Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

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Veil of Ignorance

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Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby Veil of Ignorance » Sat Aug 10, 2019 10:12 pm

Hello attorneys / future attorneys,
I've been a future law student for a while now, and I'm finally matriculating in a few weeks at HYS. I would like to take a year "off" during law school to work abroad for a year, as a sort of adjunct lecturer at a foreign university. This isn't a law-related position, so I obviously should have done it before law school. However, I'd really like to have this experience before beginning my long-term career in biglaw. So, my questions are:
1. Would biglaw firms be wary of a year of employment abroad during law school, if it's not law related? I hope to pursue international arbitration and maybe public international law eventually, and I believe the language skills I would gain could help with that. Could this explanation work?
2. Would taking this gap years after 1L or 2L be better? I'd like to do it sooner rather than later, but can imagine that getting out of town after 1L might be awkward.
Thanks for much for the information.

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby Bingo_Bongo » Sun Aug 11, 2019 2:24 am

First off, I want to preface this with the fact that I have never worked in big law, so weigh my opinion accordingly.

With that being said, this doesn't sound like a very good idea to me. If you get hired during OCI before you start your 2L year (to begin work as a Summer Associate for your 2L summer -- the way the vast majority of law students make it into big law), you obviously won't be able to take your year off after 2L year since you'll be working as a SA at your firm that summer, and there will be an expectation you'll be starting as an attorney a year after that. That leaves you with possibly taking your year off right after 1L year, which also sounds like a terrible idea.

What you're describing definitely isn't normal in law school. It's not like undergrad where students regularly take a year off to go abroad and do fun stuff. So you would stand out, and I don't think in a good way. It would cause me to question whether you want to stick with law for the long term since right after 1L year you fled law school to go do something completely unrelated. I know you're actually planning this, but without knowing of your plans ahead of time, I'd read between the lines that you didn't really care for your 1L year all that much and wanted to get away from it (again, since pretty much nobody dips out after 1L to go pursue a completely non-law related job). It would also cause me to believe you just wanted to work in big law for a few years, get a big salary, and then dip to go teach law somewhere.

Also, you're expected to get some kind of legal experience during your 1L summer. Everyone does it. Going into biglaw hiring without any legal work experience is another mark against you.

Somebody who has actually worked in big law might disagree, and definitely take their opinion more seriously than mine if they do. But to me this seems like an obvious "no". You don't want to do it. And if you did do it, the only time you really could take off would be right after your 1L year, since you'll be getting hired before you start your 2L year.

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cavalier1138

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:20 am

In addition to what was already said: Why?

If you're just doing this for wish fulfillment (i.e. "Man, I wish I could have spent a year in [country] before starting law school."), then I wouldn't bother. If you're doing it because you have a genuine interest in teaching whatever it is you'd be teaching in [country], then maybe you should continue to delay law school until you're certain that you actually want to go.

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby hdivschool » Sun Aug 11, 2019 9:46 am

Taking an extra year isn't that big of a deal; people do it all the time for joint degree programs. Some folks won't like it, but my impression is that there are enough biglaw firms that either wouldn't be bothered by your year off or would think of it as a slight plus, that it is feasible to do it if you really want. You can get away with a lot at HYS.

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby LSATWiz.com » Sun Aug 11, 2019 9:59 am

I would just travel during law school. Once you learn how to take law school exams, you don't really need to study that much to get grades that would be at your baseline potential regardless of the amount you study. It would be the difference between pass and high pass or a B+ and A-, but it's unlikely someone who gets all A's would get all B's if they studied a fraction of the time.

The difference is vast when you are a 1L, but it's seriously unlikely taking 2 weeks off a semester would materially impact you your second and third year. Taking a year off may be a red flag, or it may not be, but I'd say, "why risk it?" Use your SA money to travel abroad and actually have fun in foreign countries instead of working there. The 35k or so you make is more like 20 after taxes, but 20k could go a long way in terms of traveling.

