With a four-year undergraduate degree under your belt, and hundreds of hours of studying behind you, you might be looking to the next challenge ahead: law school. As an aspiring lawyer, you have a mountain to summit. A gap year might be just what you need to prepare for the climb! A gap year before law school can:
- Give you room to breathe and relax after dedicating yourself to years of studies, and prepare for the next step on your academic journey.
- Let you explore your passion for legal work by traveling to low-income countries and supporting marginalized communities.
- Help you decide if law school is really what you want to do.
- Better prepare you for the LSAT if you haven’t taken it yet, or need to retake it for a better score.
- Add practical work experience to your resume, and give you plenty of talking points in interviews and admission essays.
Here are our favorite ideas for a gap year before law school.
1. Combine travel with experiential education through a law internship abroad
An international internship is a popular option for students interested in gap year law programs. It accomplishes several goals at once - not only do you get travel and experiential education wrapped up in one package, you also:
- Get direct perspective into local legal systems and practices, adding global flair to your knowledge.
- Meet and network with lawyers from around the world.
- Work on and analyze real cases under the supervision and guidance of professionals, and have debates and discussions with staff and other interns.
- Explore different legal fields that interest you, such as labor law, corporate law, litigation, or criminal law.
- Navigate the challenges that affect the application of legal practices and access to legal services, such as different social conditions, economic inequality, and religious backgrounds.
In addition to getting law experience before law school, you’ll experience the thrills of living in a foreign country. Tease your palate with new and exciting cuisines, let your ears listen to the music of various languages, and see stunning local sights.
Here is one of our favorite legal internships abroad:
“I never expected the incredible opportunities that I was about to have while working at the Projects Abroad Human Rights Office (PAHRO). I learned more in my month of interning then I ever could have imagined. It was the first time in my life I felt like I was doing tangible work, and at the same time, I was actually touching the lives of people.” - Emily D, Law & Human Rights in South Africa
2. Become a human rights volunteer abroad
Getting involved in human rights campaigns and social justice initiatives is ideal for students who want to give back while taking time off before law school. If you’re feeling a little burned out from all the theories and concepts, it’s a great way to inject real purpose back into your studies!
Not all human rights work involves a legal component, making it extremely accessible for pre-law students. You’ll do hands-on work, and learn about people by working with them directly and hearing their stories. You’ll be exposed to the injustices that millions of people face every day, and you’ll be able to contribute to important causes.
You can focus on a range of issues, like:
- Refugee and migrant rights
- Children’s rights and safety
- Domestic violence
- Human trafficking
Becoming a human rights volunteer abroad will also demonstrate your sense of empathy, which can help you stand out from the crowd when you apply for law school.
Here are some of the top Human Rights internships you can choose from:
Top Tip: How do I fund a program abroad?
It can be difficult to find high-quality volunteer programs and internships abroad for free. Most companies that offer safe, organized, and hassle-free programs typically require a fee. To raise funds for your trip, we recommend researching all fundraising opportunities open to you, as well as looking at scholarships and grants you can apply for.
3. Work during your gap year before law school
Plenty of students use their gap years to earn money, even if their work isn’t related to the careers they want to pursue in the future. It’s a great way to make the most of your time if you want to:
- Build savings
- Start paying back student loans
- Earn money for your future studies or travel plans
If you’re invested in the idea of traveling during your gap year before law school, but are struggling to get the funds together, we strongly recommend working to raise the funds. You can work for part of the year, and travel for the rest of the year using what you’ve raised so far. You may be asking yourself:
What are the best gap year jobs before law school?
There’s no right or wrong path you can take when it comes to working in your gap year before law school. You can choose a job that strengthens your application - like a research assistant - or opt for a non-legal position that broadens your range of experience and gives you critical global competencies, like leadership skills. You can also opt for something completely off the beaten track, purely because you find it interesting, or it meets one of your personal goals!
The important thing is that you do what works for you during your gap year.
4. Learn a new language - or improve what you already know
Adding a second or third language to your repertoire has numerous benefits, especially with regards to a gap year for law school. You’ll:
- Be able to communicate with more people on a deeper level, in day-to-day life and professional settings
- Enhance your resume
- Improve your listening skills
- Gain more cultural awareness
In the US, speaking Spanish is especially valuable, and there are several ways you can learn the language or build on your existing conversational ability. Read our blog on how to immerse yourself in Spanish. You can learn more about other Language Courses we offer here.
Can I take a gap year during or after law school?
If you’re going to law school straight out of undergrad and can’t take time off beforehand, you have other options. A gap year doesn’t necessarily have to be a full year, and most gap year programs are flexible enough to work with your schedule. If a program is a month or less, you can easily fit in an internship or volunteer project during the short spring and winter breaks, or the longer summer break. It’s ideal for students wanting to take a gap year during law school.
You can also wait to take your gap year after law school. As a graduate, you’ll be able to take your knowledge and skills abroad, and put them into practice. This is a good opportunity to travel and do something different before you take your bar exam or get a full-time job.
With Projects Abroad, you can become an intern or volunteer abroad from as little as two weeks at any time of the year. To get the most of our project, however, we encourage you to stay for as long as possible (at least a month).
“I was excited to gain a perspective of how international maritime law operates both in a domestic context, particularly, in China. As Shanghai is one of the largest maritime ports in the world, I felt that I could gain a fantastic insight into the operation of international regulations and case law at this firm.” - Sinead C, Law in China
Should I take a gap year before law school?
If you feel the experience would benefit you, then our answer is unequivocally yes! Not every aspiring lawyer goes straight to law school from their undergraduate degree, and a gap year is common and can be a very positive addition to your admission application. Take a break to build yourself up, meet personal goals, and decide if you’re ready to take on the challenge of a law degree.