Law School or Work…

By Vanessa

If you are a college senior interested in attending law school you may be torn over whether you should go to law school right way or take a break to pursue other opportunities. My senior year of college I decided to find full-time employment instead of applying to a graduate degree; in hindsight I believe I made the right decision.

My first piece of advice to college seniors torn over this decision is to take time off if they are not confident that law school, or any graduate program for that matter, is the appropriate path for them. I actually was not planning to pursue a legal degree after my senior year of college. I was a business economics major, and I thought a doctorate program may be the next step in my education. I did not apply because I had no extensive experience in academic research, and I wanted to explore what would be in store for me if I did pursue a graduate degree in economics.

This brings me to my second piece of advice; before you decide what graduate program to enter, have a true sense of the nature of the employment opportunities that may be available to you when you graduate. It is entirely possible for you to like a subject and not be happy as a practitioner in that field.  I came to understand this when I joined the research associate program at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York the summer after I graduated from college. In this program research associates have the opportunity to assist economists with their research and policy analysis. I quickly realized that I did not want my job objective to be the publication of journal articles, which is how I ruled out the prospect of pursuing a graduate degree in economics.

My third piece of advice is to align your strengths with the skills required by the profession you decide to enter. From working at the Federal Reserve, I realized I was interested in policy work and regulation related to the financial sector. I want to pursue opportunities that entail public speaking or interfacing with others regularly. Lastly, I enjoy qualitative analysis more than quantitative analysis; law school allows me to utilize these skills and pursue these interests.

If I had not taken time off I do not think I would have attended law school. I probably would have started a graduate program that I was not well suited for. My work experience allowed me to come to law school with a narrow interest in the areas of law I want to explore and an awareness of alternative employment opportunities for lawyers in the public sector.

My last word of advice is if you know law school is for you then go for it, but if you are hesitant there is not much lost in taking some time off and the sense of clarity and direction you can gain in that time could be worthwhile. If you have any questions regarding this topic please email wls@law.illinois.edu and we would be happy to assist you.


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