Once you have been accepted to one of your top choice schools, you need to decide how to handle the offer. Before sending in your deposit, consider whether you should attend school now, or whether you would be better off postponing it for one or more years.
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The majority of schools have generous deferral policies
, in part because they recognize that many people who apply to law school should not attend. These policies, however, are by no means uniform. At some schools, it is simply a matter of making your request in a timely fashion. (This basically means applying for a deferral in the spring rather than the summer.) Some other schools grant only a set number of requests, often in the order in which they are received. As a result, the timing of your request may be all important. At still other schools, you will be granted a deferral as long as your reason for wishing one is not regarded as frivolous.
Your reason can be either a personal or professional matter. Gaining a prestigious scholarship for study abroad would certainly suffice; so, too, would the opportunity to manage an important project. Given that your value to law schools and employers will generally increase with development of your skill set and experience, consider carefully what you stand to gain via an opportunity. Most applicants who defer—even for frivolous purposes, frankly—end up glad in retrospect that they did so. On the personal side, taking care of a dying parent would pass muster, as would other, less dramatic matters.
Different schools place the bar you must get over at different heights, so be sure to inquire of your chosen school exactly what its standards are. There are, moreover, a handful of schools that rarely grant deferrals. These do not penalize you, however, if you choose to reapply in the future.
If you are not entirely certain that law school—and the practice of law—are right for you, by all means defer. If you are unable to defer, trust that you will be able to gain admission again in the future if you so choose—and turn down the offer of admission. Do not attend law school unless and until you have ascertained that it is the right career move.
Accepting Your Offer
If you do not face any questions about whether and when to attend law school and you are accepted by your top choice, be sure to send in your deposit to reserve your place in a timely manner. If you are accepted by one of your secondary choices before you have heard from your number-one school, you may face a dilemma if you are required to send in a deposit immediately. Most schools have become so quick about responding to applications, however, that this quandary is no longer common. If you do encounter it, ask the school that has accepted you whether you can delay sending your deposit for a short time, and also ask your first-choice school to speed up its decision making, explaining the situation politely. It is probably wise to refrain from mentioning what your alternate school is, especially if it is of obviously lower caliber or is a very different kind of program.
The one time when this is still likely to be a major problem is if you are accepted by a secondary choice and wait-listed by your first choice. You may not get off the wait-list, or be definitively turned down, until the start of school. You may have to send in a deposit to your second choice, risking losing it if you are eventually accepted by your first-choice school.
International Students. As soon as you have chosen the school you will attend, begin the student visa process. This means getting a Certificate of Eligibility (1-20) form from the school, which verifies that you have the appropriate credentials, language skills, and financial resources to attend the program. This form, along with the accompanying financial documents, must be submitted to the local U.S. Consular office to request the actual visa. This process is all too often delayed by either the school or the consular office, so it is important to begin it as soon as possible.
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Leaving Your Job
Leaving your current job
may fill you with joy, sadness, or a mixture of the two. No matter which, it is important to resign in a highly professional manner.
Once you have decided to leave, step carefully. Do not pop into your boss's office and wax ecstatic over your new-found freedom. Instead, think about how much notice you should give. You will obviously give at least as much as is called for in your employment contract. Whether you should give more depends upon a balance of several factors:
- Are you likely to be regarded as a traitor or spy or bad influence? If so, you may not be welcome; you may be ordered to clean out your desk immediately.
- How difficult and time-consuming will it be to transfer your knowledge and responsibilities to a replacement? Must you be the one to train your replacement? If you will be involved in an in-depth training process, you may want to leave enough time to provide the appropriate support.
- How has the company treated others at your level who have resigned?
- What is your relationship with your boss? —If your boss is truly reliable, perhaps you can tell her in advance of an official announcement in order to give her time to make appropriate adjustments, without jeopardizing your paycheck.
- Does your company know that you have applied to law schools? —If so, you should tell them sooner rather than later.
- How much do you want to continue working? —If you would just as soon have more time off before starting school, you do not need to worry about being dismissed too quickly.
Schedule a meeting with your boss on a Friday afternoon, so that she will have the weekend to reconcile herself to your decision. Explain what you have gained from your job and from her. Think in terms of what you have learned about your industry, analytical aspects of your job, written and oral communication skills, and so forth. Then explain why you are going off to get a law degree. (If your boss wrote a recommendation for you, all this can be done briefly, of course.)
To leave the best possible impression, be sure to:
What to Do Once You Are Accepted
- Complete any pending projects.
- Turn over all your files, with detailed explanations regarding how you would suggest your replacement proceed.
- Train your replacement yourself, if possible.
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- If you have people working under you, give them one last review.
- Ask for a concluding review of your own performance, assuming that your boss is not angry about your leaving.
- Consider mentioning what aspects of your position vis-a-vis the company could be improved, but only if you think your boss would be pleased to receive this input.
- Consider scheduling a telephone call with your replacement one week after she starts work to help her out (and volunteer to call a second time at her discretion).
- Make every effort to stay on good terms with your former colleagues. Remember that they may well be your future recommenders or clients.
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