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Author Topic: How many hours can a 1L work and still be successful in law school?  (Read 8609 times)

M112

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I have recently found myself in a conundrum of sorts.  I was all set to go to law school (T4) in a few months with half of my tuition paid.  When school began, I planned to simply reduce my hours of employment to about 10-15 hours per week to pay for gas (commuting to school) and living expenses.   However, today, my current employer offered me a management position at the college based research facility I work at with a 40K per year (with benefits) compensation package. 

Now, I still want to go to law school and my intent is to be in the top 10% of my class-not just a straggler.  That being said, is there any way I could realistically accomplish this with a 40 hour work week?  I understand the part-time division is an option, but that also may jeopardize my financial aid and scholarship package if I were to switch from full-time day division to evening division.  However, assuming the switch doesn't impact my aid, is it realistic to stay within the top 10% of my class working a 40 hour per week job?

Also, if I were to go to law school in the full-time day division and just keep my part-time (20 hours) job as a researcher for the college, would even this amount of time committed to work allow me the time needed to be succesful in school (top 10% in my class being the goal)?

Any thoughtful responses, experiences, and other pertinent information is greatly appreciated.   

TheReasonableMan

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Re: How many hours can a 1L work and still be successful in law school?
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2010, 08:50:07 PM »
As someone who did exactly, what you're suggesting, I can give you the good and the bad.  

The good: it's entirely possible, and even reasonable, to work those hours during 1L.  If you can handle a 50-60 hour work week (which you should be ready for if you're going into this field), you can balance work and a 1L schedule. It's hard work, and you need to figure out how to take off work for at least 2 weeks during finals time, but you can do it.

The bad: kiss your fun and free-time goodbye.  Thinking of joining intramural teams, public service organizations or student government?  Forget it.  Happy hour on Thursday nights with your classmates? Not on your schedule.  Going to see that Supreme Court justice that's giving a speech at your school? You'll probably be working then. Work, class, study will pretty much be your life.  Law school has a lot to offer outside of class, and you will not be a part of it.  

I had a decent law school experience, and good grades, but it was a tradeoff.  It's possible, but you will have to decide whether it's worth it for the law school experience you want to have.   PM me if you have any other questions.

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Re: How many hours can a 1L work and still be successful in law school?
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2010, 10:51:38 PM »
No way in hell I'm working during law school.

cooleylawstudent

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Re: How many hours can a 1L work and still be successful in law school?
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2010, 11:12:50 PM »
If your fulltime then you can't work more than 20 according to the ABA PERIOD! Just the rules, no way to change it, period.

If your ok dropping to 12 credits or less, then go for it if you need to but you wont be top 10%. You'll get a 2.0 and gradute probally, but for some people thats the goal. If its that or complete failure, then there you go. Better to make it minimal standard then to fail like an allstar.

Most people are cowards and don't even like multiple choice becuase they cant weasel they're way out of it, let alone a real job that gets dirt under the nails or makes them miss their nappytime.... :'(     Do what you have to do, but make sure to check with the ABA first, trust me you dont want a degree thats worthless since you violated ABA protocal to get it.

Thane Messinger

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Re: How many hours can a 1L work and still be successful in law school?
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2010, 02:43:04 AM »
I have recently found myself in a conundrum of sorts.  I was all set to go to law school (T4) in a few months with half of my tuition paid.  When school began, I planned to simply reduce my hours of employment to about 10-15 hours per week to pay for gas (commuting to school) and living expenses.   However, today, my current employer offered me a management position at the college based research facility I work at with a 40K per year (with benefits) compensation package.  

Now, I still want to go to law school and my intent is to be in the top 10% of my class-not just a straggler.  That being said, is there any way I could realistically accomplish this with a 40 hour work week?  I understand the part-time division is an option, but that also may jeopardize my financial aid and scholarship package if I were to switch from full-time day division to evening division.  However, assuming the switch doesn't impact my aid, is it realistic to stay within the top 10% of my class working a 40 hour per week job?

