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Age & Work Experience

Much as we hate to admit it when we're under thirty, age brings experience -- not necessarily wisdom, but at least the knowledge which proceeds from examining a broader range of situations. This may be experience of the workplace, or of life's varied situations and locales. Law schools often recognize the value of this experience, and review the files of "older" students with a slightly different eye.

How Old is "Older"?

How much older you have to be before you receive the benefit of this extra latitude varies, of course. Some schools will reward five or more years of full-time work experience after college; others think ten years is a reasonable starting point. Some schools value age itself, particularly if that age is over forty, for the first-hand look these students can give of situations which are history to the rest of us. People who experienced the south before integration, who rode segregated buses or marched with Martin Luther King, can bring a richness to a discussion of civil rights that no amount of reading can impart. People who fought in Korea and Vietnam each bring a different perspective to discussions of the President's war powers under the Constitution.

The Age or the Job?

Some schools will place extra value on particular kinds of work experience. State schools, for instance, often give points for military or police service, reflecting their decision to reward citizens who serve the state. Some schools give points for work only if it shows responsibility and advancement; this could include supervisory work, or a record of promotions, awards, or increased responsibilities.

This diversity often translates into two to five index points in the admission process, for schools which value it. This is a highly variable factor in admission philosophies. Some schools place a great deal of emphasis on this diversity, while others seem to place very little on it. One way to determine how much emphasis a law school places on age and experience is to check the average age of the entering class for the day division.

Age = Success

For many "older" applicants law is a second career. If the first career was a successful one, it is a definite plus in your file. There is nothing like a successful career to convince an admissions officer that you're capable of doing the work law school requires. Recommendations from employers, coworkers and business associates can round out the picture of a successful business person seeking ever more fulfillment.

Finally, older applicants are more likely to have had the kind of life experiences that add up to a "truly remarkable" person. Life's unique experiences have a way of offering themselves to us in far greater number after college. Artistic or athletic ability may grace the young, but the fame that accompanies them often lags a few years behind, giving the older applicant the advantage of time to develop a reputation to match the skill.

"I've been raising the kids."  

Good for you. Someone certainly has to. But it won't be seen as a public service. It won't especially hurt you, either.  Time off for family obligations normally just doesn't count in the admissions process at all.   But do make sure to count your parental obligations to PTA and after-school soccer practice as extracurricular or community activities on your applications and resume.

"I've been in grad school."

Good for you, too.  Schools will see that you like school, and are unafraid of advanced work.  That's all grad school per se is good for.  Now:  what did you do with your degree?  What did your advisor say about you in your rec?  What kind of professional work have you done?  These are more important than the fact of grad school in evaluating your app.  

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