Summer’s just around the corner, which, for the prelaw, means that you have plenty of time to beef up your law school application. If you’re taking the LSAT, you’ll be spending some time studying for the LSAT, though not all your time studying for the LSAT (despite what you may have been led to believe, vitamin D insufficiency does not automatically add ten points to your LSAT score). And if you’ve already taken the LSAT, you need to figure out what to do for the summer. Should you get a part-time gig at a law office, or should you do something unrelated to the law, so you can show admissions offices that you have outside interests?
For the most part, law school admissions is based on three components: your GPA, your LSAT score, and the “character and individuality” factor. Your GPA’s already set at this point, and you’ve killed (or are about to kill the LSAT), so all you need to do is work on the “you” factor. You might be inclined to get hired by the first attorney you come across. After all, you’re going to be applying to law school, and you want to show that you’re a serious individual, one who is really, really dedicated to the practice of the law. “All law, all the time—what a committed young individual! Admitted!” you imagine the Harvard Law admissions committee saying.
But don’t go staying up till 4am and calling the number of every attorney that shows up on TV, no matter how impressively resonant that gavel sounds. From my experience, it seemed like about half of law students worked at law offices before law school. Maybe it does give you brownie points, but working for a law office just to check a box doesn’t make you stand out or say anything about who you are as a person.
Instead, think in terms of what you can do to write an amazing personal statement. Ask yourself what you really care about—something other than Game of Thrones. What can you engage in that relates to how you envision your future practice of the law? Are you passionate about First Amendment rights? A particular political candidate? Animal welfare? Do that, regardless of whether or not you’re doing legal work. You’ll not only have a rewarding summer, you’ll be able to speak genuinely and passionately in your personal statement, something that law school admission offices will be able to pick up on.
That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t work for an attorney. Maybe your true passion is to be a prosecutor or a tax attorney. If you have the opportunity, go for it, so long as you think that the experience will give you a clearer idea of who you are and what you want to do.
I should note that it’s perfectly fine to, say, work on voter fraud issues, and write about how it’s motivated you to pursue a legal career, all while thinking that there’s a chance you might work as a corporate attorney after graduation. Law schools know that those loans are rough. They still want to see that passion and drive, which will make you a great attorney. And some law firms do some important pro bono work in high-profile cases (gay marriage, anyone?).
In short, don’t work for a law office for any imagined points you might get. Go out and engage in something you care about. And, most importantly, make sure to get some sun!