Also, if I were to go to law school in the full-time day division and just keep my part-time (20 hours) job as a researcher for the college, would even this amount of time committed to work allow me the time needed to be succesful in school (top 10% in my class being the goal)?

Any thoughtful responses, experiences, and other pertinent information is greatly appreciated.  


As always, there are several parts to the answer.

The ABA does indeed restrict the number of hours students can work (not more than 20 hours per week during full-time studies), with severe frowing upon on working during a (full-time) 1L year.

The second answer is that, yes, it is possible to do what you're suggesting.  

The third answer is, well, not really.

How can #2 and #3 both be true?  Part 2 is that work forces efficiency that is quite beneficial in law study.  I've harped on this, I know, but most students waste much or even most of their time spent "studying."  Most non-traditional students, by virtue of having to face multiple immovable objects (employers, family...) have become much more efficient.  In law school, that translates to higher effectiveness.  So, hour-per-hour the "output" (grades) can be much higher for the input (time served).

The "No" side is that a management position is really a different beast.  If you're a night janitor, great; use the time to listen to law tapes.  Anything much more mentally taxing than that, however, and you've got a real issue.  It won't be fair to yourself or to your employer.  (I was taking a second master's and working an academic job, which became an academic-executive job of 70+ hours per week.  In short, that master's simply got pushed aside.)  The truth is that a *real* exempt position (managerial or professional) requires ALL of your time.  Really.  There's no honest way to do both, well.  Add a family . . . ?

Part 4 is . . . are you sure you wouldn't want to wait a few years, retake the LSAT if necessary, and find a better fit?  (If, indeed, a different school would be a better fit.)  If it's an academic-related environment you're eventually interested in, academicians are even more status-oriented than firms.

I hope this helps,

Thane.

M112

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Re: How many hours can a 1L work and still be successful in law school?
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2010, 01:01:38 AM »
Thank you to everyone for the thoughtful responses.  I figure I will just write one long post to respond to the specific points of interest in each post. 

As someone who did exactly, what you're suggesting, I can give you the good and the bad. 

The good: it's entirely possible, and even reasonable, to work those hours during 1L.  If you can handle a 50-60 hour work week (which you should be ready for if you're going into this field), you can balance work and a 1L schedule. It's hard work, and you need to figure out how to take off work for at least 2 weeks during finals time, but you can do it.

The bad: kiss your fun and free-time goodbye.  Thinking of joining intramural teams, public service organizations or student government?  Forget it.  Happy hour on Thursday nights with your classmates? Not on your schedule.  Going to see that Supreme Court justice that's giving a speech at your school? You'll probably be working then. Work, class, study will pretty much be your life.  Law school has a lot to offer outside of class, and you will not be a part of it. 

I had a decent law school experience, and good grades, but it was a tradeoff.  It's possible, but you will have to decide whether it's worth it for the law school experience you want to have.   PM me if you have any other questions.

Great to hear from someone with a very similar situation as the one I will be facing.  Your response was incredibly beneficial.  To be clear, however, the hours you were employed while in school was part-time or full-time?  And if full-time, I assume you went part-time? 

I have actually decided to keep my part-time job and go to school full time (after making some calls to my school of choice, they would revoke my scholarship if I switched divisions so it made the choice very easy for me).

A follow-up question for you though, if it isn't too intrusive, would you mind telling me if you felt that at any point in time, that your employment at a part-time or full-time capacity made it such that you could not realize your academic potential?  If so, would you re-consider your hours of employment in hindsight?  Did it hurt or help your job prospects after graduation?


Part 4 is . . . are you sure you wouldn't want to wait a few years, retake the LSAT if necessary, and find a better fit?  (If, indeed, a different school would be a better fit.)  If it's an academic-related environment you're eventually interested in, academicians are even more status-oriented than firms.


