Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

General admissions strategy questions, what are my chances, discussion of specific application materials like financial aid and scholarships.
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ilovemang0s
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Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by ilovemang0s » Wed Sep 16, 2020 1:26 pm

Hey all,

I'm applying to law school and am also considering joining the Army Reserves as an officer. I have 2 questions.

1. Has anyone had experience serving in the Army Reserves while also attending law school?

Is it easy to balance the workload of reserves while also grinding on law school? I know for reserves/nat'l guard, the obligation is just "1 weekend a month, 2 weeks a year." I hear sometimes there's more work outside of that. How easy it to balance both?

In terms of branching, I'm hoping to choose a more "chillish" branch or reserve unit, but I'm not sure if that's possible, or how to strategize for that. I'm leaning toward Reserves as you choose your branch and unit BEFORE hand. I'm currently thinking of branching MI or one of the Logistics.

Here's one example of a CLS student serving in the National Guard while in law school. So it seems like it can be done? Though I'm hoping to know the pros and cons. (I cant post links) so Google -> Columbia Law, Emily Drake '22, National Guard -- CLS did a feature on their website on her serving in her National Guard unit during the coronavirus.

2. Also, from an Admissions perspective, would being an Officer in the Army reserves be a boost? How much of a boost? -- Especially if I'm joining like now .. about a year before law school. Obviously, I'm not joining the military SOLEY to "improve law school admissions." I genuinely am interested in serving in the military due to personal and family reasons, and am also a former Division III athlete. Though if there is a boost in admissions, that can also be a factor that I consider as well.

I think HLS and YLS have an admissions goal/quota of 5% veterans/servicemen every year. It's been pretty consistent that every year, YLS has about 10 military ppl and HLS has about 20.

Let's say that I am a splitter at these schools. With GPA slightly <25 but LSAT around median. Given how competitive HLS and YLS are, do you think an army reserves officer would be a boost to get me over the edge? I also have weak softs in terms of other work experience (typical legal secretary, office assistant, etc).

Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

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BlendedUnicorn
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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Wed Sep 16, 2020 2:11 pm

Kind of seems like your goal is to cosplay in a uniform here and tbh I don't think it will give you an admissions boost at all. Veterans boosts are a bit of a moving target, but the admin officers at the schools you're talking about have gotten too many applications from people with real military experience to be impressed by someone who went to basic and a few unit cook outs.

In terms of whether it's possible, it definitely can be done (though note that it appears the Columbia butter bar is only able to pull it off because of Zoom classes and may have to skip out on her 1L summer job), but there's a significant cost in terms of time and energy, especially if you end up working for senior officers who don't see it as their job to accommodate you. Sometimes you hear about Reserve or Guard units being really supportive of people in school, but I doubt that applies to butter bars with no active duty time. Especially because once people find out you're at a fancy law school they'll probably try to push a disproportionate amount of admin crap/paperwork onto your plate on the theory that your smart. It's also just hard to imagine a more boring (not necessarily chill) job than being a non-deployed MI or logistics officer in the reserves, and those jobs are far from chill if you do end up deploying.

If you really want to serve, go active, spend 3 or 4 years getting the full experience, and then decide whether you want to stay in or take advantage of that sweet sweet post-9/11 + yellow ribbon program combo. If picking your job is a huge deal to you, enlist. If not, you probably get better training overall as an officer. In either case, you'll probably have a much better chance of getting some admissions preference if you've sufficiently scratched that patriotic itch to serve.

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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by ilovemang0s » Wed Sep 16, 2020 2:30 pm

BlendedUnicorn wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 2:11 pm
Kind of seems like your goal is to cosplay in a uniform here and tbh I don't think it will give you an admissions boost at all. Veterans boosts are a bit of a moving target, but the admin officers at the schools you're talking about have gotten too many applications from people with real military experience to be impressed by someone who went to basic and a few unit cook outs.

