Skip to content

August 1, 2014

Pre-law work experience

by Dan Rodriguez

This article from U.S. News “Law Admissions Lowdown” purports to give pro/con arguments for work experience before law school (noting, accurately, that Northwestern Law is unique in putting a heavy thumb on the scale in favor of such experience).

The “con” arguments rely on a number of false premises:
First, the suggestion that law schools have a more or less set number of spots for students with and without work experience is misleading. Law schools, generally speaking, prefer students with work experience. The difference stems from how high is this preference and, moreover, how the school evaluates the tradeoff between high numerical credentials and such experience. The lesson here is that if a student has credentials within the ballpark of one or another law school, s/he would only be helping him/herself by gaining some valuable work experience before enrolling — and perhaps before applying. I confess that it would be great for Northwestern Law is we cornered the market on such students but, in reality, the other law schools are moving rapidly in our direction.

Second, the idea that students, because they will be older when they graduate, will have a harder time transitioning into the working world is belied by the evidence. Legal employers greatly value work experience and they regard the maturity and exposure to the real world as very valuable traits and skills.

Finally, the notion that students will be less adept at doing academic work with a break between college and law school is false — or, I should say more carefully, is false as a generalization about the college/law school gap. Generally speaking, we see the opposite, that is, students can take a deep breath from the academic pressures of undergraduate (or graduate school), gain some perspective, experience, and energy, and return to school with the resolve to do high-level, intense academic work. Again, that has been our experience with our students; and this tracks with other law schools who are increasingly looking to students with work experience.

So, in the end, the “cons” are not really “cons” at all. And certainly the “pros” outweigh any “cons” that might loom!

Read more from Legal Education

Comments are closed.