Speaking to the above point, I already have a Master's Degree under my belt and with it am getting higher in age and resolved that it was either no or never for law school as I didn't want to get my career going much later than I already will.  So I probably will stay put at where I am and with that being said, have decided against accepting the position at my current employer.  My future job prospects, flexibility, and compensation cumulatively outweigh the benefits of the offered promotion. 

In terms of my hours of employment, unfortunately, because of my financial situation, I must work the 15-20 hours I mentioned earlier while staying in the full-time division.  There really is no other way I could support myself even with additional loans for a myriad of reasons.

And finally, academics is something I do want to get into eventually, but it is not the be all end all for me, being a practicing lawyer and just that would be okay with me.  However, with your observation regarding prestige and academic job offerings, transferring to a higher ranked school (if grades permit) is always an option.   

TheReasonableMan

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Re: How many hours can a 1L work and still be successful in law school?
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2010, 08:36:03 PM »
Hours worked were part time (15-20/week) and school was full time. I made exactly the same decision as you, foregoing my intention of part time school for a full time program with a partial scholarship. 

I can only speak for myself, but I don't feel that I sacrificed academic performance for work hours.  As I said in the earlier post, there are a lot of trade-offs, but there was plenty of time for studies.  If anything, the hyper-structured nature of my schedule made me more efficient and effective with the time I had.  No matter what anybody tells you, the average law student has plenty of free time, and most waste a good portion of the time they spend "studying" (e.g.- "study groups" where most time is spent gossiping).   If you spend your time wisely, you can spare 15-20 hours per week.  Some weeks, like when legal writing assignments are due, you may pull some very late nights, but there are only a few of those during 1L.   During 2L and 3L, I was able to fit an internship for credit and law review into my work schedule without too much of a problem.  If I had to do things all over again, I would do things exactly the same. By working, I was able to pull down a living wage, and likely avoided 50-75k in extra debt for living expenses that I will not have to service for the next 30 years.  I obviously missed out on some social and networking opportunities.

I should note that I had a VERY understanding employer, who let me structure my schedule as I saw fit, and take off time as needed around finals. If your job does not allow you to go on "vacation" without forgetting work, you could get into trouble balancing full time finals studying.  Also worth mentioning is that you will eventually reach the point where you have to decide whether it is more beneficial for you to keep working or to take a summer legal position.  I was able to arrange both, but if you want to go big law, you will have to fully commit to the firm during the summer. 

Again, it's an uphill battle, but don't let anyone tell you that work and 1L can't be combined.  You just have to treat it like a very serious job, and skip a lot of the social stuff that takes up a great deal of time for most law students.


CJScalia

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Re: How many hours can a 1L work and still be successful in law school?
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2010, 08:29:29 PM »
Working as a 1L? NO.

Anyone who tells you differently are just trying to tilt the curve in their own favor.

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cooleylawstudent

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Re: How many hours can a 1L work and still be successful in law school?
« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2010, 10:54:58 PM »
Thats wrong on at least two levels. First its the guys on top of the class that set the curve not the bottom, so unless the one lone top of class is asking, it won't make even a dent in the curve.
Plus, lots of guys that I know work at least part time and get a good solid 3.5(which a lot of cry babies getting breast fed at home while cramming for their finals dont get)


Working as a 1L? NO.

Anyone who tells you differently are just trying to tilt the curve in their own favor.



Thane Messinger

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Re: How many hours can a 1L work and still be successful in law school?
« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2010, 11:07:52 PM »
And finally, academics is something I do want to get into eventually, but it is not the be all end all for me, being a practicing lawyer and just that would be okay with me.  However, with your observation regarding prestige and academic job offerings, transferring to a higher ranked school (if grades permit) is always an option.   


It's not possible to overstate the importance of grades in this equation, if this is a concern; you're accepting quite a lot of risk.  If you're curious about the details of tranferring, take a look at Art of the Law School Transfer.