Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Gap year from law

Anyone ever taken a significant time off from the law and su blg1509/03/18
Like everyone says -- totally do it. Soon you may have a sp blackholelaw09/04/18
Just do it. Take a year or half a year or whatever and go to isthisit09/03/18
Your $$$ will last longer in the Dominican Republic than in acerimmer09/03/18
This. Go to a "third world" type Spanish country like the DR isthisit09/04/18
Definitely do it and go to Spain if you want, living abroad mtbislife09/04/18
Thanks all for the encouraging messages. blg1509/04/18
Do it. And if I were you, I'd move place to place. When I jd4hire09/04/18
Thanks for the message. Yes - Central and South America are blg1509/04/18
You'll need to waive into the other state before you take ti fettywap09/04/18
Hmm, any particular reason why? I know a bunch of states li blg1509/04/18
I was also going to mention fettywap's concern, so I'm glad wutwutwut09/04/18
Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring people at some futur onehell09/04/18
What onehell says makes perfect sense, and this is another r jeffm09/04/18
I appreciate your thoughtful comments, and you bring up some blg1509/04/18
I'll play devil's advocate here. It sounds like you are anothernjlawyer09/04/18
Thanks for these comments. Your point is well taken. G blg1509/04/18
Not at all, theres more to life than billing hours and watch mtbislife09/04/18
"theres more to life than billing hours and watching TV" jeffm09/04/18
Except most lawyers dont make a ton of money anymore and the mtbislife09/05/18
And let's not forget JK Rowling who wrote the most popular b catwoman33309/05/18
Anytime you take a path less traveled, it will give pause to pisces21309/04/18
Honestly, the Gap Year concept will hurt you, unless you are acerimmer09/04/18
Hi blg15, A couple of very revealing comments jumped out catwoman33309/05/18
Catwoman: Thanks for your sentiments! Great to hear from s blg1509/05/18
I wish you the best, but yeah, the gap on your resume is goi ericcrapton09/05/18
It only gets judged because most prefer to be drones and cra mtbislife09/05/18
Lots of people bring up lots of good points, but I'd also ad jd4hire09/05/18

blg15 (Sep 3, 2018 - 9:21 pm)

Anyone ever taken a significant time off from the law and successfully returned to practice?

I'm four years out since school. Have been with the same firm the entire time. Bored with the job but done paying my loans and have been able to save enough cash to live for a few years.

I've been thinking seriously about quitting the job to travel indefinitely and work on other interests (namely writing and perfecting my spanish).

I would probably try to return to the law but settle down in a different state where I can waive in my law degree. I don't want to live in the state in which I currently practice any more.

Any thoughts on the challenges I might face in trying to come back to the law? I don't really like private practice so I might try to look for gov't or public interest gigs. Anyone with any experience in taking a "Gap year" from the law?

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blackholelaw (Sep 4, 2018 - 11:18 am)

Like everyone says -- totally do it. Soon you may have a spouse or a mortgage that won't allow you the freedom you have now.

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isthisit (Sep 3, 2018 - 9:29 pm)

Just do it. Take a year or half a year or whatever and go to Spain and become the next Hemingway. You'll regret not trying.

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acerimmer (Sep 3, 2018 - 10:01 pm)

Your $$$ will last longer in the Dominican Republic than in Spain...

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isthisit (Sep 4, 2018 - 7:16 am)

This. Go to a "third world" type Spanish country like the DR or Panama to extend your USD.

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mtbislife (Sep 4, 2018 - 9:54 am)

Definitely do it and go to Spain if you want, living abroad is not as expensive as everyone thinks it is.

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blg15 (Sep 4, 2018 - 5:51 pm)

Thanks all for the encouraging messages.

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jd4hire (Sep 4, 2018 - 9:59 am)

Do it. And if I were you, I'd move place to place. When I was in South America, there were all sorts of spanish lessons offered at the big tourist cities. My recollection was that they had all sorts of levels. I'd do a month in Buenos Aires, fly to Cizco and do a couple of weeks there. Head north for some stops in Central America (Honduras is the bees knees), maybe stop home for a bit before heading to Spain.

