Law school in and of itself is a challenging experience. Going to law school while working full-time may almost seem absurd. The faces and comments friends, co-workers and complete strangers made at me when I announced that this is what I was going to do were almost discouraging. Are you sure you can do this? How are you going to manage work? But when are you going to study? I almost began to doubt the idea myself. Six years later, I am here to tell you that you can do this. You will manage work. You will have time to study. And yes, you will see your family. This is how:
First and foremost, don’t let the doubters get to you. The truth is that most lawyers go to law school full-time and only have to worry about internships or summer jobs. Hence, night students are often called “non-traditional” and are rather rare. However, this does not mean that being a night student while working full-time is an impossible task. Be assured that you can do this and will.
Have a Strong Support System
Some well-meaning individuals will suggest to you that you need to shut the door on your family and promise to make up the time after you graduate from law school. This is simply not feasible and not healthy. Most law school’s night programs are span over four years. If you are married and hope to still be by the time you graduate, be sure to set aside quality time with your partner. If you are a parent, your kids will need their mom or dad over those four years too. And equally important, you need your partner, kids, and other family members to help you relax, encourage you and support you throughout this journey.
You will not be able to attend all family functions. You may have to miss some birthday dinners. At times you may have to show up with your text books to a family event and only emerge when it’s time to eat. Your family will understand. But set aside at least one night a week to spend time with the closest people to you. Watch a movie, go out to dinner, do something fun together.
Know Your Deadlines
Your calendar will be your most useful tool. Calendar EVERYTHING. As soon as you get your syllabus, calendar your exam dates. If there are any assignments along the way, calendar those too. Calendar any important deadlines at work. Calendar your family’s birthdays. If you promise to meet up with a younger student down the road, calendar it too! (I once failed to and stood one up!) Reserve your brainpower for completing the tasks, rather than remembering when the tasks are due.
Set a Study Schedule That Works For You
As an evening 1L, I got up every morning at 5 am to do my reading for that evening. I read for two hours, went to work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and started classes at 6 p.m. My goal was to have my evenings free to spend time with my family if I did not have class. A night student I knew told me that he studied for 12 hours straight on the weekends to maximize the time he had with his children during the week. Others read on lunch breaks, after work, and after class into the night.
There is no “right” schedule. It all depends on when your brain works best and what your life demands of you. Figure out what it is and then stick to it.
I am not a morning person. But I can assure you that hearing my colleague be on the receiving end of the wrath of our Civ Pro professor on the first day of class when he announced he didn’t do his reading was enough to get me out of bed in the morning. You can do this.
Build Relationships With Other Night Students
What is great about law schools with night programs is that you will be taking night classes with lots of students just like you. You will meet other wives, husbands, parents, CEOs, CPAs, paralegals, secretaries and even doctors who will face the same struggles as you. The best part is that all of those people will want to help you. And you will want to help them.
Yes, law students are competitive. But there is a rare comradery among night students that will surprise you. You will exchange outlines, study guides and tips on how to ace the exam ahead of you. You will also build relationships that will last a lifetime. Don’t pass on that opportunity.
In sum, know that while attending law school as a night student is definitely challenging, it is also manageable. Don’t get discouraged and trust that you can do it. Plan ahead. Ask for help. Lean on your family. You’ll do great!
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