In terms of whether it's possible, it definitely can be done (though note that it appears the Columbia butter bar is only able to pull it off because of Zoom classes and may have to skip out on her 1L summer job), but there's a significant cost in terms of time and energy, especially if you end up working for senior officers who don't see it as their job to accommodate you. Sometimes you hear about Reserve or Guard units being really supportive of people in school, but I doubt that applies to butter bars with no active duty time. Especially because once people find out you're at a fancy law school they'll probably try to push a disproportionate amount of admin crap/paperwork onto your plate on the theory that your smart. It's also just hard to imagine a more boring (not necessarily chill) job than being a non-deployed MI or logistics officer in the reserves, and those jobs are far from chill if you do end up deploying.

If you really want to serve, go active, spend 3 or 4 years getting the full experience, and then decide whether you want to stay in or take advantage of that sweet sweet post-9/11 + yellow ribbon program combo. If picking your job is a huge deal to you, enlist. If not, you probably get better training overall as an officer. In either case, you'll probably have a much better chance of getting some admissions preference if you've sufficiently scratched that patriotic itch to serve.
Thanks for following up! I am already slightly older - think late 20s -- and I really want to get started with law school ASAP. I don't want to go active duty for 4 years and then start law school. I'm interested in clerking as well, so I'd want to start law school and my legal career ASAP, and not wait another 4 years to do active duty service. Plus, LSAC is changing the LSAT soon (they're removing logic games within a timeframe of like 4 years due to being sued by a blind person), and there's just a lot of uncertainty with that. After how much work I put into the LSAT, I really do not want to take a "new" LSAT in 4 years.

And yes I agree that those top schools get a lot of veteran applicants, but I doubt they receive a lot of veteran applicants with 173+ LSAT scores. I also went to an elite undergrad (think Williams, Amherst, UChicago, etc) so I'm hoping that helps a little bit. But the fact is my softs currently are not amazing and I'm slightly below the 25th for GPA. Without this military experience, however small it is, I feel like I have very little else to offer, especially because I am already a soft splitter. And I hear HLS and YLS do care about softs, though they also accept 20% KJD.

In addition, I genuinely am interested in the leadership development and training that comes with being an Army officer. I would want to lead soldiers, and I am willing to do the grind work of admin work that comes with MI or logistics in the reserves for one weekend a month. If you google "Harvard Law, Army reserves, linkedin" you'll find quite a few HLS ppl in the reserves. I saw this one profile of a HLS student who was in the USMC reserves and did her BigLaw summer associate internship at Covington and Burling in DC. So it seems like it's possible. But idk ... any other thoughts or feedback?

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jeff chiles
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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by jeff chiles » Wed Sep 16, 2020 2:55 pm

My friend did it with no issue but his CO was very supportive and he had been in the reserves for several years before LS. I would absolutely not join just as a soft for law school admissions though.

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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Wed Sep 16, 2020 3:23 pm

Everything in the Army comes down to who you work for and what the Army tells you to do: it could be a great experience or it could be a terrible experience. I’m *SKEPTICAL* that you actually learn that much about leadership as a junior reserve officer (and think that much of what passes for leadership in the Army can frequently be pretty toxic).

To put all my cards on the table, I was a D3 athlete, I went to one of the schools you listed, I was older when I applied to law school, i was a splitter with a 173 LSAT (and 3.3 gpa) and I enlisted in the army (in MI) after taking the LSAT. So I’m not talking out of my ass here. If I had to do it all again, I would probably do it the same way.

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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by Nony » Wed Sep 16, 2020 4:14 pm

I don’t know much about the military, but it really does sound like you want the military experience for the law school admissions boost, and that seems like a really terrible reason to join the military. Statements like “without this military experience I feel like I have very little to offer” are concerning. (Maybe you just don’t go to HYS, and you have a wonderful legal career regardless.)

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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by ilovemang0s » Wed Sep 16, 2020 6:39 pm

BlendedUnicorn wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 3:23 pm
Everything in the Army comes down to who you work for and what the Army tells you to do: it could be a great experience or it could be a terrible experience. I’m *SKEPTICAL* that you actually learn that much about leadership as a junior reserve officer (and think that much of what passes for leadership in the Army can frequently be pretty toxic).