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby QContinuum » Sun Aug 11, 2019 4:12 pm

hdivschool wrote:Taking an extra year isn't that big of a deal; people do it all the time for joint degree programs. Some folks won't like it, but my impression is that there are enough biglaw firms that either wouldn't be bothered by your year off or would think of it as a slight plus, that it is feasible to do it if you really want. You can get away with a lot at HYS.

I feel like there's a big difference between a joint degree program, especially a JD/MBA (an MBA is easy to "spin" as being law-related, and even other degrees can typically be spun as at least tangentially law-related), versus taking a "gap year" during law school to do something completely unrelated to law. There's going to be basically no way to convincingly spin a year teaching English in Poland, for instance, as somehow being law-related.

How much one can get away with also depends on which of YSH OP will be at. Yalies can get away with a heckuva more than HLS folks. Firms almost expect Yalies to be a bit flighty. If OP will be at HLS, then their 1L grades will be much more important in determining whether their "year-off" plan will lead to a BigLaw strikeout. An HLS student with multiple DSs and otherwise straight Hs will be viewed much more leniently than someone who scraped by with straight Ps and LPs.

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby Veil of Ignorance » Sun Aug 11, 2019 5:25 pm

QContinuum wrote:
hdivschool wrote:Taking an extra year isn't that big of a deal; people do it all the time for joint degree programs. Some folks won't like it, but my impression is that there are enough biglaw firms that either wouldn't be bothered by your year off or would think of it as a slight plus, that it is feasible to do it if you really want. You can get away with a lot at HYS.

I feel like there's a big difference between a joint degree program, especially a JD/MBA (an MBA is easy to "spin" as being law-related, and even other degrees can typically be spun as at least tangentially law-related), versus taking a "gap year" during law school to do something completely unrelated to law. There's going to be basically no way to convincingly spin a year teaching English in Poland, for instance, as somehow being law-related.

How much one can get away with also depends on which of YSH OP will be at. Yalies can get away with a heckuva more than HLS folks. Firms almost expect Yalies to be a bit flighty. If OP will be at HLS, then their 1L grades will be much more important in determining whether their "year-off" plan will lead to a BigLaw strikeout. An HLS student with multiple DSs and otherwise straight Hs will be viewed much more leniently than someone who scraped by with straight Ps and LPs.

Unfortunately, I won't be going to yale. I was indeed thinking of the joint degrees when I wrote up my idea. It seems like there are lots of JD/MPP students who do fine at OCI, even though they graduate in 4 years and not 3. These programs are easy to arrange and are barely applicable to the work of law firms, so I figured, why not something else for a year? It's not like I would be teaching the ABCs to kindergardeners.
I guess it is a question of how much I can "get away with." I'm understanding from you all that it would be stupid to leave H/S for a year unless my grades were great.

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby QContinuum » Sun Aug 11, 2019 9:43 pm

Veil of Ignorance wrote:
QContinuum wrote:
hdivschool wrote:Taking an extra year isn't that big of a deal; people do it all the time for joint degree programs. Some folks won't like it, but my impression is that there are enough biglaw firms that either wouldn't be bothered by your year off or would think of it as a slight plus, that it is feasible to do it if you really want. You can get away with a lot at HYS.

I feel like there's a big difference between a joint degree program, especially a JD/MBA (an MBA is easy to "spin" as being law-related, and even other degrees can typically be spun as at least tangentially law-related), versus taking a "gap year" during law school to do something completely unrelated to law. There's going to be basically no way to convincingly spin a year teaching English in Poland, for instance, as somehow being law-related.

How much one can get away with also depends on which of YSH OP will be at. Yalies can get away with a heckuva more than HLS folks. Firms almost expect Yalies to be a bit flighty. If OP will be at HLS, then their 1L grades will be much more important in determining whether their "year-off" plan will lead to a BigLaw strikeout. An HLS student with multiple DSs and otherwise straight Hs will be viewed much more leniently than someone who scraped by with straight Ps and LPs.

