People love to tell you how to land that nice, cushy, Big Law job after graduation. Get straight A’s. Go to a top school. Earn a spot on law review.
All good advice, even if significantly easier said than done.
But what if I told you there’s something you can do right now that would increase your chances of landing a job after graduation almost as much as anything else?
Well, there is! (I sound like Vince from the ShamWow! Commercials; imagine me screaming this last sentence at you.)
Get a job.
Take a year or two (or three) off before heading to law school. I guarantee you that it will still be there when you want to go back.
In the meantime, find a full-time position somewhere, and start building up that résumé.
First, work experience is becoming a huge plus in the law school admissions process. A few years of work experience can turn you from an average candidate to a great one. This is because having the work experience makes you more employable (see the reason No. 3, below), and law schools like their students to be employable. So work experience will help you get into a better law school, which itself will also increase employment prospects (see the positive feedback loop here?).
Second, you’ll hopefully be able to save up some money. Why is that important? Well, if you have some money saved up, two things will happen. You’ll have more freedom to select schools because you can maybe forego a little in scholarship money to go to a more prestigious law school. Also, if you save that money throughout law school, you’ll have a cushion in which to find employment after graduation. Needing a job immediately to start servicing law school loans puts pressure to find a job right after graduation. If you have some breathing room, however, you can wait until that perfect job comes along. Or, at least, that “perfect enough” job.
Third, law firms love people with actual work experience. A lot of their new hires have never held down a solid job before. They know what it’s like to be a full-time student (“full-time” should be in ironic quotes), but that’s not nearly the same as knowing what a 60+ hour work week is like. That’s why there’s so much burnout in Big Law. And the firms are sick of it. They spend a lot of money to train you during those first few years (they do, admittedly, make some good money off of you too), and they invest a lot of resources in the form of partner time mentoring you. If you have proven you can make it through the long hours with work experience before law school, you’re more attractive to employers while in law school.
Finally, it’ll give you time to grow up and make sure that law school is for you. You’re not as mature now as you will be after spending a few years out of school. You’re also not as sure of what you want to do with your life as you will be after a few years of working. Maturity and absolute knowledge that law school is for you will ensure that you put your all into getting into a great law school and earn top grades.
So for any seniors out there, take some time off after graduation. Earn some money. Enjoy having your own stuff. And make sure that law school is for you. If it’s not, I’ve just saved you $150K. If it is, you’ll now be more employable.
An original version of this post appeared on Most Strongly Supported in 2012.