Part-Time Evening Students
Law school is arguably one of the most difficult scholarly graduate degree programs that exists. Many question the decision to attend law school given the high tuition rates and debt loads many students take on. Given the over-saturated job market filled with freshly minted attorneys, the decision to go to law school is a topic for another conversation. However, here, let us talk about part-time evening law students.
In my experience, there was a unique subset of future lawyers that seem destined to succeed due to sheer determination, drive and will. I’m talking about the part-timers, the night-scholars, you know, the grown-ups in the classrooms! In the spirit of full disclosure, I too, was a part-time evening law student. I typically worked from 8-5 and attended classes in the evenings from 6-9. I pretty much maintained that schedule throughout all nine (9) semesters of law school.
Evening students fell into a wide range of demographics; from husbands and wives, to younger and older students, both parents and non-parents, and some who even conceived, carried, and gave birth during law school. However, one reoccurring trait remained apparent, and that was the sheer determination to succeed. Many of us always wanted to become attorneys; however life’s circumstances led us down a different path. Once the opportunity to revisit that dream presented itself, a series of well-calculated decisions provided the ability to attend school at night while working during the day.
Soon, my schedule would become extremely rigid yet surprisingly simplistic, and the only thing I knew for nearly four years straight. I worked all day, attended school all night, and then studied all weekend, rinsed and repeat. I did reserve Friday evenings after work to relax with my friends and family. Before attending law school, I was extremely socially and politically engaged in my community. Once enrolled, there were several, and I do mean several events that I had to forgo because of my night-class obligations. When I think back, I missed out on a lot, but it all became worth it in the end.
My story is far from unique among part-time students, in fact there were close to sixty (60) of us in our inaugural class. Each and every one of my fellow cohorts had the exact same schedules, limitations, and challenges. Some had to work harder than others, however everyone bust their asses for every single grade, credit, degree and eventual bar license they received! In fact, most of my cohorts are some of strongest people I’ve ever had the opportunity to get to know. My respect for these people, both as individuals, and as a group, is unmatched by any other group of folks I’ve ever met.
Whenever I wanted to complain about the rigors of my work week, commute, and study load, I’d only have to look a couple seats over to hear about my buddy who worked double shifts as a police officer prior to and after leaving class. Whenever I felt the urge to complain about how I could not find time to clean my house, I’d just have to talk to the girl next to me that had an hour an half commute each way, to and from class. When I would worry about not spending enough time with my kids, I just had to speak to a classmate who was deciding whether or not to induce labor before the final exam to be able to study. I often refer to my classmates as Gladiators because we battled, both night and day, week and weekend, for every hour of law school instruction we received.
If I sound a bit bias towards part-time evening students, you’re right. From my experience, the Part-timers seem to have wanted it just a little bit more than their full-time counter-parts who were not working and knew of no other responsibilities outside of law school. I’m biased because I’ve had the opportunity to battle alongside some of the most courageous and dedicated individuals that exist.
I don’t use the term battle lightly because being a part-time evening student who worked during the day, law is school is just that, a battle! It will pit your priorities against one another in ways you can’t comprehend. Funeral to attend? Sorry for your loss, but you’ll have to get in the books shortly thereafter. Son’s football game tonight? Sorry Dad, you’ll either have to disappoint yourself, your son, or your professor. Either way, someone will be disappointed. It’s a constant battle between what you have to do, and what you have to do right now. Nonetheless, it builds character, and I mean strong character that will carry over to every other area of your life.
What’s the point of all this you may ask? It’s to explain that choosing to go to law school is difficult enough, choosing to go to law school while working full-time is extremely difficult. However, if you’re a go-getter and a stiff challenge never turned you away, it will still be tough, however well worth it. I only wish to add that anyone who succeeds at law school, no matter full-time or part-time has clearly grasped the concept of hard work and will eventually be an excellent attorney. The point of this post is that many part-timers have already grasped the concept of hard work prior to attending a single class, which in my opinion, gives them a leg up in this competitive job market.