Unfortunately, I won't be going to yale. I was indeed thinking of the joint degrees when I wrote up my idea. It seems like there are lots of JD/MPP students who do fine at OCI, even though they graduate in 4 years and not 3. These programs are easy to arrange and are barely applicable to the work of law firms, so I figured, why not something else for a year? It's not like I would be teaching the ABCs to kindergardeners.
I guess it is a question of how much I can "get away with." I'm understanding from you all that it would be stupid to leave H/S for a year unless my grades were great.

Right. See, the difference is the MBA can be spun as at least minimally relevant to corporate transactional practices like M&A, cap markets, even bankruptcy. The MPP can be spun as at least minimally relevant to regulatory and maybe even white-collar work. You can't spin teaching English in Poland. It's just not possible.

Even with great grades at H/S I would not recommend leaving for a year, but it wouldn't be as irredeemably foolish as leaving for a year with bad 1L grades (as the bad 1L grades coupled with your "gap year" would feed further into interviewers' impression of you being someone who's not really into the whole law thing).

Really the best options for you are to: A) Delay matriculating to law school for another year, or B) Study abroad during 2L/3L, which would allow you to do the whole "travel/live in a foreign country" thing without harming your career prospects.

Veil of Ignorance

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby Veil of Ignorance » Sun Aug 11, 2019 10:06 pm

Thanks for the advice, Q :wink:

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby QContinuum » Sun Aug 11, 2019 10:08 pm

Veil of Ignorance wrote:Thanks for the advice, Q :wink:

Happy to help and best of luck! :)

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby totesTheGoat » Mon Aug 12, 2019 12:40 pm

QContinuum wrote:Even with great grades at H/S I would not recommend leaving for a year, but it wouldn't be as irredeemably foolish as leaving for a year with bad 1L grades (as the bad 1L grades coupled with your "gap year" would feed further into interviewers' impression of you being someone who's not really into the whole law thing).


Agreed. Often, the decision between candidates comes down to soft factors. I may have a pile of 15+ resumes with GPA all within a margin of error, their extracurriculars are cookie cutter copies of one another, they each have a degree with a high GPA in some humanities major. How do I narrow that stack of resumes down to one or two candidates to get callbacks? One factor is interview quality. Another factor is personality/fit. A third factor is interest in our practice area. A teaching stint between law school years would be a bit of a red flag that you may not be into the whole law thing and that you probably aren't into the type of work we do. Given how narrowly clustered all of the candidates are, it would probably be enough to remove you from contention for a callback. Between generic high-achieving law student #1 and generic high-achieving law student #2, I'll proceed with the one who doesn't have a red flag indicating that they may bail after a couple years.

Granted, we're not chasing the highest GPA at the most prestigious school. Not because we can't be selective, but because the soft factors matter more than an extra tenth or two of GPA.

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby hdivschool » Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:45 pm

totesTheGoat wrote:I may have a pile of 15+ resumes with GPA all within a margin of error, their extracurriculars are cookie cutter copies of one another, they each have a degree with a high GPA in some humanities major. How do I narrow that stack of resumes down to one or two candidates to get callbacks?


Most firms that interview at HYS are calling back way more than one or two candidates.

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totesTheGoat

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby totesTheGoat » Tue Aug 13, 2019 1:11 pm

hdivschool wrote:Most firms that interview at HYS are calling back way more than one or two candidates.


They're also probably sorting through a stack of quality resumes much larger than 10 or 15. I realize that the way we do hiring is somewhat unique, but the broader point is that an off year during law school won't preclude OP from getting a job, but it may result in underperformance at OCI if their resume is otherwise generic.

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby The Lsat Airbender » Tue Aug 13, 2019 2:49 pm

hdivschool wrote:
totesTheGoat wrote:I may have a pile of 15+ resumes with GPA all within a margin of error, their extracurriculars are cookie cutter copies of one another, they each have a degree with a high GPA in some humanities major. How do I narrow that stack of resumes down to one or two candidates to get callbacks?


Most firms that interview at HYS are calling back way more than one or two candidates.


What's your point? Totes is still right about how decisions are made on the margins.

