I was a K-JD student. I went straight through from undergrad to law school automatically without even thinking about taking time off in between. In the end, I think that was the right path for me. But looking back on my own law school experience – and hearing others talk about their own experiences – I’ve realized that taking time off between undergrad and law school provides a plethora of advantages that many undergrad students do not stop to consider.
With that said, the answer to the question “Should I take time off before law school?” is not simple. It will depend on a number of factors which are unique to each person. We’ve outlined some of those important factors below.
Factors to consider when deciding whether to
take time off between undergrad and law school:
- Application: How strong is your application? If your application is weak (maybe your undergrad GPA was not that strong) or you have not had sufficient time to adequately prepare for the LSAT, it might be worth it to consider taking some time off to improve your LSAT score and strengthen your application with unique work and/or travel experience. On the other hand, if you have a high GPA and LSAT score and strong application, there is less reason to delay law school.
- Opportunities: Is there something interesting or cool that you want to and are able to do? If you want to go teach English in a foreign country, use your degree or past experience to travel or try out a unique job, go for it now. You may not get a chance to do it later and it will likely help you in the application process rather than hinder you. It will also provide you with a more mature perspective on law school.
- Certainty about going to Law School: Are you sure you want to go to law school? If you are sure, then there is less reason to delay it. If you are not sure, it does not hurt to take a year (or more) off to consider whether law school is right for you. Law school is a big decision. It requires a lot of time, energy, money, and commitment. If you are wavering back and forth about it, there is little reason to dive into it right away without thinking about it more.
- Maturity: How mature are you? This might be hard to answer right off the bat but take some time for introspection. Are you self-supporting? Responsible for yourself or others? Did you party too much in undergrad? How is your work ethic? Could some time off help you gain maturity and a better work ethic? A lot of students who take some time off report having a more grateful and mature attitude than they would have had otherwise.
- Finances: How are you going to pay for law school? If you’re planning on taking out loans, working for a few years could help reduce your debt significantly.
In summary, there are definitely a lot of advantages to taking time off to work before law school. Taking time off may help you to strengthen your application. You can save up some money. You have more time to think about whether law school is something you really want to do. Further, some people find themselves more confident, more mature and equipped with better work ethic after having to support themselves for a few years. Those who take time off are also able to put law school in perspective. They know that a law school test is not life-or-death; it’s just a test. They know that if they get called on in class a look like a fool, it really doesn’t make that much difference in the scheme of things.
I didn’t take any time off before law school and I can say that one of the disadvantages for me was that I didn’t have any perspective on law school. It seemed to consume my whole life and it was hard for me to put the experience in perspective as a stepping stone since I had never experienced the “other side.”
Some disadvantages to taking time off are: If you are super-motivated to go to law school, you may lose some of your motivation and work ethic along the way. It is hard for some to make the switch from school to work back to school again. It is also sometimes hard to regain study skills and get back into “study mode”. (But on the other hand, some say that working full time has helped them get used to working for long hours – so I guess it depends on your work ethic and your undergrad experience). I can honestly say that going straight through from undergrad to law school was a good decision for me because I probably would not have had the same work ethic or drive if I took a break in between. I don’t know if I even would have gone back to school had I taken a break.
Sometimes it will be obvious whether you should wait to go to law school. Other times it will be harder and require more introspection and soul-searching. If you have any thoughts on this or if I missed any important considerations, please feel free to post in the comments below.
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