Gap Year Jobs Before Law School: What to Do Before You Apply
November 25, 2019
Gap Year Jobs Before Law School: What to Do Before You Apply
As your senior year of college rolls in, you might have second thoughts on whether law school is the right next step for you. Or, if you’re tired and would just like a break, preventing burnout is one of the main advantages that come with taking a gap year before law school. But when you take a gap year, you don’t just want to spend it hanging out with friends. Plus, with graduating comes expenses such as rent, groceries, bills, and the need to save up for a hefty tuition bill. So, if you’re not directly making the jump to getting a JD, it’s time to think about gap year jobs before law school.
You might think that the most obvious answer is to find work in the legal field. While that doesn’t hurt your application, a lot of your applicants in your pool will have worked at law firms. It may be strategic to diversify and specialize your career path as much as you can. Working in a field that doesn’t directly correlate to law, but helps instill relevant values and skills in you can not only help your legal resumé stand out, but could also inspire memorable essays. To help get you started, I’ve outlined a list of gap year jobs before law school to give you an idea of the possibilities out there.
Gap Year Jobs Before Law School
Work as a Paralegal
Working as a paralegal might be the most obvious option that pops out to you when thinking about gap year jobs before law school. A paralegal position can help gain knowledge of the legal industry and provide hands-on experience that can give you a competitive edge. But before you make the jump into any paralegal position, think about the fact that when you apply to law school, most of your fellow candidates will have done the same.
You can make a paralegal position seem more tailored to you if it is in your specific field of interest in law. For example, if you wish to specialize in environmental law, working as a paralegal in an environmental law firm can lead you to relevant cases, work experience, and help you build contacts within your chosen field of law.
Work as a Legal Assistant
While a job as a legal assistant isn’t the most exciting thing you can do to build your resumé, it shows a commitment to the JD world. If you’ve been on the fence about your next steps, working at a law firm can definitely help you get a sense of what day-to-day work as a lawyer would be like and help you decide whether or not you want to go to law school.
Working in Government or for a Political Campaign
Working for a senator or on an election campaign is a highly effective way to gain exposure to politics and the legal environment. You could work in a variety of capacities such as reviewing ballots or ensuring compliance of communication and fundraising policies.You can help manage a campaign, support with the conventions for your party, get involved in campaign media and PR, and more. You would develop your organizational skills and understand the legal side of politics, which could be very helpful if you continue working in politics in the future.
Working for a Legal Department
You can always build your knowledge of the law by working in the legal department of a business or company. You can help out with drafting and reviewing employee and partnership contracts, help create employee policies, and be on the team to handle any legal matters that come up. Through daily work, you can also understand the ways legal policies are still essential in the business realm.
Work in a Field of Interest Even If It’s Not Directly in Law
If you’re thinking about gap year jobs before law school, find a job that will hone your skills in a topic of interest, even it’s not directly connected to law. For example, if you want to work in real estate law, you could seek employment at a real estate firm. Such an experience would allow you to learn about what’s going on in the industry, which in turn can build your credibility as someone who’s interested in continuing work with real estate.
Work or Volunteer at a Nonprofit
While it might not be as financially generous as other opportunities, if you’re interested in policies around inequity, want to increase your community engagement, as well as broaden your understanding of social disparities, you can find work at a nonprofit. It’s not uncommon for prospective law students to work with Teach for America when in search of gap year jobs before law school. If you want in-depth involvement and something that’s close to home, you could also look into local nonprofits and grassroots organizations where you can make an active impact.
Explore Non-Legal Routes
If you have another interest besides law that you’re as eager to pursue, the time between college and law school is perfect for finding out where you see yourself in the long run. Whether you’ve wanted to try being a chef, an accountant, or even a nutritionist, don’t leave any regrets and see if that’s what you want to do.
Besides, law school isn’t going anywhere. Even something seemingly far off from a legal career such as being a nutritionist can teach you about discipline, organization, collaboration, and client management experience, which are all skills that will serve you in law school. Moreover, your resumé will easily stand out from your peers.
Invest in a Hobby
On a similar note, if you have a hobby that you didn’t get to spend too much time on while you were in college, you could use a gap year to work on it in a way that results in an income. If you play an instrument or sing, you could restart your practice and find open mics or paid performances. If you’re a writer, you could pitch to publications and work as a freelance writer or journalist. If you’re an artist, you could start a social media page to promote and potentially sell your work. Even if your day job isn’t something that you find happiness in, dedicating time to a hobby can open new options that can make for a memorable application once you’re ready to apply to law school.
If you’re keen on different cultures or you hope to practice international law, traveling can open your door up to new experiences. You can find a job overseas or spend your time conducting a particular project that explores an issue that matters to you. When you become a lawyer, chances are you’ll have to work with international clients and will also have limited time to travel. So, if you pick up a new language or frame your essay in a way that conveys how your international tour has shaped your perspective to be more inclusive and global, you could bring something special to the admissions officers’ table.
Brainstorming Other Ideas
If none of the above prospects suit what you’re looking for when it comes to gap year jobs before law school, consider starting your own initiative. Think about a cause that you’re passionate about and ways in which you could collaborate with and help people. When brainstorming ideas, make sure it connects to your primary interests. Plus, keep mind how your skills and work would relate to law school. It could be on a small scale such as a documentary project, or even the launch of your own startup/non-profit depending on how much time and energy you have to put into it.
Of all the post-graduate options out there, law school is one of the most flexible. There isn’t any strict set of experiences that you must bring to the table before you apply. Of course, while a connection to the law is definitely ideal, it’s okay if you pursue a different route. What matters most is that your application conveys why law school makes the most sense as your next step.
If you feel like you might not be ready for law school just yet, you have other options upon graduation. Gap year jobs before law school can include prospects that are either close or far from the legal field. Ultimately, the law school personal statement is flexible enough that you can write about any meaningful experience. If you find a job that can help build skills that will benefit you as a future lawyer, you’re all set. Hopefully, our suggestions have provided inspiration of all the possibilities that await you. Make the decision you believe will best suit you.