Spring is a time of transition, with a new crop of college graduates about to enter the workforce while others finish programs and fellowships. Whether you are about to take a gap year before attending law school or are already in the workforce, it’s worth thinking about how best to position yourself to apply to law school.
Here are four jobs that will help strengthen your profile:
- Paralegal or legal assistant
- Research or policy analyst
- community work
- Working for a startup
Paralegal or Legal Assistant
Working as a paralegal may be dry, demanding and high-pressure, but there are few comparable ways to get paid while engaging in legal work firsthand.
Paralegal work can burnish your resume and result in a strong recommendation letter. Paralegals also gain key insights into how legal positions differ in their culture, challenges, pace and expectations.
Aspiring lawyers are often so focused on what kind of law they want to practice that they fail to consider what kind of day-to-day legal work best suits their interests and lifestyle. Law offices range from solo practices to multinational firms. They also differ in their degree of specialization or variety, transactional or adversarial work, desk research or client interviews, and countless other factors.
With that in mind, if you can’t find a position at a firm that specializes in a legal field that appeals to you, look for a larger firm to gain wide exposure. Also look for opportunities to work with clients, like intake or taking notes on depositions, to stay mindful of the people you will be helping as a lawyer.
Research or Policy Analyst
Whether you work at a think tank, nonprofit, public office or for a professor, a research position can honor two critic legal skills: analytical reasoning and writing. Even better, they may allow you to contribute to published work that will stand out on your resume or in responses to interview questions.
If you did not have a chance to write a thesis or major paper in college, a research position may help you show similar capabilities. Some schools, like Harvard Law School in Massachusetts, even ask directly about substantial written works you have produced.
Law is a service profession, so law schools appreciate applicants with demonstrated ability to serve others. Whether through a political, civic or faith-based organization, assisting vulnerable populations can help you identify the causes that resonate with your values.
Such jobs tend to be exhausting and poorly compensated, which is why they make for great entry-level work! And since such organizations tend to be understaffed, there is often a lot of room for personal growth and taking initiative. Whether you’re on your own or part of a team, grassroots efforts make for engaging personal statements.
Working for a startup
If you’re interested in the financial or business side of law and don’t want to take a more conventional role in investment banking or management consulting, consider a smaller firm. Joining an untested venture is the kind of risk that makes the most sense when you’re young, independent and mobile.
Growing businesses often confront legal and compliance issues that show how rules and markets interact in the real world. There’s also a good chance you can get a strong recommendation letter from a supervisor who can speak compellingly about your work.
These are just a few examples of the kinds of work well-suited for a year or two between college and law school. There’s no harm in using that time to pursue a less-worn path, like teaching English overseas, coaching a youth sport or leading test prep classes. It’s better to do some work, even on a part-time or volunteer basis, than to have long gaps in your resume.