As for the side issues. PTs don't put "J.D., part-time" on their resume, right? Even if it's on the CV and transcript, I've never heard of employers specifically looking down on part-timers. But if this is true that is very disappointing.
First, no, nobody has "part-time" put on their degree and there is no factual or ethical reason to state that you got the degree part-time on your C.V. When I said "its on your CV", what I meant was that you can piece together that a person is a part-timer based on the information on the CV.
What I'm talking about here is initial job opportunities. If you can establish your career and get things going, yeah, I don't see how it'll make a difference in getting your 2nd or subsequent job.
Also, in hiring processes that are highly bureaucratic (government, JAG, etc.), perhaps its a non-factor.
Obviously, any employer who wants a transcript will know.
Not sure how it's done at other schools, but part-timers are not ranked against the full-timers for class rank at mine. So, any statement of class rank (3rd out of 30), is going to illustrate that you were not in the full time section.
It's not that employers say, "I don't want to hire a part-timer". It's the intangibles around being a part-timer that provides the disadvantage. Again, does a person's school allow a person to be on law review? I mean, seriously, are people acting like they don't understand the importance of law review when you're competing for jobs? (The ACTUAL value of law review may be debatable, but the weight it carries with employers is not.) Is there part-time moot court?
I don't know how things work at most schools. Maybe some schools have part-time law review and part-time moot court.
Yes, it's possible you could be a part-timer with a law-related job like an internship/externship, clerkship, associateship, etc. At that point, though, who in their right mind would do things that way? If you have that kind of time, why would you not be a full-time student?
I think there, we're trying to evalute a common reality (a full-time student with a part-time law job), versus a fantasy that seldom, if ever, actually exists (a part-time student with the same type of part-time job.)
I guess there could be any number of reasons to be a part-time student, but frankly, the only reasons I see, in actuality, is that a person already has a good job that they don't want to give up or the person had poor academic credentials and was admitted provisionally. I suppose you could set up another category: perfectly good students who don't have a full-time job, but who want to attend part-time anyway, but again, I think that's a highly unlikely scenario that really doesn't happen in actuality.
As for the students who are full-time with a job, there is no doubt that at graduation, they'll be at a disadvantage by virtue of the fact that, at a minimum, they won't have any law-related work during school. They will have the advantage, however, of not NEEDING a job immediately since they already have one.
It's not that employers come in thinking, "No way, no part-timers". It's that they have a particular profile in mind. Generally speaking, an employer's wish list, in hierarchical order, involves:
1. A great school.
2. A great GPA
3. Law Review
4. Significant Summer employment
5. Nice if they have significant part-time employment
6. If not Law Review, then Moot court
7. If not Moot Court, a leadership position in a law student related organization.
To keep this an apples to apples comparison, we'll figure nobody we're talking about has #1.
Part-timers? Unless we're talking about the fantasy of the student who has no full-time job, but just goes part-time for the heck of it, chances are they won't be able to demonstrate ANY of those other than #2.
And when they go against a full-time student with a comparable and maybe even slightly lower GPA, at most schools the full-timer might have #3, if not, then #6 or #7, also #4 and maybe #5.
So, is it a matter of simply segregating: full-timers over here. Part-timers over there? No. It's the issue that a part-timer is almost never as competitive as a comparable full-timer. Even in the case of mid-pack and lower students, the full-timer probably has (if he/she has half a brain) significant clinical experience.
Now, let's address the "perfectly good student who elects, for no apparent reason, to go part-time instead of full" straw-man. Of the things they're evaluating you for in your interviews, one of them is your ability to manage your time, work hard, etc. So, yeah, head-to-head, a part-timer with a top 10% class rank and a full-timer with a top 10% class rank are not the same thing. Not in the eyes of employers. Not in reality. If all other things are held equal, the employer knows that the part-timer's GPA done with a lesser workload.
They are, absolutely, trying to assess your ability to manage and handle a big workload. There is no scenario I can envision where a part-timer is considered the equivalent of a full-timer and the employment realities reflect this.
I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions, but I've never personally encountered a person with a phenomenal career who was a part-time student. In law, especially, your first job is a huge component of your ultimate destiny. Part-timers start out in the hole. Most never make up the gap.
I know that sounds mean and cruel and harsh and judgemental and un-American and whatever. I don't make the rules. I'm just telling you what it looks like from where I sit.
The hiring picture is also mean and cruel and harsh and judgement and un-American and whatever. You can gripe about unfair it is. However, if somebody is asking me how it is, I feel it's only responsbile to give them a realistic appraisal of the situation. Personally, I think going part-time is a mistake. 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, all you needed was the JD to establish a great law career. Now, you need the JD and as the O/P pointed out, you need practical experience that you gained during school. The ideal law school graduate in 1980 was a guy with great class rank and law review. The ideal law school grad in 2010 needs those internships and clerkships, too.
Perhaps some hiring managers could chime in about how on or off base my perception is.