My dad loves to remind me how he paid for his education. He scrubbed toilets during college and worked as a punch card programmer to pay for law school.
He is making a point about hard work, but all I can hear is how great things used to be.
Like my father before me, I attended law school part-time. Like my father before me, I worked full-time and went to school at night. Unlike my father, I have a ton of debt from law school.
As the price of education has skyrocketed, the effectiveness of working to pay your way through school has dropped considerably.
In theory, I could be Exhibit A on why part-time law school doesn’t make sense anymore.
Instead, I’d argue that it is still an excellent path with real merit.
The life of a part-time law student
Monday through Friday are long days at the office. Evening classes are a battle to stay awake and focus. Weekends are the only chance to catch up on sleep and get some studying done. Friends, family, and relaxation are an afterthought.
Looking back, I wasn’t the best employee that I could have been during those years. I also wasn’t the best student I could have been during those years.
Even with the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t change my decision to be an evening law student.
Part-time law school benefits
Being successful in law school requires solid time management skills. Balancing law school classes with a full-time job requires a mastery of time management skills. It also requires a serious work ethic and determination.
I say this not to scare people out of working while going to school. It is a positive aspect of the challenge.
Every employer wants to hire people who have a strong work ethic and good time management skills. Successful graduates of evening law school programs have resumes that scream hard work. Inevitably, they also will have plenty of stories to share in an interview that demonstrate these traits.
The other big advantage comes from the work experience and networking that occurs during this time. Law students working as a paralegal or legal assistant may not make a ton of money, but they have practical experience and connections that can make a huge difference in the job marketplace.
The financial implications of evening law programs
Working full-time isn’t a route to avoiding student debt anymore. However, it is a route to reducing student loan borrowing.
Finding a job that covers living expenses is a reasonable goal and a great way to keep student loan borrowing to more manageable amounts. For students attending school in high cost of living areas, this work could easily mean reducing total loan borrowing by six figures.
Even though the perks of being an evening law student are not what they used to be, there is still value to being a part-time student… both personal and financial.