Taking Time Off Before Law School

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Taking Time Off Before Law School

Postby YBF-W » Wed Oct 26, 2016 10:53 am

I've often heard that taking time off before law school can be hugely beneficial. I recently attended a Harvard Law Information Session and the admissions guy mentioned that 60%+ of their incoming students had taken a year or more off before coming to law school. I have many questions, especially for those who have taken time off and are thinking of applying, currently applying to law school, graduated law school, or ultimately decided not to go to law school.

As for me, I think taking a couple gap years is the right move. Since beginning college, I've been planning towards law school, but I'd love the chance to study longer for the LSAT, save money, travel, work in a professional setting, cultivate my professional network, date meaningfully (lol), entertain my various interests (and see if practicing law remains my primary professional goal), and simply be free from the academic environment for two or so years. Abstractly, I can see the value all these things will have down the road. However, I'd like to know what those who have experienced this already have to say.

What did you do with your time off? How much time did you take off?
What drove you to take time off?
What intangible benefits did taking time off provide? (ex: confidence, communication skills, time-management etc)
How were you able to communicate yourself as a better (perhaps more mature) candidate to admissions?
How did your gap year(s) experiences help you in or after law school?
What were some challenges experienced in the process? Corresponding take-aways? (For me, it's been hard relaying uncertain gap year plans to relatives)
How important was it for you to save money?
What advice do you have for individuals considering taking time off?
Do you think some experiences have more of a benefit than others? (not considering being a couch potato/leisure traveling the entire time)

Thanks all!


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Re: Taking Time Off Before Law School

Postby cantyoloforever » Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:07 pm

I am a OL, so take my answer with a (large) grain of salt, since for all I know, taking the two years off before school could end up being a terrible idea.

I personally am glad that I took at least one year off, mostly for maturity reasons. Going straight from undergrad where class was easy and I was mostly partying would have made law school a nightmare. Also, I wasn't sure I even wanted to go to law school and probably would not have taken the LSAT seriously.

With that said, everyone is different. Major advantages of waiting on law school are time to study for the LSAT (but if you're working full-time like I did, this can be a lot harder than doing it while in school) and learning how to be an adult before jumping into what will be an intense endeavor (but if you're already living like an adult, then this also doesn't really matter).

If you feel you want to take a year off, don't sweat it; you'll know better than any of us what the best course of action is for you. I will say that I feel like two years has been a little too long for my taste...wish I was in school right now.

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Re: Taking Time Off Before Law School

Postby trebekismyhero » Wed Oct 26, 2016 3:13 pm

i took several years off before law school, I don't think you need to do that much, but it helped me a lot. My LSAT went up because I matured and was more able to focus, which also was a benefit for law school. Made contacts outside of school that helped with getting into school and then legal jobs. I tried a couple different things and eventually was able to decide that I wanted to go to law school.

One thing I saw from my classmates that were KJD as compared with those that took time off was on average 1. they didn't like law school as much and 2. they struggled a little more earlier on than those that took time off. Obviously that is a generalization, but it was what I saw. And I think it is because law school is different than undergrad and requires different study and writing techniques. Those with work experience treated school like a job and didn't stress as much because they had been working. And while law school isn't as much fun as undergrad, it generally is more fun than working, so it helps with perspectives. And same goes with now being in big law, I have professional work experience so everything isn't a fire drill. But I think overall the difference between taking time off is a little less noticeable once you get to law firms.

Overall, unless you are 100% positive what kind of lawyer you want to be and have excellent grades and LSAT. I definitely recommend taking at least a year or two off.


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Re: Taking Time Off Before Law School

Postby patentlitigatrix » Mon Oct 31, 2016 11:39 pm

I took nearly a decade "off" before law school. So I had time to figure out that I wanted to be an attorney. That's a huge benefit.

I worked as an engineer, got a graduate engineering degree, and then worked as an engineer again before law school. So I knew what it was like to work in a corporate job with high expectations and deadlines. Now that I am at a law firm, I feel like that has benefited me a lot in that I can tolerate the job better than many others. And I am definitely more confident than I would have been if I would have gone straight through. My specific experience was useful because I have useful skills for IP lit, but that is a combination of major and experience.

Oh and saving money was HUGE. I took some loans, but I was able to finance a lot of my school with savings and not have massive load debt.

I really only started learning English when I was a teenager. Time off gave me time to become fluent in English, be better at taking the LSAT, and be a better writer now that I am working. Yes, you do need to be able to speak English to get an engineering degree and work as engineer, but it is not nearly as critical as for a lawyer.

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Re: Taking Time Off Before Law School

Postby zot1 » Tue Nov 01, 2016 10:06 am

I didn't take time off because I had originally taken time off between high school and starting college. As someone else pointed out, taking time off could have been beneficial to improve my LSAT score, save some money, see the world.

However, I don't regret not taking time off. A lot of people in my class took time off and they are not 1Ls/2Ls when I have already been practicing for while.

I suppose it depends on what you want/care about. I used to have this crazy idea that I was meant to be a lawyer and didn't see a point in delaying that. I've certainly had my up and downs as an attorney, but working, making real money, actually saving for retirement, buying a house and such are all things I'm happy I'm not still waiting to have three years from now.

But like I said, this is all entirely personal.

FWIW, most of my friends who took time off travel abroad. Some took jobs in foreign countries to make money while exploring the world.


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Re: Taking Time Off Before Law School

Postby srtabrawer » Wed Nov 02, 2016 1:12 pm

Take time off and find another profession to get into that doesn't require tons of debt and graduate school.


