Developing Your Law School Application:
Gaining Work Experience Prior to Law School- The Benefits & More
While these are the easiest measures for critiquing a law school admissions criteria for acceptance, there are other components that come into play for admissions. These include extra curricular activities, community service/volunteer work, and todays topic: work experience.
(We also recommend reading our overview on applying all credentials to your law school application.)
Today, we’ll cover the benefits of work experience, how to use work experience to your advantage with your law school application, and what admissions offices are specifically looking for with work experience prior to law school.
Benefits of Work Experience Prior to Law School
While there are both pro’s and con’s to having work experience prior to law school, we’re going to focus on the benefits.
It goes without saying that work experience prior to law school can help you stand out as a strong candidate. If you and another candidate have the same credentials UGPA and LSAT wise, work experience could be what helps you stand out. Secondly, if your application is weaker with grades, the experience can make up for lack of academic credentials.
However, something to keep in mind is that it’s not just work experience, but the quality of work experience that makes the difference. For example, if your work experience consists of just playing secretary and grabbing coffees for authority figures at a law firm, it will not be nearly as impressive as having an internship at a top law firm where you worked alongside the attorneys and gained insight and experience toward handling a case.
Also, do not assume that working at a law firm is the best form of experience. We know many current law students who were accepted from standing out with work experience from owning a business, being a successful journalist for a major political outlet, and even starting a small business for rescuing injured animals, something completely unrelated to law.
Generally speaking, law school admissions are not always looking for pre-law experience, so much as to see that you have been a leader of some sort, ability to be decisive, have experience in the “real world”, have a certain level of maturity through your experience, as well as following through an ambition, passion, and sense of accomplishment and purpose.
In your personal statement essay or interview, speaking about a work experience you were truly passionate about and defining the characteristic that drove you through that experience, and how those same characteristics will benefit as a law school student speaks volumes.
For example, our good friend who spoke about their animal rescue business told law school admissions it was their sense of duty toward justice and keeping their area civilized and balanced that drove them to run the business. They would apply those same characteristics toward law school and their future as an attorney.
Valuable Work Experience: Qualities That Stand Out for Admissions
As we mentioned before, it’s not just about work experience but quality work experience. What’s most important is not always the work experience itself, but what you accomplished or how the organization moved forward due to your efforts.
When it comes to relaying the value gained from work experience, you want to make sure you can show:
- You were successful at whatever the job was. (The only exception to this may be if you started a business and failed. A lot can still be learned from this, such as deeper understanding dealing with the “real world”, communication skills, being analytical and decision making etc.)
- You were a leader/took initiative
- You work well with others
- You exceeded expectations
- You have gained strong analytical skills
- You have acquired a substantial amount of skills that will apply toward law school and as a future attorney.
- You have gained experience writing and/or speaking.
While these are not the only qualities that will impress admissions office, they are some of the qualities that will stand out. Remember, what is most important are the characteristics that led you to choose he work experience and the skills/qualities gained.
Should You Have Work Experience Prior to Law School?
Now that we understand the benefits of work experience prior to law school and what admissions office looks for with work experience, you may be wondering “Should I have work experience before law school?”
This is not a simple yes or no answer. It really depends on you, your current academic standings, and the law schools which you are applying. Some admissions office favor work experience more than others.
That being said, many law students have 2 years of work experience prior to applying. (Again, quality work experience), but there are students who attend law school directly out of undergrad.
Obviously, it can never hurt to have work experience so long as you’re in a position to have quality work experience prior to applying.
Work experience can be the difference between standing out and being accepted into the best law school possible, so as long as you’re in a position to do so, it is best gain work experience, even if it’s starting your own business while in undergrad.
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