Top 3 Reasons Why Studying Law Part Time on the Weekend is the Best Thing that Makes Me Want to Die Inside

Weekend Warrior Columns, Featured Lawyer, law school, Lawyer 7 Comments

Since I started law school  a few weeks ago everyone’s been asking me how it’s going. My Zen-like answer is that the best and worst things about studying law are one and the same.

1. Best:  I’m keeping my job!

First some background. I’m what you might call a value-oriented law student. I chose to go not to the highest-ranked school I got into, but rather the one that offered me the best deal financially. It didn’t hurt that I clicked best with the people there but ultimately money was a huge part of my decision. I’ll get a JD and get away with a minimal debt burden.

Going part time is a big part of that. I’ve got an established career, a good salary, benefits and financial goals I don’t feel like foregoing. By going to school part time, I keep my whole salary while finally getting my legal education moving. Win-win, right?

Worst: I’m keeping my job.

At my school “part time” means 11 credits, which is only one class less than our classmates in the traditional, full time program. Consequently when I’m not working, I’m studying, and that’s about it. I study in the morning, I study at night. I study on the bus to and from work. I study over lunch. I often study through dinner and I stay up late, studying. I’m not complaining – I chose this and, fortunately, I’m loving it – but the truth is I’m barely keeping pace.  It’s literally all I can do just to keep up with the assigned reading, note-taking and oh yeah, outlining (evidently it’s a thing) and the homework for my legal research and writing class. I’d love to spend time reading hornbooks, listening to Sum and Substance or meeting with my professors outside of class (not to mention networking, volunteering, etc) but I just can’t. Not because I’m not motivated, not because I don’t want to but because I simply don’t have time. And the only reason I don’t have the time is that every single day I squander the best of my waking hours being gainfully employed.

Forty hours never seemed like that much work until I had to explain Pennoyer v. Neff. If I had that much time, or even half of it, just to study, I would be pimp shit. Instead I’m settling, at least for now, for being merely excellent.

For their part, my employers have been extremely encouraging about me going back to school. But they’ve also been completely clear that they’re not interested in renegotiating my schedule. So if I want to give more time and energy to law school, it’s easy, I either have to quit working or quit sleeping.

2. Best: I go to class on the weekend!

My school is one of just a couple in the nation to offer a weekend part-time program. Again, it’s great that I get to keep working and earning, but in addition, the people I’m studying with are a unique bunch. They’re much older than traditional law students—median age in my section is 34. We’ve got two practicing doctors, a COO for a large local company, a dean from another college, a couple of engineers, a bunch of compliance officers, a former prison guard and one guy who manages a gas station. If I was nervous about one thing about law school it was the other students. A system based on the socratic method depends on quality student contributions and let’s face it, in undergrad most of your classmates are morons. Not so with these folks.

Worst: I go to class on the weekend.

Again, I chose this, and I’m not complaining. I knew my social life would get punched in the face. My friends have been great very understanding, supportive and excited for me. It sucks having to skip social events or head home earlier than I might otherwise, but it’s not like I crawled into my grave.

What’s actually most distressing is not that I’m a student on the weekend but that I am not a student the rest of the week. Saturday and Sunday I’m typically at school from 8 in the morning until at least 4:30 in the afternoon, sometimes longer if I stay late to study (which I almost always do). The entire time I’m there I’m engaged in the most demanding intellectual enterprise I’ve ever been a part of. It’s intense—it’s law school. And then it’s over. I’m ejected back into the real world which has always continued rolling along quite uninterrupted by my epic little adventure.

I don’t socialize with the other students outside of class. Like I said, they’ve got kids, careers and other things going on. A bunch of them don’t even live in town. And besides, who’s got the time? Consequently it’s just me and the books. I’m definitely in law school, but I feel like I’m not really a real law student.

Also, there’s just no football for me this year, or the next four. Let me know how it goes.

3. Best: Everyone thinks I’m doing something really impressive.

From friends to family to colleagues in the office and people in the street, everyone I meet is impressed that I’m in law school. I’ll take whatever props people want to throw my way, but what I really appreciate is that I don’t actually have to explain my job or what I’m doing with my life any more. The magic words “law school” are enough to derail basically any conversation that might require me to explain my weird job, my creative endeavors, hobbies or anything else I consider personal. People congratulate me all the time just for getting in and all I can think is I only took the LSAT because it doesn’t contain any math

Worst: Everyone thinks I am now somehow a lawyer.

