't completed any coursework? Do you put your expected class year for when you return from leave?

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Re: How will a leave of absence affect my job prospects?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 02, 2015 4:02 pm

Pretty sure if you said that you took a leave of absence for "health reasons," no would ask you anything beyond that. No one ever wants to pry into other peoples' personal health related shit (e.g. for all they know you had testicular cancer, but are okay now).

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I took a leave of absence from my second semester of 2L, so our situations are not exactly alike, but I can offer you some insight.

First, nobody will pry. At all. I've been on many interviews since then, and they either don't ask about it at all, or, if they do, all you have to say is it was for "personal reasons" and that's the end of it. Those are the magic words. I've never had a single question beyond that.

As far as mental health issues, that shouldn't be an issue for C&F. The only thing for which it will come up is if you have to undergo a background check for a federal government job (e.g., DOJ Honors).


Thanks. I am actually interested in fed gov't jobs...will the mental health issues bar me from such positions (I'm assuming no, so long as I keep them in control through treatment/meds), or will the process simply take longer?


Actually, I heard that this type of thing will hugely benefit you for federal government jobs, since you won't just be one of the million applications in the honors hiring process. Rather, your application is considered outside of that process under the Americans with Disabilities Act, making it a lot easier of getting in. This is all hearsay, but might be worth looking into. (I've heard of less than ethical recent grads visiting doctors to get diagnosed with some lower end mental illness (e.g. depression) and using that to get themselves into federal governmental agencies that they would not have gotten into through the typical honors programs.)




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