If you have decided to attend law school, your next step is to decide when to attend law school. The obvious possibility is right after receiving an undergraduate degree but there also is the option of waiting a year or two, or even longer.
ADVICE ON WHEN TO ATTEND LAW SCHOOL
If indecisive about when to begin law school, talk to your Pre-law Advisor.
IN PROGRESS Once you graduate from college, your UGPA is fixed. Admission committees may not be influenced by your graduate school GPA. A graduate degree takes at least two semesters with four semesters not being unual. Is earning a graduate degree worth it? Probablyu not unless the graduate degree will lead to a career.
Not entering law school directly after college is a logical choice for someone who wants to explore other areas before settling down or is unsure about law school (e.g. whether to attend or where to attend).
The right time to begin law school is when you know that you are intellectually, socially and emotionally ready.
It may be a good idea to apply to law school when your application appears strongest.
If you are having or think you will be having a bad senior year, very likely your application to law school will be strongest if you put in your application early in the fall semester of your senior year with the intention of entering law school the following fall semester.
If you apply for law school admission after college graduation, your undergraduate GPA will be based on all your undergraduate work but your undergraduate GPA will be less important.
If you begin law school the same year you graduate from college, you may be disadvantaged by being among the youngest members of the class and by not having a professional perspective on legal education.
If you are considering law school at an out-of-state public university that very likely will accept you, in order to avoid paying out-of-state tuition, you may want to move to that state and wait the time necessary to establish residency.
Not entering law school directly after college may make your academic record stronger if one or more of the following occur: Your senior year GPA is more impressive than your junior year GPA Your LSAT score is much more impressive than your GPA You earn a respectable graduate degree or You gain valuable work experience. I do not recommend earning a graduate degree unless you intend to make use of the graduate degree if you do not get into law school.
Some of the benefits of not entering law school directly after college could be gaining career experience and perspective, earning money, and taking a break from the ivory tower of academia.
If you cannot decide between applying to law school and gaining some career experience first, keep your options open. That is, apply to law school and apply for employment. You do not want to be in a situation where, because you did not apply to law school, your only option is a low-paying job with no prospects.
Taking a year or two off after college graduation will probably change your interest in law school (increase it or decrease it).
Taking a year or two off may give you a chance to relax before undertaking the intellectual rigor associated with law school. The time between college and law school may offer interesting or exciting employment, an opportunity for self-exploration, travel, teaching, being in the Peace Corps, Teach for America, or community service; time for these activities may becomes more difficult after law school.
If you do take time off, make sure to keep your law school relevant skills sharp.
Employment after college graduation could be an opportunity to earn money to pay for your law school education.
Not beginning law school after college graduation may force you to begin repaying educational loans accrued during your undergraduate education.
If you will be unable to find worthwhile employment after college graduation, entering law school after college graduation may be appealing.
If you apply to law school after post-college employment, submit at least one, perhaps exactly one, letter of recommendation from your post-college employers.
In the final analysis, deciding when to begin law school can be very tough decisions and it is your decision to make.
"What law schools wish above all is for applicants to complete any unfinished business or personal agendas before they arrive at their doors. You should not attend law school feeling ambiguous, either because you're not sure that you want to become an attorney or because you still harbor a desire to pursue other goals." The University of Chicago Pre-LawInfoCenter
The UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME says that "For those who have been out of school for more than a year or two, your undergraduate GPA will be less important. The law schools will focus more on your LSAT score and your accomplishments since leaving school." Ipso facto, if your GPA is not impressive but your LSAT is, delaying applying to law school for a year or two may have its advantages. A student with an unimpressive GPA for the first three years but with the possibility of an excellent senior year GPA, may well want to consider taking a year or two off.
Arizona State University Pre-Law answers the question, For how long is an LSAT score usable? Their answer is,"Five years, although many law schools will not accept scores older than three years. Check the requirements of each law school to which you wish to apply." If you are the owner of an impressive LSAT score that you feel you will not be able to approach in the future, you may want to make sure to apply to law school before your LSAT score is too old.