No reason you can't visit more than one place. Once you get to South America, you can travel down there pretty cheap via bus or South American airlines.

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blg15 (Sep 4, 2018 - 5:53 pm)

Thanks for the message. Yes - Central and South America are high on my list. I've been to Nicaragua a lot in the past but obviously now is not a good time. Was looking at Costa Rica and Colombia. Not sure I would venture to Honduras now either.

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fettywap (Sep 4, 2018 - 11:27 am)

You'll need to waive into the other state before you take time off.

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blg15 (Sep 4, 2018 - 5:54 pm)

Hmm, any particular reason why? I know a bunch of states like WA, CO, ILL require practice in NY for 3 of the last 5 years when you apply. So wouldn't one be able to take the time off then waive in later on as long as they meet that requirement?

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wutwutwut (Sep 4, 2018 - 7:03 pm)

I was also going to mention fettywap's concern, so I'm glad you saw and responded.

I was going to say that you should find out what the "at least X of past Y years" of continuous practice requirements are in your target states first, then if any are problematic, seek to waive in there first or just focus on those that are not a problem.

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onehell (Sep 4, 2018 - 1:48 pm)

Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring people at some future firm. If you were willing to go all Eat Pray Love on your last job, you might do the same thing to them. If you just left for another job or for FMLA/maternity/paternity leave type reasons that'd be one thing, but leaving to travel the world signals unreliability, lack of devotion to law, and perhaps rusty skillsets as well.

Gap years are normally between high school and college or between college and law school, but once you've entered the real world you're expected to stay in the real world until retirement, medical family/leaves aside. Doing otherwise can be seen as a sort of Peter Pan syndrome.

The old adage that travel is "great for the soul but terrible for the resume" is particularly apt for law, and even more apt for biglaw which as I'm sure you know hires pretty much exclusively in rigid lockstep "classes." If you're five years out of law school, you should be in the fifth year "class" but if you took a year off you are a square bolt in a round hole.

That's not to say don't do it, you might find your way to some other field that would be more satisfying, or after some effort you might break back in (though it probably wouldn't be at a biglaw position or salary if that's where you're at now). I'm only saying don't expect it to be easy, being able to just come back and pick up where you left off would be far from assured. Not saying don't leap, but do look before you leap.

As an aside, you probably also want to look into the immigration issues. Americans for some reason seem to think moving abroad is as easy as just buying a plane ticket, but the truth is that unless you're independently wealthy you need to be sponsored as a student/employee/spouse to actually live in a foreign country, otherwise you're stuck with tourist visas that are only good for 90 days or whatever and don't allow you to engage in any paid work, so you're just bouncing around Europe till your money runs out, which it quickly will if you expect any semblance of a western standard of living.

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jeffm (Sep 4, 2018 - 2:43 pm)

What onehell says makes perfect sense, and this is another reason why being your own boss is nice. Basically, you can't live your life because of what somebody else might think of it.

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blg15 (Sep 4, 2018 - 5:58 pm)

I appreciate your thoughtful comments, and you bring up some great points worth serious consideration! With respect to immigration, I've looked into that issue. I have dual citizenship with a county that allows for the working holiday visa with about 30 some countries so I was going to rely on that.

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anothernjlawyer (Sep 4, 2018 - 1:49 pm)

I'll play devil's advocate here.

It sounds like you are between 29-31, probably got a biglaw job out of school, and, while it's "boring," you don't sound like your mental health is forcing you out. I'd answer the following before you pull the trigger:

1) What kind of options will you have if you leave biglaw for 6-18 months and want to get back in, and what effect would that have on your career? Would you be able to go back if you wanted to?

