Ms. Pre-JD: The Gap

I had planned to write an extensive article on how to network this month (find another amazing article about networking this summer here), but in line with last month’s post, I’m offering a step back from the constant career talk. Instead of thinking about my career trajectory, I want to extend the definition of pre-law to include the years after undergrad and before law school. Now that I’m headed into my junior year, I have only two types of pre-law friends: the ones ordering copious numbers of LSAT books and the ones still smiling because they plan to take a few years off. I am almost certainly in the latter category, but it’s worth mentioning that I have no idea what I want to do with my ‘years off’. I figured we could consider options and the uncertainty together.

  1. Travel: the expensive way (just traveling) or the affordable way (work while traveling). Maybe pick up a language, go on some hikes, meet some cool people. Find stories that will last forever, make yourself into a more interesting job candidate and person in general. Get life experience that you won’t ever be able to get once you start your job. Spend a year in every country.
  2. Legal Work: become a paralegal or a legal assistant. Work in HR or another more administrative role at a law firm. Interact with lawyers, build a strong network, make some money. Then, go to law school and return to the same firm, as an attorney this time. Obvious perks are the network you create, the money, and the job guaranteed out of law school.
  3. Other Work: work anywhere and just get some job experience. Maybe at a job you’ve always wanted to try. Or, if you haven’t ever interned, get some office experience to make yourself more employable. Maybe just save money for law school to drive down the excessive debt, or maybe take some extra time to confirm that law school is actually what you want to do.
  4. Service: commit to some sort of service-oriented project or cause. This one speaks to me the most. The Peace Corps, maybe, or Teach for America. I am considering joining the military, for example, or participating in a service project that has grassroots origins. I could also be compelled by the chance to work with refugees or with students from less privileged areas of the US.

I’ll probably take the next year to make my plans clearer. It is a scary prospect to not apply to law school at all yet – I will need a Plan B and Plan C to assure myself that, if plans do fall through, I won’t be sitting at home for a whole year. Of course, if you do plan to take time off, also begin to consider asking for letters of reference now, make a list of college experiences that could make it into a personal statement, and figure out the earliest LSAT date that will be valid when you apply just to be more aware of your testing window.

What have I missed? If anyone has taken time off before law school or is planning to, I would love to read about your plan in the comments below. Does it fall in one of these categories?


Nikki Datta is a second-year at Columbia University in the City of New York. She serves as Executive Editor of the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review and is currently an intern at New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's Litigation office. She is also the founder and President of Columbia University Women in Law and Politics (cuwilp.weebly.com). Connect with Nikki at: www.linkedin.com/in/nikkidatta



Nikki! You’re smart and ambitious, and I’m sure you’ll be successful whatever route you choose. My advice would be not to choose the route that’s most “strategic” in terms of resume-building, but rather the one that you’re most passionate about and will give you the most opportunities to grow.

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