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The Oracle

Is a gap year a good idea?

updated on 22 September 2015

Dear Oracle

I really want to spend some time travelling before I commit to a training contract. Is it a good idea or will the delay harm my chances?

The Oracle replies

More often than not, taking a year out is a great idea and travelling is one of the most enjoyable and constructive things you can do with your time. But how you go about it depends on which stage of the career path you're at.

If you've already accepted a training contract that starts next year and you're on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) right now, then our advice is to contact your firm and ask if it's OK to take a year out. Most firms don't mind whether you take your gap year before or after the LPC (although it is more often taken between degree and LPC). And for some firms, in the current economic climate, your deferral by a year may suit them very well.

There are also plenty of students who take a year out without having a training contract secured. If you're somewhere between degree and/or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the LPC, make sure you are aware of the closing dates for applications and interviews before you head off on your travels so that you can be available at the right time. And when it comes to applications and interviews, remember that travelling is a great sell, but only if you can talk about more than just the beach! You need to articulate why your travels broadened your outlook or put you in some challenging – but surmountable – situations. For example, you could get involved in a local community project or talk about what you learned from spending time immersed in a completely different culture.

Always remember that the academic stage of the career path (either a law degree or the GDL) expires after seven years. So if you want to take some time off after your law degree/GDL, remember that you'll need to enrol on the LPC within seven years - don't get lost in the jungle!

For more on gap year good times, see our Feature article, "Mind the gap".