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Life as a parent in law school

Law school isn’t tailored to students with kids, so create an academic experience that works for your family.

I first took the LSAT on my 21st birthday and then took it for the second time on my 34th birthday. I’d wanted to go to law school right after undergrad, but life didn’t work out that way, and here I am. My two children, my husband, and I uprooted our idyllic, comfortable life in a small beach town on the east coast to move to Tallahassee for me to become a law student and eventually a “double ‘Nole,” the nickname for someone with two degrees from Florida State University.

People ask: Why now?

My response usually is that it felt like now or never. And, thankfully, my family agreed. Life as a parent and law student is interesting. My husband travels for work, and my two kids are old enough to have lots of extracurriculars going on. It’s never boring.

Back-to-school lessons

I’ve learned many lessons as a parent in law school. I had questions and needed the type of support a traditional student might not need, so my best friend and I cofounded the Nontraditional Students Association. Having a group I could talk to about being older and facing challenges as a parent in law school has been immensely helpful.

Faculty and staff are great resources for information because most of them are parents. It had been so long since we lived in Tallahassee that I had lots of questions, from the right doctors to the best school zones.

To that end, a local moms’ group on Facebook has been a huge help. I’ve always been an A student and thought I still would be. It hurt my pride to become an average student. But what’s more important to me is my time with the kids. I put effort into school, but my priority is my family, and my grades reflect that.

That’s why as a parent, I rely heavily on networking and my job experience before and during law school to prepare me for my future career.

Don’t guilt yourself

It’s all right for traditions to change. Mom guilt is huge, but you have to let go. Every one of our holidays has been different since law school, but the kids are still happy and healthy, and that’s what matters.

I take fewer credits during fall and spring than other students. It’s easier for me to have online classes in summer so I can have more free time during the kids’ school year. Also, because in most law school classes, your only grade is your final exam grade, I base my class schedule on the finals schedule. With the kids, I couldn’t handle back-to-back finals.

I also learned to outline as class goes along. It’s too much to do it all at the end of the semester.

It’s OK to say no. It’s OK to not get caught up in the race, though this one is hard. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and remember your priorities and that your path is different.

The best part about law school as a parent is getting to go home to a house full of love. My family gives me motivation and helps me keep my sanity.

It can be hard to remember sometimes that there is life outside law school, but my kids pull me out of the fog and make me smile every day.

Your mileage may vary

Law school isn’t yet geared toward nontraditional students, so the advice you get might not always be the right advice for you. Reach out to those who’ve been or are in your shoes.

I’m a nontraditional student, and the traditional path isn’t the one for me. I’m not going into BigLaw. I’m not on any cocurriculars. I’ve never done on-campus interviews. I know there are other law school parents who’ve done all of those thing and are near the top of their class, but I’m letting you know it’s OK if you’re not.

You have to choose what to focus on, and I’ve chosen to focus on my jobs in law school, my connections, and serving on executive boards of student organizations.

The most important thing I’ve learned as a parent and law student is to attend a school where you have your best support system. People say to me all the time, “I don’t know how you do it.”

The truth is that I am not doing it; there’s a whole village with me. My law school friends, life friends, husband, therapist (which is on my main campus and free to students), nanny, and family all have helped me in myriad ways. I’m grateful to all of them for helping me achieve my dreams.

Stefanie-Jo Osborn Stefanie-Jo Osborn is a 3L at The Florida State University College of Law and the co-founder of the school’s Nontraditional Students Association.