Georgetown Career Education Center notes that, "Taking time to work for several years may or may not enhance your chances of getting into law school, depending on what you have accomplished already, but it will make you a more interesting member of any law school class. And it will certainly give you a better perspective on being a law student than the person who has taken the Kindergarten-law-school route [nonstop]."
CLAREMONT McKENNA COLLEGE (Claremont, California) PRE-LAW HANDBOOK admonishes that, "You should not be afraid of delaying your law school applications for one or two years because you desire to do something else worthwhile. You will probably be better off for it. There is probably nothing negative about taking a ''year off.'' In fact, some feel that people who take time off after college are better prepared and perform better than their classmates just out of college. Keep in mind, the average entering age for law school is almost 26 years old."
PRE-LAW ADVISING AT LOWELL HOUSE, HARVARD says, "These days, a majority of law students do not enter law school directly after college. This is usually the best option for students who want to explore other areas before 'settling down,' or are unsure about whether, when, or where they want to go to law school." Lowell House generally urges prelaw students "to consider taking at least one year off before applying to law school. In part, this is because it often helps students to decide whether or not law school is right for them. Additionally, the time between college and law school offers an opportunity for self-exploration, travel, or interesting work that becomes more difficult after law school. Finally, having some post-collegiate experience often helps students in law school because they have additional career experience and perspective." "Thinking strategically about whether to apply senior year or not -- your application may be strengthened with the addition of work or travel experience, or your senior year grades and honors." "It is best to apply to law school when you think your application will be strongest." "Furthermore, if an applicant is not accepted at a particular school, it is unusual for that candidate to be accepted the next year when she reapplies. Generally, unless the candidate's credentials have changed significantly during that year, they will really not stand a better chance for admission. Therefore, you should aim to apply when you think that your chances are the best, rather than taking a shot with the expectation that you can try again the next year if you are unsuccessful."
The STANFORD UNIVERSITY UNDERGRADUATE ADVISING CENTER states that, "Stanford alumni, in a biannual survey of alumni in law school, overwhelmingly advise working before applying to law school. Gaining experience in the real world, earning money, and taking a break from the 'Ivory Towers' of academe are all cited as positive factors. Take some time off before applying to law school. you will be a stronger candidate after even a year or two of work/other experience. However, it is also true that some students are firm in their desire to continue on to law school immediately and are successful law students."
The University of Chicago Prelaw Guide tells us that ''Many students ... feel pressured to begin their professional education immediately after graduation, but it is never too late to consider applying to law school. Today, the median age of people entering law school is 25. If you begin law school the same year you receive your B.A., you may be disadvantaged in two ways: 1) you will be among the youngest members of the class, and 2) you will not have a 'professional' perspective on legal education.''
The University of California at Berkeley Career Center gives their answer to the question, "If I take a year off after graduation, what should I do?" Their answer is, "Do something constructive like professional work, community volunteering, legal or academic research, teaching, or take some classes (upper-division courses or graduate level). The latter may require you to submit an additional transcript to LSDAS, but could also allow you to get a more recent letter of recommendation."
DEFERRING LAW SCHOOL (IN PROGRESS)
Deferring law school means delaying admission for one year (in some cases, one semester or two years) after the scheduled law school admission date.
A law school is under no obligation to grant a deferral.
When Not To Apply Right Away. If you don't plan to go to law school right away, it is probably best not to apply right away.
When to Apply for a Defferal. The time to request a deferral is after you have been admitted, not before. Right after you have been admitted may be the best time to request a defferal.
Types of Defferal Policies. Many law schools have a deferral policy whereby, once accepted, you can defer entry to law school for a year (policy varies from school to school but is almost always a case-by-case decision). Some schools allow deferral on a first-come-first-served basis, others may require a good reason. Regardless of policy, the number of deferrals is usually limited each year, if available at all. CAREER SERVICES AT PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
A Two-Year Defferal. The granting of a deferral for more that one year is not very likely although some law schools will grant requests for a two-year deferment to someone participating in a program that requires a two-year commitment (e.g. Teach For America, international fellowship).
Admitted from a Waiting List. If you are admitted from a waiting list, your chances of a deferment will usually not be very good.