To put all my cards on the table, I was a D3 athlete, I went to one of the schools you listed, I was older when I applied to law school, i was a splitter with a 173 LSAT (and 3.3 gpa) and I enlisted in the army (in MI) after taking the LSAT. So I’m not talking out of my ass here. If I had to do it all again, I would probably do it the same way.
Thanks for following up! I really appreciate your advice and feedback. And yea that's what I hear - a lot of the Army experience depends on your UNIT and your commander. So I'm hoping to do some due diligence as in the reserves, you pick your branch and unit beforehand. And yea I agree that "leadership development" is a rather nebulous topic, and during my visit to Annapolis (USNA) when I got accepted as a high school senior, I definitely did see a lot of seemingly purposeless and toxic "leadership" rituals and protocols. But I do think there is still some value in Army/military leadership training.

I applaud you for your path. I think for me, however, I'm already 28 years old. If I were to start next fall, I'd be 29. I'd graduate when I'm 32. And I also want to do a federal clerkship or two. And then hoping to do some BigLaw after that before getting into government/policy/DC work.

I'm already kinda older (median age at YLS is 25), so I really really dont want to push another 3 years back to do active duty work.

I really want to start making the $190,000 ASAP and get my legal career started as soon as possible, for both personal and financial reasons.

Hence if I were to join the military at all, it would be in the Reserves capacity. And I very much do want to join the military and serve -- especially as an immigrant and feeling grateful for the opportunities this country has provided me. Heck, I almost went to Annapolis for college. As a former college athlete, I love the physical challenges of the military, as well as the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself. But yea I've seen LinkedIn profiles of ppl at HLS, YLS, SLS, and UVa do law school, BigLaw summer associate positions, and reserves at the same time. So it looks like it's possible. But I just wanna know how hard it is, and what are the factors I should consider before/if I pull the trigger. Thanks so much.

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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:13 pm

yup, that all makes sense. Good luck.

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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by UVA2B » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:31 pm

I served in the Navy Reserve throughout law school, so it's a bit apples to oranges comparison, but I think enough overlaps that I may be just the type of person you're looking for to provide some advice.

I'll try to be as concise as possible, but this is a big investment in time, effort, and attention that you really need to fully appreciate, so this could get a bit long-winded.

First, it's doable to balance both, as you've already noticed that people are doing it at various law schools, but it is pretty rare. For instance, this past year UVA had a Navy Reservist, USMC Reservist, and an ANG officer. The issue isn't whether the workload between law school and the Reserves can be balanced, it's whether you're comfortable with how those things can be prioritized. One weekend a month, two weeks a year sounds reasonable at the outset, but you most often have very little control over when those weekends and weeks will come. I spent time on orders in the weeks leading up to finals every semester of law school. So while your friends are studying and outlining, you could be at an Army base overseeing maintenance of equipment or going through training that completely distracts you from studying.Further, because you can't easily take two weeks out for orders during the school year, or if you do, you'll miss substantial portions of the semester, you may have your summers impacted. That's not a non-starter, but you'll need an understanding CO/OIC who can accommodate you fitting your major training into very tight time windows. As another anecdote, I was asked to take on a new collateral duty for my unit which required traveling out of state for training during fall 1L year, and I had to quickly readjust my schedule to fit that training in.

Second, you have to fully appreciate what operational tempo is for the units you're joining, because the chance of mobilization is ever present. I was in the middle of a 2L fall exam when my MacBook phone notification popped up. I ignored it because I was taking a final. It buzzed again. And again. Finally I completed the exam, and returned the calls only to find out I was being mobilized. As a result, my summer employment was cut short and I took a year leave of absence to complete that tour. I was able to return and graduate, but you need to be fully aware that the one weekend a month, two weeks a year only exist until they need you to mobilize in an operational role. Considering you would be a fresh officer in the Reserves, I would expect you will see a mobilization of some kind (which is likely to be at least 6-12 months in length) within the first three years of your service. If you're not comfortable with that, you'll need to reconsider these plans. This also relates to my next point.