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby hdivschool » Tue Aug 13, 2019 5:24 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
hdivschool wrote:
totesTheGoat wrote:I may have a pile of 15+ resumes with GPA all within a margin of error, their extracurriculars are cookie cutter copies of one another, they each have a degree with a high GPA in some humanities major. How do I narrow that stack of resumes down to one or two candidates to get callbacks?


Most firms that interview at HYS are calling back way more than one or two candidates.


What's your point? Totes is still right about how decisions are made on the margins.


My point is that most decisions are not made on the margins.

I was disagreeing with what I understood to be Totes's earlier position, not Totes's clarified position. Q said and Totes agreed that "even with great grades at H/S I would not recommend leaving for a year." I understood that to mean that taking a year off would materially hurt even strong candidates. I think that overstates the negative impact of a year off.

I don't disagree that taking a year off is a disadvantage on the margins. If you are vying for one of two callbacks to Keker or something, it will hurt. But it is likely not going to hurt you if you are aiming for one of the many, many firms that gives out 10+ or 20+ or more callbacks. It will not cause you to strike out.

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby totesTheGoat » Tue Aug 13, 2019 6:09 pm

hdivschool wrote: I understood that to mean that taking a year off would materially hurt even strong candidates. I think that overstates the negative impact of a year off.


You understood me correctly. My point drifted to the more common situation, but it still applies to a strong candidate.

If the perfect candidate comes along and this is the one weird thing about their resume, am I still taking them? Sure. However, that's not the reality.

The reality is that such a candidate is a unicorn, and we have to make decisions between candidates with different sets of qualities. Like I said earlier, the person I interviewed this year with a standout GPA isn't getting a callback. Same thing happened when I did OCI at a different school 2 years ago. What did they do wrong? Nothing really. They interviewed alright, and they had prestigious extracurriculars on their resume. However, there were other candidates that were more compelling.

It's impossible to say whether a gap year in the middle of law school would torpedo a strong candidate for me, but I will say that there are people who didn't get callbacks specifically because their resume didn't show sufficient interest in our areas of practice. In my mind, taking a year to go teach halfway across the world would be lumped in with the other indicators of insufficient interest.

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby Veil of Ignorance » Thu Aug 15, 2019 10:56 pm

Bingo_Bongo wrote:First off, I want to preface this with the fact that I have never worked in big law, so weigh my opinion accordingly.


Also, you're expected to get some kind of legal experience during your 1L summer. Everyone does it. Going into biglaw hiring without any legal work experience is another mark against you.



Wouldn't I be able to have regular employment after my 1L year even if I was deferring? The gap year employment I am thinking of wouldn't start until September. I don't think I would have to tell my employer that summer, seeing as they won't be paying me, right?

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Re: Year "off" after 1L or 2L?

Postby QContinuum » Thu Aug 15, 2019 11:47 pm

Veil of Ignorance wrote:
Bingo_Bongo wrote:First off, I want to preface this with the fact that I have never worked in big law, so weigh my opinion accordingly.


Also, you're expected to get some kind of legal experience during your 1L summer. Everyone does it. Going into biglaw hiring without any legal work experience is another mark against you.



Wouldn't I be able to have regular employment after my 1L year even if I was deferring? The gap year employment I am thinking of wouldn't start until September. I don't think I would have to tell my employer that summer, seeing as they won't be paying me, right?

If you do a traditional 1L summer gig prior to taking your "gap year," then yes, that would alleviate the concern re: no legal work experience. It still would not alleviate the concern regarding your dedication to/passion for practicing law.

Look, unless you end up with bottom 10% grades after 1L, you're going to land a decent job out of HLS even if you stick with your ill-advised "gap year" plan. It's HLS. You'll be fine. You aren't going to end up on the streets. You may just end up significantly underperforming at 2L EIP, which could have ramifications for the rest of your legal career. Rationally, it's a horrible tradeoff, especially when you can achieve pretty much the same goals without any adverse impact to your career by deferring matriculation for another year, or studying abroad during 2L/3L.

But regardless, you seem determined to do this. It's not wise, but it won't sink you. That's about as much support as you're going to be able to get from TLS for your plan.



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