The term “K-JD” (kindergarten through JD) refers to a student who continues on with his or her JD education immediately after graduating from college. The non-K-JD student takes time off to work, travel, volunteer, or study more in between.
Both paths to law school have their advantages, so with both in mind, you now might be considering whether the K-JD path or the “time off before law school” path is the right one for you. Only you can come up with the answer, but let’s look at the pros and cons.
A case for going to law school directly after college: the K-JD Path
1. Immediate access to professors
Law school admissions officers are most interested in seeing letters of recommendation from professors and others who have personally seen your academic work. Oftentimes, those who delay applying to law school have weaker connections with their former professors. As a current college student, you have the advantage of being able to schedule an appointment to visit a professor and speak with her in person about why law is the right path for you.
2. Continuity in “school mode”
Law school is challenging, no doubt, and you’ll need to quickly adapt to the rigorous reading and writing assignments that law professors will give you. Applicants who take time off from school may find their core academic skills lacking – not many jobs require you to sift through hundreds of pages of reading material, so it can be difficult to keep this kind of skill sharp. As a K-JD, you’ll have the benefit of walking into law school with a strong undergraduate academic foundation.
3. Academic credibility
K-JDs with strong undergraduate records have no issue convincing admissions officers that they’re prepared for law school academics, particularly when a strong GPA is paired with a solid LSAT score. In contrast, a strong undergraduate GPA from ten years ago is not going to carry that same credibility. Applicants who delay applying for a long period of time will need to absolutely own the LSAT to assure admissions officers that their academic skills are still up to par.
4. Earlier graduation from law school
Of course, going to law school earlier in your career also means graduating from law school earlier than those who take time off. That means you’ll be able to land a job in law earlier in your career. For students who know that law is the field for them, this is a major selling point.
The K-JD Personality Quiz
If you answer “yes” to all of our questions below, you might be in a strong position to go directly to law school from college:
Are you certain you want to practice law?
If you’re not sure that you want to be a lawyer, diving right into law school will not be a smart choice. In that case, taking time off to work is a great way to give clarity to your career objectives. If, however, there’s no other field that you can see yourself in, and you’re completely set on practicing law, getting your legal education right after college will open doors for your career earlier.
Do you have a strong GPA and LSAT?
Without work experience to speak of, your undergraduate performance and LSAT will be pivotal pieces of your law school application. A strong GPA and LSAT will go a long way to convince admissions officers that you bring the academic skills and work ethic needed to succeed in law school. As a result, you’ll set yourself up for greater success during admissions season, and you’ll be in a better position to apply for scholarships.
Are your finances secure?
Finances are a major consideration for all pre-laws, and it’s one that you shouldn’t take lightly – particularly so if you’re still in college. Law school is definitely not cheap, and if you’re an undergraduate, you may be dependent on serious loans (or generous family assistance) to help you out with tuition. Make sure you’ve spoken with your parents or with financial aid offices and have a plan in mind for covering law school costs. Applicants who are in a strong financial position will be more likely to be successful in the K-JD route.
The case for taking time off between college and law school: The non K-JD path
There are strong reasons for delaying law school for one, two, three, or even more years. Everyone’s situation is different, and it’s important that you assess carefully which option will put you in the best position to be successful for both your legal education and career. What are some of the advantages of putting time between college and law school?
1. Gain real-world experience
The real world is, of course, very different from the “college bubble” that so many undergraduates live in for four years. The college bubble – one that’s filled with dorm life, parties, spring break getaways, and often parental assistance – does not sufficiently prepare you for the challenges that come with adulthood. By taking time off after college, you’ll be able to see what it’s like to live on your own.
2. Save up
We all know that law school tuition is expensive. By working after college, you can start saving up for law school tuition to mitigate some of the financial burden of financing a JD.
3. Clarify your interest in law
Some of you out there aren’t really certain yet that law school is the right path for you. In that case, getting some work experience in law or other related fields can help clarify why a law degree is the right next step.
4. Distance yourself from your GPA
Perhaps you remember college more for the parties than for the classes. If you have a less-than-stellar academic record from your undergraduate days, you may want to consider taking time off to distance yourself from that GPA. Admissions officers will factor in your GPA all the same, but you can present yourself in a better light if you have outstanding achievements at work to balance out your undergraduate record.
5. Build your resume
Taking time off to work is a great way to build a strong professional track record for yourself. It isn’t easy finding a job in law these days, and a strong work resume is a great advantage to have during interview season.
6. Hone your time management skills
People with work experience are often better able to manage their time in law school. Law school is like a full-time job, and it can be challenging for most students coming directly from college to balance the demands of law school work with their personal lives. By delaying law school in favor of work experience, you’ll be more prepared for the time commitment you’ll need to make to your studies.