2) Do you have enough practical experience at this point to be considered for "in house" legal positions, or other non-associate positions if you take time off and want to come back? I think this one is really important. You would be taking a huge pay cut going into any "government" and almost any "public interest" position. And while an ex-biglaw pedigree would certainly be a leg up, I don't think anything is a guarantee in the legal job market at this point.

3) Have you ever traveled or written before? Both sound pretty romantic, but you should account for the possibility that you won't like the lifestyle as much as you think. And remember, Steven King wrote "Carrie" on a notepad while teaching and raising two kids in near-poverty: don't assume the change is going to kickstart your inner Hemingway.

Here's my point: you don't want to spend six months, or even 18 months having a great time, going through your savings, having that time end far quicker than you thought, and coming back with nothing more than "ex-biglaw associate" on your resume. There are lots of those out there.

Could you either take an extended leave of absence from your current position, or, maybe, line up a new position and delay the start date by a few months? Spend the time traveling: if you love it, quit the job. If you don't, at least you have something to come back to.

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blg15 (Sep 4, 2018 - 6:02 pm)

Thanks for these comments. Your point is well taken.

Good guesses. Age range is correct. Not really "biglaw" but rather midlaw in a secondary city.

Done some traveling and lived abroad for a while.

I never enjoyed private practice so although I think my mental health is fine, just hoping to find a more satisfying way to live I guess. I can't imagine a lifetime of what I currently do, but I guess a lot of people do it and I might just be an entitled, idealistic millennial type.

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mtbislife (Sep 4, 2018 - 6:23 pm)

Not at all, theres more to life than billing hours and watching TV, most people especially lawyers just don’t like taking chances.

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jeffm (Sep 4, 2018 - 7:12 pm)

"theres more to life than billing hours and watching TV"

The trade-off is materialism. If you want to live like a lawyer, you need to work like a lawyer.

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mtbislife (Sep 5, 2018 - 11:38 am)

Except most lawyers dont make a ton of money anymore and the ones that do dont have time to spend it and are likely divorced and depressed.

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catwoman333 (Sep 5, 2018 - 12:01 am)

And let's not forget JK Rowling who wrote the most popular book in human history (Harry Potter) while an unemployed single mom on welfare, living IN POVERTY. I'm sure she, King, Hemingway, and God knows how many other now-famous writers who "paid their dues in poverty" did not look back and regret having done so, having taken a leap of faith in themselves when everyone around them questioned their sanity.

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pisces213 (Sep 4, 2018 - 4:40 pm)

Anytime you take a path less traveled, it will give pause to anyone reviewing your resume. Whether that pause prevents you from getting an interview you otherwise would have scored will depend, but it does add a gap that requires a leap of faith from the reviewer.

If you are fine with returning to a public service/government position, a gap year likely will not matter much, assuming the rest of the resume is strong enough. There are also clerkships that tend to be more forgiving, but a clerkship doesn't always serve as a stepping stone to something more permanent, government or not. If your gap year will recharge you to a degree where you are feeling private law again, you likely will face a tougher path as you could be seen as somebody who 'burnt out.'

You are also likely complicating things by not returning to the state you're currently practicing. Being a known quantity will help you overcome the gap year, but not having a network will make things a little more difficult.

Also, as somebody who lived abroad and traveled, your experience will be much better if you actually work abroad rather than just travel. Depending on your field, you may be able to find a legal position abroad even without speaking a second language. If that fails, it is likely better to enroll in a undergraduate/master's program abroad than to sight-see, as you'll have greater opportunity to make friends and have a better excuse when having to explain your gap year.

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acerimmer (Sep 4, 2018 - 7:35 pm)

Honestly, the Gap Year concept will hurt you, unless you are leaving the law completely. Employers can understand that; just taking a break and then jumping back into law, not so much.

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catwoman333 (Sep 5, 2018 - 1:09 am)

Hi blg15,

A couple of very revealing comments jumped out at me: "Bored with the job" and "I don't really like private practice". I note that because I hear it ALOT from people who were burned out on working as lawyers in ANY capacity, period, but afraid to admit it. Not saying that's the case with you, but perhaps you might want to also use this break to take stock of your life, to answer the Q: "Is this (working as a lawyer) REALLY how I want to spend the rest of my life?" (BTW, I segued from LS into journalism, then government because I had zero interest in law practice.)