When I entered law school, I was coming off of active duty with nearly a decade of service. As such, I was very comfortable with my performance in the Reserves easily transitioning into law school. I knew what I was doing mostly, so I was able to be efficient in planning all of this (on top of other personal stuff like a family that also complicated things). You'll be brand new, with no experience, and you'll be drinking from a firehose in learning your job in the Army and how you can best do it. BU's advice above is very relevant on the issues of leadership and learning from good bosses, but also understand that in the Reserves generally people have less investment in your personal growth because it's only a part time job for them and they have an entire separate career and life they have to worry about. When you're active duty, everyone is generally rowing in the same direction. In the Reserves, it's much more frustrated.

I'm not saying you should or you shouldn't try to start in the Reserves while also starting law school. It can be done. But you should also consider some very heavy decisions you're making when you do it, because they will drastically affect your law school experience as well as the start of your legal career. If you have any questions or want to follow up, feel free to ask whatever you want to know more about.

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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by UVA2B » Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:13 pm

And to follow up on one point I have yet to experience but genuinely worry me too: your goals of clerkships and a private career may be even less compatible with serving in the Reserves. So maybe one four year contract won’t impede your legal career, if you choose to continue service, it could become troublesome. I’m in it for the long haul, so I will figure out a way to make it work. You’d be in a much more junior position and have very different decisions to make.

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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:45 pm

Ok, one other one last point. Financially, you're way better off doing 3 years, qualifying for the yellow ribbon program + 100% GI bill, and literally getting paid to go to school than you are taking out loans (or paying out of pocket) and rushing to big law. The calculus might be different if there were reasonable odds that you'd go firm>partner, but you've got to keep in mind that the large majority of biglawyers only stay in that super high earnings window for three years or so before they take a big pay cut -- not having to divert a big chunk of your paycheck to loan payments during the highest earning years of your life is huge.

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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by UVA2B » Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:56 pm

This is a question I'd never considered and belongs in the PSLF/LRAP thread, but can you claim PSLF based on serving in the Reserves?

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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:15 pm

UVA2B wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:56 pm
This is a question I'd never considered and belongs in the PSLF/LRAP thread, but can you claim PSLF based on serving in the Reserves?
No, has to be full time.

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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by dcc617 » Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:45 pm

The military sucks. You seem like you have the propaganda version of the military in your head when the reality is not that at all.

One thing to keep in mind is that once you sign those papers you lose a ton of control over you life. The government owns you, and if its needs conflict with your plans its needs win.

Also, definitely worth keeping in mind that personnel are constantly in Flux, so if halfway through 1L your command team changes and they're suddenly not accommodating then you're totally boned.

There are a ton of ways to serve your community that don't involve surrendering your freedom to a BS bureaucracy. Definitely don't join because of some slick commercials and the dress uniforms.

I discharged from active duty before starting, but one of my classmates did 1L in the navy reserves and fucking hated it (his command made his life difficult). He was super happy when he got out and could focus on civilian life.

I've seen the military fuck a lot people over. Go be a volunteer firefighter or something.

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Re: Serving in Army Reserves during law school?? Impact on admissions?

Post by ajordan » Thu Sep 17, 2020 2:30 pm

It sounds like working for a firm ASAP is your priority because of a desire to earn money. That's 100% fine. Serving in the reserve component does not line up with this priority. It's not a secondary/part time commitment like it's advertised to be. I have known multiple reservists who had to take time off law school for a deployment. Furthermore, your 2 weeks is likely to impact your summer hiring as an SA, if only that you'd have to tell them "Hey, I'm gonna miss two weeks of this program to do my 2 weeks..." and sure they might still hire you but why give them any reason to pass you over?

If you want to serve, make it your number 1 priority, go active for four years, earn the GI Bill, save your money, and you'll almost certainly still come out ahead financially if you plan on taking loans now. It's not an easy task to get debt free after even 4 years of biglaw, and at that point your chances of being around that long (or longer) is low. If you go active you'll graduate close to debt free and be starting biglaw with those 4 years to put your money to work for you instead of paying back debts.

It's roughly You're not too old for law school and you won't be in 5 years.

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