What if Deferral Denied. Even if a deferral is not granted there is almost always the option of reapplying for admission at a later date.
Deferral Ethics. Ddeferring entry to a school is a commitment to that school. It would be unethical to defer matriculation to more than one school or to apply to another law school once you had received a deferment from your original choice.
Question 16: I'll be working next year. Should I apply now and defer, or wait until next autumn? The answer given by ARiZONA STATE UNIVERSITY PRE-LAW is, " Although many do so, it is certainly not as common as it once was. In general, it is wise to wait until your credentials are as strong as possible: the combination of a complete four-year transcript and some professional experience will certainly be helpful to law school admission committees as they evaluate your application."
Johns Hopkins The Law School Option considers the question, If you are admitted to law school and suddenly discover that you have won a fellowship to study abroad for a year or you have gotten a job offer you can't refuse, can you defer admission? Their answer is, "That depends on the policy of each school to which you apply. The general rule is that law schools like students to apply for the year when they plan to matriculate. However, they are also interested in having students who have varied experiences.
The DUDLEY HOUSE (Harvard) UNDERGRADUATE SITE talks about deferring, "Generally, the best time to apply to law school is the time you're ready to attend. However, some students choose to apply in their senior year and then defer. Most law schools grant one-year deferrals regularly, although often resist subsequent deferrals. (With rare exceptions -- for instance, students with international fellowships are routinely granted additional deferments). If you want to defer, beware that many schools make their deferral decisions on a first-come, first-serve basis. Law schools will often grant deferrals until their entering class gets too small, and then stop granting them. This means it is very much in your best interest to get your deferral request in as early as possible."
The University of Chicago Pre-law InfoCenter considers the question, "Should I apply now and defer or wait until next" Fall? Their answer is, "Law schools are under no obligation to grant deferrals; they would rather have you pursue your interests and then apply to law school. In general, rather than asking for a deferral, it is wise to wait until your credentials are as strong as possible: the combination of a complete four year transcript and some professional experience will certainly be helpful to law school admissions committees as they evaluate you. Petitions for deferrals usually are evaluated on a case-by-case basis and may be granted if you can cite legitimate and compelling reasons for seeking a deferral. The time to request a deferral is after you have been admitted, not before. Be sure to check law schools' web pages for their deferral policies."
All other issues aside, graduating early will not affect your chances [of being admitted to law school] either positively or negatively. However, you should be aware that you will be presenting law schools with a shorter track-record (i.e. fewer grades) to evaluate..Just as importantly, you are losing a whole year of emotional, social, and intellectual development." A typical 21 yr. old senior with no professional experience may well be admitted to a prestigious law program but may not, ultimately, gain as much from law school as if he or she had waited awhile. Many students in college feel pressured to begin their professional education immediately after graduation, but it is never too late to consider applying to law school.If you begin law school the same year you receive your B.A., you may be disadvantaged in two ways: 1) you will be among the youngest members of the class, and 2) you will not have a "professional" perspective on legal education. Although being the youngest in a class may not seem important, the difference in the students' ages is much greater in law school than in college. Though students do enter law school right out of college, they often find that many of their classmates are in their late twenties or thirties, are married, and may have children of their own. Furthermore, the majority of their classmates will have had some professional experience. Imagine yourself in a classroom where the professor asks a student to interpret a legal point in the context of her professional experience as a real estate broker! Although your going to law school will not necessarily hinge upon a prior career, it is becoming increasingly important. Many admissions committees now view some professional experience as a significant part of the candidate's profile (business schools, for example, view it as a prerequisite)." "When you decide to attend law school, whether you choose to graduate early, and how you choose to get exposure to the profession you are considering is up to you. Use the resources available to you and consult with your pre-law advisor to aid in your decision making process. It is our hope that you will one day have a successful, thriving career in whatever you choose to do." From the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
FALL OR JANUARY ADMISSION
All American law school have Fall admission. At a few law schools admission in January is also an option. In general, when there is a choice, most applicants apply for Fall admission. The curriculum for students starting in January is very likely no different than the Fall curriculum. At some law schools admission is easier in January than in the Fall.