There is nothing wrong with saying, "I tried law but it just wasn't for me, not something I want to do anymore." You are in an enviable position because your SLs are all paid (Congrats!!) and you have enough savings to finance your "gap year" while you travel and focus on writing and other things. You don't mention your age or living circumstances, but I'm assuming you are single, no kids, so you can just pick up and go.


There are FAR MORE IMPORTANT things in life besides making partner, sitting in a cushy office 15 hours a day, "prestige" (WTH that is??), expensive cars/homes, or 6-7 figure salaries. IMHO the trappings of external "success"--esp. in materialistic America--are essentially meaningless. Most of us don't figure that lesson out until much later, after we get older and a few more years--and inevitable loss and tragedies of life--under our belts.


I SAY TRUST YOUR INNER VOICE, "EFF THE FEAR," AND JUST DO IT!!! LIFE IS SHORT!! And, believe me, dragging around regrets, bitterness because you allowed your life to be driven by fear is NOT an easy psychological burden to bear. Not much fun looking back on life and living in "I Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda Land". It might help to just think of life as a "big classroom" where there are many tests, but no real "mistakes". Just a zillion chances to explore, learn from it all ("good" or "bad"), and use our experiences to evolve into a better state of understanding of ourselves, the world, and others. Apologies for getting too Zen here....:-).


If you eventually return to law, fine. But I wouldn't obsess about any resume "gap" because you will have to "explain" that year+ to ANY future employer--not just a law firm. Just be honest, tell them that you needed a break after non-stop studies followed by 4 years of work without a REAL vacation. Most DECENT, REASONABLE employers would get that, if not empathize or even envy you. (If not, perhaps they would not be the kind of boss you want to work for...?)

You could also emphasize how skills you learn during travel and life abroad (e.g., building relationships with foreigners; surviving in a foreign country; Spanish; and writing) would make you a unique, great asset to their team.

Also, I would consider working during your travels: many countries are just begging for native English teachers or perhaps you could explore working for a foreign-language news service seeking stories about America. I also recommend you network with attys in the country where you plan to live or check out the organization "Lawyers Without Borders" which posts positions abroad for volunteer attys. I think some of them even come with a small stipend or housing allowance. If you do work abroad that would eliminate the "resume gap" issue and look great on a resume.


Best of luck whichever path/journey you take in life. And don't forget to HAVE FUN!!!

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blg15 (Sep 5, 2018 - 7:26 am)

Catwoman: Thanks for your sentiments! Great to hear from someone that was able to get on a non-traditional path out of law school. You are correct - no kids, or other obligations that would prevent me leaving the law at this point. Your post is consistent with what I wanted to hear from strangers on the internet, and other posters have highlighted considerations on the other end of the spectrum. Thanks all!

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ericcrapton (Sep 5, 2018 - 3:49 am)

I wish you the best, but yeah, the gap on your resume is going to be judged unless you can compelling (even if bs) explanation for it. Good luck!

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mtbislife (Sep 5, 2018 - 11:30 am)

It only gets judged because most prefer to be drones and crabs in a bucket. If more people refused the hoop jumping then it wouldnt be an issue.

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jd4hire (Sep 5, 2018 - 11:53 am)

Lots of people bring up lots of good points, but I'd also add that somebody might see your gap, here your story and think you are the exact right person due to what you did. Sure, others might say this little entitled millennial is a waste of space, but do you want to work for them?

Travel can add a lot to one's perspective. Someone might recognize and value this. And at the end of the day, you've managed to do a few things right - graduate ls, find a job, pay off loans. Worst case scenario, you have to put that mind at work and figure out what works for you.

Go do your Eat, Pray, Love thing and drop some updates for us.

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