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How Much Time Should You Take Off Before Law School?

How Much Time Should You take off Before Law School?

So, you’re a regular MSS reader, which means you have at least entertained the idea of a legal career. To those who are just starting to investigate this path, (“What do they test on the LSAT? I hear it’s SUPER tough…”) this post won’t be relevant until law school becomes more of a reality. However, I think there is a crucial question that all prospective law students need to ask themselves: How much time should I take off before law school? Now, if you are currently studying for the LSAT, you should have immediately noticed that by saying “how much” instead of “whether or not”, this author assumes that all law students should take at least some time for themselves before being owned by the law. No need to diagram, just sit back and consider the following three approaches to pre-1L rest and relaxation.

Approach #1: A year or longer.

This can either be the best decision you’ll ever make, or it can be very dicey. Of course, this depends on what you are doing during this precious time in your early twenties. There are a lot of wise people out there (including some law school admissions officers) who discourage going directly to law school after finishing up your undergraduate career. Going to school for seven straight years has some hidden dangers. There is a high risk of burning out at a very inopportune time. You want to be absolutely sure that law school is for you, and sometimes it requires spending some time in what is excessively referred to as the “real world” to find out exactly what your interests are. I have a handful of friends who have done Teach for America or the Peace Corps, and about half of them are now in law school. Not only did they do something that they found to be profoundly meaningful, but this probably showed a certain maturity that many admission committees found attractive.

So far, so good. What could be the drawback? You want to keep your mind sharp in the time between that last political science class and that first contracts class. Some people can spend months smoking peyote with spider monkeys in the southern hemisphere, and then return home as brilliant as ever (Jay Donnell’s summer Irvine classes are currently taking enrollments). However, you want to ensure that you don’t simply become a wandering vagabond.

Approach #2: Several months.

Go backpacking through eastern Europe. Hit up South America. Taking this time to relax will likely pay dividends toward your mental health once you are reading hundreds of pages of case law every day. It might even open your mind a little bit and you’ll get a lot of comments when you upload the photo album to your facebook page. For example, I went to Australia for 10 months, worked while I was there, and went on an amazing surfing trip. It will be decades before I get an opportunity like that again, or possibly when the next 50-year storm hits.

Approach #3: One summer.

So, you are going straight from college to law school. Just like Kobe never needed extra time to see if he wanted to be an insurance salesman after high school, you don’t need extra time dilly-dallying about potential careers. In other words, you were born to be a lawyer. I admire your ambition and decisiveness. You can’t really get a job, and you can’t go to Australia for 10 months, but that doesn’t mean this can’t be a great summer that will get you energized for grad school. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s something somewhat spontaneous, and that it hopefully occurs outdoors. While I find the law to be very engaging (and hopefully you do too), law school will be extremely structured, and you’ll be spending lots of time under fluorescent lights.

Open up a lemonade stand. Visit Pittsburgh. Open up a lemonade stand IN Pittsburgh. Whatever you do, don’t just sit around your apartment.

– Rod Taynes (future law student / blogging travel agent)