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Re: Taking Time Off Before Law School

Postby Boltsfan » Thu Nov 03, 2016 3:01 pm

I took several years to work, get married, etc. between undergrad and law school. I think it was a huge benefit to me and highly recommend taking a few years off. I entered law school actually excited about being back in school, was able to treat it like a job and stick to a set schedule, and was in a much better place financially (I graduated with no debt because my wife + my savings was able to cover my cost of living). I think the sweet spot is probably 2-4 years; if you take more time off than that you start to be more "non traditional" and it might impact your enjoyment and ability to bond with your classmates. There is, of course, nothing wrong with starting law school later than that in life, I just think it's probably less ideal if you are planning it out in advance.


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Re: Taking Time Off Before Law School

Postby bleakchimera2 » Fri Nov 04, 2016 12:34 pm

Disclaimer: 0L applying this cycle, have no idea how my time off is going to ultimately play out in the grand scheme of things, take all the below with a grain of salt.

I took two years off to work before applying. Main impetus was scoring lower than I expected/wanted on the LSAT the first time I took it during college-- I knew I'd have to retake, and it was an overly dramatic existential struggle with myself to settle on a plan to take time off, but I eventually did. Looking back (so far), I could not be happier that I did.

The biggest challenge for me was the initial decision (see above, overly dramatic etc. also explaining to my family that the score they saw as great would not get me anywhere except in a world of debt, probably at a school I didn't even want to go to). Another huge challenge for me was finding a job-- I went through ~6 months of unemployment (living at home in the middle of nowhere, completely broke, and also spending around 6 or so hours a day looking for work) before I was able to find a job of any kind. Takeaway from that experience--finding a job as a humanities major from a generic public school, even with a great GPA, is fucking terrible.

Ultimately though, I found a job I'm pleasantly surprised to say I actually like -- I'm a biglaw paralegal. But most important (to me) of all of the above is that I got to move to my dream city way sooner than I thought I would be able to. Plus I've got a hell of a lot more perspective than I did after college, and my priorities have changed for the better. I know what I want out of law school now, and I know where I need to go and how much I need to pay for it (I've also been having the fun experience of beginning to pay back undergrad loans).

Oh, and I was able to retake the LSAT-- I scored five points higher than last time, even though I was working an average of 55-60 hours a week while studying for it.

Yay, time off!

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Re: Taking Time Off Before Law School

Postby Toodle-loo » Fri Nov 04, 2016 9:35 pm

1L here

I took 1 year off & worked at an extremely small law firm. (like 2 attorneys small). I didn't decide how much time to take off exactly; I knew I wouldn't go until I was happy with my admissions decisions, & that happened to only take 1 year.

I took time off b/c I didn't feel ready for the LSAT, & I wanted to pay down some student loan debt pre-law school. Plus, I was really involved in undergrad, and I was honestly burned out. I also wanted to be 100% sure that law was the right career for me.

"What intangible benefits did taking time off provide? (ex: confidence, communication skills, time-management etc)"
All of the above + relaxation, time to read for leisure, perspective, & experience in a law firm.

I rewrote my PS about 100 times. I used other successful PSs as models & made mine look as much like those as possible.

I would literally be dying right now if I hadn't taken the time off. I needed it to recharge.

The uncertainty was the only challenge, but that's a skill I needed to be better with anyway. I'm much more flexible now.

"What advice do you have for individuals considering taking time off?" Do it. Period. Always. It's almost never a bad idea.


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Re: Taking Time Off Before Law School

Postby patentlitigatrix » Sat Nov 05, 2016 6:25 pm

If you do take time off from school, I wouldn't count on it being easier, but it does feel like a break from having to study and take exams. College was hard for me because I was a D1 athlete and couldn't really speak English well at that time. But working was a good bit harder than that and definitely much harder than law school. It almost felt like a vacation with how much free time I had.


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Re: Taking Time Off Before Law School

Postby fmmf » Sat Nov 05, 2016 8:53 pm

patentlitigatrix wrote:If you do take time off from school, I wouldn't count on it being easier, but it does feel like a break from having to study and take exams.

THIS. I'm applying this cycle, two years after UG, and highly recommend doing something other than school for a year (or more). You'll learn a lot about yourself, perhaps discover an interest other than law, and have time to study for the LSATs if you still want to go to law school.

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Re: Taking Time Off Before Law School

Postby airwrecka » Tue Nov 08, 2016 4:56 pm

Also a 0L here, but I've taken a year off before going to law school (and who knows...depending on how this cycle goes I may take another year off, too), and it was a great decision.

For me, the decision to take time off was down to two factors: I got married this past September, and didn't want to get married at the same time as starting law school; and I was writing a massive undergrad thesis my senior year of UG and did not want to be worrying about LSAT studying or apps at the same time! Definitely glad I took the time off.

Really the biggest benefit I can say I've had in taking time off is to just have time to RELAX. Yes, I work full-time, which is surprisingly more tiring than I was expecting, but to be able to veg at night and on the weekends without any homework or readings or group projects or theses hanging over my head is GREAT! :D I have read so many books in the past year (for fun), I've traveled, I've started a bar trivia team, I've gotten married, I've made new friends, and I've just enjoyed living life. I know that I'm not at my career-end-goal, and my job is kind of boring, but it doesn't leave me stressed and I know I'm headed places, so I'm taking advantage of the opportunities to chill out while I have them.

If for no other reason, taking a year or two off between UG and law school is worth it just to have some free time to relax and have fun. Take a break from homework for a while!

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