Today’s blog post comes from Tatum Lindsay, graduate of Mount Holyoke College, and a former student pre-law advisor.
In April 2015, The Crimson ran an article profiling Harvard Law School’s class of 2010: only 28% of current students have no post-graduate experience at Harvard Law School. In other words, over the years, Harvard has deliberately grown the number of admitted students with post-graduation experience. One reason for this may be that those who work before attending law school experience higher rates of professional success because of better employment options available to them, and they may also possess a refined vision of their careers.
After reading this article and struggling with this very issue as a recent college graduate, I reflected on the reasons why I decided to take time off between undergrad and law school. Here are my top five reasons.
- Refine My Focus.
I have always been interested in copyright law. In fact, I wanted to pursue copyright law even before considering attending law school. Recently, I moved to Egypt and secured a fantastic opportunity to work at the American University in Cairo at the Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) as a researcher. I have been working on a series of papers and projects related to censorship and privacy issues in addition to copyright law. Through my job, I learned about the tangible effects of various copyright laws and access to knowledge issues in Egypt and the Middle East and North Africa region. Gaining international exposure to issues in copyright law and having the opportunity to reflect on the topic in an unusual setting cultivated my commitment to studying law and I am confident that going to law school will be the best path for me.
- Develop an Application Strategy.
I am from the pre-law advising camp that encourages prospective law students to attend law school only if they are sure they want to be attorneys, not simply for a terminal liberal arts degree or a “high-paying” career. I wanted to be a lawyer for sure, but after having a purely academic experience at my job, I am now carefully considering all my options after graduation. Thanks to my work experience, I am actively exploring law schools that specifically have a track record of graduating students that go on to clerk or who return to academia.
- Get a Job After Graduation.
I am excited about the prospect of sharing my experiences living and working abroad with my future law school classmates, professors, and future clients. The valuable perspective I’ve gained from my job informs the way I approach problems. I’ve also developed relationship-building skills, among other ‘soft’ skills, that will take me beyond “by-the-book” skills. Gaining this experience in a professional setting has allowed me to become more marketable after graduating law school. My job has also allowed me to build an international network that I will be able to utilize throughout my career.
- Take Smarter Risks.
Moving to Egypt was a huge risk for me. I didn’t understand Arabic and I hadn’t confirmed the details of my job until I landed in Egypt. Also, I should mention that I never really traveled abroad before. Taking some time off allowed me to clear my head and clean my slate. I actively sought out ways to contribute, experiment, and learn at my new post. I know that law school will always be there. The best choice for me now is to take some risks with my career and apply later when I am sure I’d be putting my best foot forward. For me, that meant building my resume and gathering experiences that made me better at calculating and understanding risks.
- Get into law school.
If you’re a recent grad like me, you may not be able to change your GPA, but you can change your LSAT. These two numbers are king for getting into many law schools, and, if you can score big on least one of them, why not go for it? Taking time off between undergrad and law school allows you to devote the time needed to do as well as possible on the LSAT. If you can’t allot enough time for LSAT studying because you work long hours, that’s OK! Just extend your study schedule until you get the score you’re aiming for. Remember, the LSAT and law school will always be there. Things that won’t always be there are tremendous once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to travel, new jobs, or the opportunity to move to a new city. All of these things can add a compelling, unique dimension to your resume, and subsequently, your law school application. Law school admissions committees are eager to hear about your post-graduate experiences, whatever they are.
In the end, I hope you will help yourself tell the amazing story of you by taking time off after undergrad. By taking time to recharge and evaluate your goals, you can tackle the law school admissions process with renewed and focused energy!
Tatum Lindsay is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College where she worked as a student advisor counseling students interested in applying to law school. She lives in Cairo, Egypt, and works at the American University in Cairo as a researcher at the Access to Knowledge for Development Center studying access to knowledge, intellectual property, and human development in Egypt, the Arab world, and Africa. You can find her on Twitter at @tatumlinds.
Thanks, Tatum, for sharing with us your reasons (all great ones, I might add) for working before attending law school! If you liked Tatum’s article, make sure to follow her on Twitter.
Have questions or comments about taking time off before going to law school? I’d love to hear from you. Post your questions and comments below and I’ll respond.