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The great Legal Cheek debate: to post-grad gap year or to not post-grad gap year

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Indulge your wanderlust, or get straight on the payroll? You decide

Gaplead

Congratulations, you’ve finished your exams, you’ve ordered your graduation gown, and you are looking well and truly set to nail your law degree once and for all.

But now what?

That’s the question facing thousands of soon-to-be graduates this summer. And while there’s a million and one options out there for aspiring lawyers, one key question you might be asking yourself is “should I just take a gap year?”

On the one hand, law is a fiercely competitive industry, and you’ve got to get some work experience if you stand half a chance of moving out of the family home by 30.

But, on the other hand, you’re exhausted. Exam season nearly killed you and all you can see in your crystal ball is you, lying on a beach, sipping on a cocktail and slowly forgetting how to spell Internationale Handelsgesellschaft.

No one really knows what the ‘correct’ option is, but at Legal Cheek we’re all for a good debate, so we scouted out some opinionated law students and recent graduates on very opposite sides of the fence to find out what they had to say about it all.

Feel free to let us know your opinions in the comments.

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Tanita Corbeanu, University of Birmingham

I think it’s a good idea to take a year off after completing an important stage of your life, because you need the time to let everything sink in for a while. You need the time to prioritise your next steps (short and long-term goals) and most importantly, after four years of intense ‘brain damage’ in undergrad and postgrad courses, your mind and body will thank you for a little rest before facing new, more intense challenges. I feel that by taking a year off I’ll be able to ‘regain my sanity’. I’ll get the chance to work on the projects I’ve postponed for a long time. I don’t see this plan as a waste of time — I see this as an opportunity to recharge my batteries for the challenges to come.

Rhiannon Griffiths, University of Exeter

The question isn’t why, it is why not take a gap year? Post University is the perfect time; you’re not mid-career and you’ve already learnt independence. You’ll also end up having more to offer as a graduate with life and work experience. Personally having just finished my law degree, I am still unsure if I want to go into practice. I’m going to use the time to get work experience and travel. So when I do apply for jobs I am doing it with absolute certainty that it is what I want to do, and I can then work without looking out the window wondering where in the world I haven’t given myself the opportunity to explore. We have our whole lives to work. Take your time, and be sure that you know what it is you want to do.

Dan Tresigne, University of Northumbria

I don’t believe it is unjustified for me to want to have some time to do the things that I want to do. In my case, this will be spent working to build up the finances to travel and then travelling to wherever I please. At the end of the day, while employers look for a huge amount of talent and experience, employees also need the ability to communicate well with both clients and colleagues. The only way, in my opinion, that this can be achieved is by gaining some worldly experience rather than simply being able to recite exactly how many bullet points there are in the BSB’s Code of Conduct! So while some people may believe that going straight into work is a great idea, I strongly believe that the actual result will be a boring and burnt-out life by the age of 40.

Sian Rogers, Oxford Brookes

Taking a gap year between finishing my undergraduate degree at Oxford Brookes and taking the steps required to become a lawyer is probably the best decision I could have made. For me, taking a break from studying gives me time to really show my future employers my dedication to what I want to do. On my gap year, I’m planning to both work and volunteer, I want to get involved in so many different projects and do so many different things. So this year is about taking one step at a time and truly finding the part of law that I want to go into.

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Hann Leonardo-Cruz, University of Nottingham

As an aspiring lawyer, you’re constantly reminded about the state of the legal profession: the intense competition, the impact of legal aid, the declining number of pupillages, etc. You would think that hearing alarming pupillage and tenancy statistics from the Bar Council would be enough to put me off the legal profession, but that is just not me. My undergraduate study was the best three years of my life, and as crazy as it sounds, I would do it all again. I have accepted that it may take a few years until I get pupillage, but I never saw this as an excuse not to at least try, so I will still be studying the BPTC straight after I graduate. I know that the inevitable rejections will have nothing to do with who I am as a person; it is just the way it is. In the meantime, we all just have to take that as an opportunity to keep improving and try again.

Amy Leech, University of Northampton

Having just finished my final law exams, there is a lot of uncertainty in the air as to what everyone is going to do now university is over. As a law student, I had no doubt as to my postgraduate plans — to complete my Legal Practice Course. If all goes to plan, I will be a fully qualified solicitor just as I turn 25. I think a gap year can sometimes just be an excuse for someone, after finishing their degree, to convince themselves that they are pursuing the right career. Whilst that may suit the person taking the year out, I will be completing my LPC and preparing to start my training contract and ultimately getting further ahead in the competitive legal sphere out there.

Katie King, University of Bristol

I had no option but to get a job straight out of university; there was no way I could’ve funded any sort of travelling at that time. Yes, I could’ve spent months working behind a bar to fund the holiday of a lifetime, but I would’ve rather spent that valuable time getting myself on a decent career path. If you’ve got thousands of pounds to spare, I don’t see how a summer in Thailand would do you any harm, but if you’re starting from scratch, working for months if not years in retail just didn’t seem a productive use of my time (especially when I’d already been doing that since I was 16 anyway.)

Christianah Babajide, City University of London

After completing my A levels, I had no doubt I wanted to study law but I took a year out for subsequent financial stability. I worked full-time in a call centre during my gap year. However, after returning to uni, I realised that having stepped off the academic treadmill, I would need to get myself back into the studying mentality. The first few months at university were a little challenging; I found myself searching for part-time work and doing temp jobs at my university instead of exploring the library and reading my core LLB textbooks. It is important to note a gap year only looks good if you’re able to squeeze in some experience related to your degree — travelling to Thailand and ‘finding yourself’ isn’t going to impress partners at top City firms.

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