Work Experience Before Law School

Office and chairs

Some people ask whether there is a de facto requirement that prospective law students obtain some type of real world work experience before going to law school.

Ultimately, you don’t explicitly need work experience. However, I would highly recommend that you take some time to work between college and law school.

There are several reasons for this. One benefit is that you can actually explore working life, preferably in the legal industry. You would essentially be killing two birds with one stone.

Not only would you gain a clearer sense of “the real world” after college, but you’ll be in a much better position to determine whether law school is right for you. This is because you would be able to speak with and observe attorneys as they go about their daily business. Many prospective law students don’t have prior experience in the legal industry. But I think that after gaining this experience, they would think long and hard about their initial reasons for attending law school.

Also, post-college work experience may make you a more attractive applicant. It likely won’t provide a huge boost, but admissions officers will notice this. While this article is from 2015, Harvard’s admissions office indicated that it would give preference to students who had post-college work experience. You’re not sabotaging your application by going straight to law school after college. However, I think that having some unique or relevant work experience can differentiate your application from others.

While I only had one year of work experience between college and law school, I wish I had more. I noticed that older students with more work experience seemed more mature and ready for life as a practicing lawyer. I suppose the one downside, however, is that it takes some time to get back into studying mode. Nevertheless, I could sense their maturity simply by the way they held their ground in class and the way they went about their job search (especially when seeking “Big Law” jobs).

Every case is different, so it’s tough to give individual advice. But generally speaking, I think that unless there is a compelling reason not to do so, you should take some time and explore working life before law school.