Taking Time Off Before Law School

In the last four months, I have been to three volcanoes, five rainforests, seven beaches and a white-water river. I have almost been mugged, watched a turtle lay its eggs on the beach in the middle of the night (sort of like a majestic bowel movement) and visited one of the world’s largest collections of jade. I’ve cooked vegetables whose names I can’t pronounce and found a dead spider outside my apartment the other day that was at least three inches in diameter. About the only thing I haven’t done is to attend law school. And I couldn’t be happier.

A couple years ago, I decided that I wanted to teach English in Chile for a year after graduation. Like all sophomores, my ideas were often influenced by outside stimuli (exhaustion, alcohol, exaggerating to impress girls) and generally didn’t last for longer than a week or two, so even I didn’t take myself too seriously. However, in my senior year, I began to really consider the idea of going abroad and not head straight into law school. For various reasons, I had never had a chance to do a semester abroad during college. I had always wanted to perfect my Spanish and felt that taking off a year was my golden opportunity.

There was also another factor that heavily influenced my decision—I was not ready to go to law school. It was not an issue of preparedness; I had a good GPA and LSAT score and all my letters of recommendation lined up (although in typical fashion two of the three have yet to send theirs in). For me, the desire and drive that one needs to succeed in law school just weren’t there. After 17 years straight of schooling, I was getting good grades because I had to, not because I really cared about the classes. I don’t want to go to law school just to go to through the motions. I don’t even want to go when I feel I could be ready. I want to go when I feel truly passionate about going.

A lot of people think time off means that you don’t know what you want to do with your life, but I see it from a different angle. I know exactly what I want to do and because of that, I’m abroad. I chose a study program that sent me to San José, Costa Rica until this December. My Spanish is improving and I am having the time of my life. Last week, after finally finishing my personal statement, the last thing I needed to do for my applications, I decided to take one more year off before going to law school in the fall of 2011. I’m looking at interesting jobs, fulfilling internships or teaching English in South America. I know when I go to law school I will be fresh, excited and ready. I get closer to being there every day.

Nick is a former Blueprint student currently avoiding all responsibility in San José, Costa Rica.

9 Responses

  1. spags says:

    Aren’t you worried that you’ll lose momentum by taking two years off? I get that you want to put 100% effort into law school, but once you get out of the studying habit, it’s hard to get back into it (especially when you’ve been chilling at beaches for a year).

  2. Jen says:

    I kind of agree with Spags; however, it really depends on the type of person you are. I took a year and a half off just to work and decide if law school really is what I want to do and it was. So I applied (and am currently waiting for letters) for the Fall 2010 semester. School is what I do best.

    But I also have friends who took time off, went back, and ended up leaving again because they just couldn’t stay focused (and didn’t want to be there.)

    If you’re happy in Costa Rica teaching…I’d probably just do that for the rest of my life. That sounds like a pretty sweet gig that no a whole lot of people get the opportunity to do.

  3. Nick says:

    Both of you make very good points. Going back to school after two years out is a bit of a risk, but I think Jen is right when she says it is not for everyone. I think (or rather hope) that the time off and the real world experience that I gain will be assets that allow me to enter refreshed and ready rather than detriments to law school success. However, I would also add that I advocate taking time off only if you have something worthwhile to do in the meantime. My major point in writing this was to offer a counterargument to the widespread belief that taking time off is either for slackers or people who don’t know what to do with their loves.



  4. Nick says:

    I inadvertently wrote loves instead of lives, but taking time off is also a good way to learn about that, too.

  5. […] or valuable to a legal career, especially if you have another more interesting option on the table (like going to Costa Rica for five months). Don’t skip checking the legal/paralegal section on Craigslist, but if you’ve always secretly […]

  6. […] of fake learner, then there may be a better job out there for you. Such as anything that involves anything remotely interesting. So go find it, and leave the law degree to boring fools like […]

  7. Jen says:

    Hi Nick,

    I’m an online blueprint student (and an ardent fan of BP) and do think you have recorded some of the explanations for us, didn’t you?

    I know it’s been more than a year since you wrote this posting, and perhaps you are ready to go to law school now — I was wondering if you could provide me with some advice with managing timing because I am at the crossroads, just like you were more than a year ago, and I am asking b/c I do believe you made a good decision.

    I am in my first gap year (graduated college this June), was originally going to take the October LSAT in just few weeks, already sent out letters to professors requesting for the recommendations to be submitted for this application cycle. But then I’m also doing this research assistant job at school (which I originally planed on doing until I go to law school next fall if I get accepted), which I do enjoy a lot, and I feel like I also want to read lots of books, furnish my writing skills, etc, before I go to law school, because I am an econ major and don’t think I had that much chance to write very well and extensively. My GPA is pretty high from top 10 undergrad(us rankings– and I’m not boasting, just to give you an idea for better advice), though I’m not sure about the LSAT yet — I have a record of canceling the test once last year though. In any case, just when I started debating about how much worth it would be to take another year off, I read your old posting.

    Postpone deadline for this LSAT is just around the corner, and was just wondering, in case I decide to take another year off, how did you deal with the recommendations, etc? That is, I already entered info for recommenders in my LSAC account, asked recommenders to submit their letters in October, so should I ask them to not submit, or should I just have them write and submit anyways, but instead apply next year with those recommendations? Would they still be valid? It sounded like you made decision quite late as well, and was hoping you could give me some advice.. Thank you so much!

  8. Jen says:

    And, of course, if you have no idea about the whole recommendation deal, at least please let me know how you feel now that you’ve taken two years off and how your application process has been! Looking forward to hearing from you soon! Thank you!

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