I knew this could happen but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Right away, before class even started, it was Hey, you’re in law school, I’ve got this problem . . . . Fortunately most people understand that I cannot give legal advice, but they seem oddly crestfallen when I explain that, even after a few weeks of school, the only thing I really know about the law is that I don’t know anything about the law. One day I’ll be happy to help folks out, but in the meantime, I tell them, find yourself a lawyer. I hear there are plenty out there looking for work.

So will I if I don’t stop screwing around on Bitter Lawyer and get back to civ pro . . . .

Post image via Shutterstock.

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  • quadoz

    I played that same game for 4 yearr! Worked full time in the cop gig working mid-nights on the mean streets, then taking evening classes during the week before work.

    Social life… let me just say this… 2-3 weeks was a long term relationship while I was doing that grind.

    You will still incur debt. I make a decent living with the cop gig, but paying for school, books, and bartabs will make you broke…fast! I took some loans because I was sick and tired of going broke every 4 months. Oh, and it’s fantastic when a total unexpected bill comes forward too…car blowing up.

    Just remember this. In the end, it’s all what you make of it. I do solo stuff during the day time. I never planned on working for a firm – I already can’t stand working for someone at the cop gig. I’m guessing you have some plan with the degree…perhaps moving up in your current field? Maybe you’re like me, and can retire in about 10 years with a full pension and healthcare at the age of 43? Then you can practice at your leisure.

    Well, just random thoughts I had about a very familiar topic. Good luck

    City Cop by Midnights, Rookie Lawyer by Day

  • Hank

    Also, the women will go for you if you still have another job. That is a good thing.

  • Courtney

    This post was so funny and definitely helped me with my decision to go to law school part time and work full time. Thanks!

    • unwarylawyer

      Aww. This helped me too but here’s my thing:

      I am currently working in a company where almost everyone came from the top schools in the country and it seems like going to a little less than that is somewhat a big issue. If they would hear that you did not come from the ‘X University’ people will seem to look down on you.

      So, is studying in a not so popular school still worth it?

      Have to decide soonest….

      Any advice?

  • Anne

    I just graduated from a part time program and am now studying for the bar while working (also a delight). Worst for me is my elitist bastard friends who went to the tier 1 schools in the state (w/ no part time programs) using that fact to act superior to me and to forget that the past couple of decades we always were in the same classes, got same grades, clearly same intelligence and capabilities, and listening to them cautioning me the past few years that ill never get a good job nvm that i now have really solid 8 years of experience under my belt at a law firm upon graduation….. Plusses… Half the debt they have, and despite their warnings , a far better and higher paying job waiting for me than what they ended up with. Ha. Ha. Ha. Girl eho didnt sit back and let her school name decide her future, 1, first tier friends, 0…….

  • Brooks Gracie

    I did law school at night, while working full-time as an accountant. THE most important thing I learned, and it took me a year to learn it, is that I didn’t have to go to class to excel. I finished 6th out of 135 students, the only night student in the top ten. My first year was mostly B’s, because I did what they told me to do. My second third and fourth year were almost straight A’s, because I stopped attending class and bought Emmanuals and made plenty of outlines. A professor would give you a 30 page case to read to get across one salient point. Emmanual’s turns that case into a paragraph or two. I literally would do nothing until about 3 weeks before exams, where I would make lots of coffee and cram Emmanuals. I got an Amjure in Constitutional Law and went to exactly one class–the first one where the syllabus was handed out. The prof was a terrible teacher, so I simply taught myself using Emmanuals. Unfortunately, there is not an Emmanuals for all subjects, but it is there for most. It saved me so much time from skipping classes, and I learn better from written text than I do from oral lectures, that it fit my schedule and needs perfectly. I only wish I had known this before the first year, because I would have been law review had I taken that approach from the start. Plus, once I had the opportunity to choose electives, I took all the tax courses they had, being a CPA I was way ahead of the curve.

  • frustrated darth vader

    I just enrolled in law school and i have no idea if i can survive 8-5 job and night law school. But this article gave me hope and laughs.