Your Gap Year and the LSAT: What you need to know

This post was written by Tom Robinson, Spivey Consulting Group's newest Senior Consultant.

Hi Everyone,

I’m excited to be on the Spivey team and enjoyed working with clients in my first week with Spivey Consulting after spending my last three at Harvard Law and past seven at Harvard. It’s great to be on this side of the equation where I can assist in deciphering the application process and help candidates position their strengths and challenges well. In the spirit of offering advice, I wanted to take a moment to talk about how some applicants prepare for the LSAT.

I know that studying for the LSAT can be a herculean task and that many students spend nights and weekends cramming with practice tests. Some law school applicants have the ability to take a few months or even a year off to prepare for the exam, and others work full-time for a variety of reasons. However, if you are one of those folks who can take the year to study for the LSAT and apply to law schools, you should be aware that there are some pitfalls including how you portray that time on your resume.

I’ve seen two versions of this. First, some students simply state in their materials and on their resume that they took the year to study for the exam. Other applicants note that they did so well on the exam, that they took the rest of the year to teach others how to take the LSAT.

If you’re taking a year to study and apply, please consider how this will look to an admissions officer. There are many applicants who have worked full-time. These students are building skills, their resumes, and demonstrating the ability to balance major competing needs. They’re balancing work, life, and the law admissions process — all skills that will serve them well as a 1L student.

Still other applicants do so well on the LSAT that they’re asked to return to the test center as an instructor. I know from personal experience just how hard and rewarding teaching can be, but I wonder about the opportunities missed when a student teaches the LSAT for year? While this is work experience, I often rolled my eyes a bit when this was noted on an applicant’s resume. After interviewing many potential candidates for law school, I have only encountered one or two applicants who could make a compelling case that teaching the LSAT (often part-time) was as valuable and engaging as the work experience that many other applicants shared.

So, if you are fortunate enough to take the year to study and/or teach the LSAT, please consider finding ways to engage and explore your law or career interests. This doesn’t mean that you have to run out and get a paralegal job. Consider one student who made the compelling argument that he was interested in education law and, while studying for the LSAT, volunteered in a secondary school working with students with disabilities. In his admissions materials, he was able to make observations between how various laws and policies influenced the actual classroom experience of some students with disabilities and how, as an attorney, he might be able to advocate with those students to more fully meet their needs. There are so many connections to the law — you can be creative in your search, work part-time, and perhaps even have fun with a temporary job. But beware the "year off to focus on the LSAT" line.

I hope this advice helps and I look forward to your comments/discussion.

—Tom Robinson