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Is it possible to do a 1.5 hour commute and parent 1L?

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Hi everyone,

I have been agonizing over a situation and thought it might be good to hear some feedback to see if what I am planning can be realistic.

I have three children aged, 17, 6 & 5.  I am currently a stay at home mom.  I have been fortunate that my husband has a good job; but it is a very physically demanding job so he comes home exhausted. He is in bed by 8:00 and leaves the house at 6:00 AM.  (I pretty much do all the running around with the kids during the week, and meals etc).  I should also mention that my 5 year old will be entering into K this year.

I have just been accepted to Law School and was very excited to attend, but attending the school would mean a 1.5 hour commute by car each way (total of 3 hours).  Class time and travel time combined would still get me home by 4:00/4:30 in the evening.  I am worried that it will be too hectic, and I do not want to set myself up for failure, but I am also a very hard worker and have overcome many life challenges, and have always been "non-traditional."  I was a single parent for many years with my oldest and worked and went to undergrad and did it all, but I have heard and read that law school is an entirely different ball game. 

I have read pages and pages of blogs and posts from other parents who are successfully handling the juggling of law school and parenting, but none of them mention what it would be like with a long commute on top of it.  Is there anyone else in this situation, or anyone who could share some thoughts??  Do you think it is completely unrealistic?  Thanks.   

You leave out a few important considerations in determining whether you've  'set myself up for failure'...

1) Are you looking at a full-time or part-time program? The courseload difference between the two can be 4-5 credits each semester... one large course or two smaller courses.

2) Expect to regularly have 2-3 hours of out-of-class prepwork for every hour spent in class. For your 15 hour FT program, expect 30-45 hours of work fully prepping for class, each week. Many try to put in less time, but in a system where you're graded on a hard curve against each other, often the lesser effort is reflected in the results. Legal writing assignments (briefs, memorandums, etc...) can consume a disproportionately large amount of time as well. Then there is the final exam crunch, during which time most of my fellow PT'ers took off from work.

3) Will you be able to free up additional time for 'optional' extracurriculars such as journals, moot court, mock trial, internships/externships/clinics? While some of these *may* provide credits towards your courseload, their workload generally far exceeds the credit pay-off. I refer to them as 'optional' because while they may not be required to earn a degree, some sort of extracurricular is a virtual necessity to obtain a legal position (necessary, although far from sufficient).

In short, there are significant time concerns you need to consider that are outside the classroom. Figure those out and you'll know whether this is something you can do...

Best of luck...


I think RobWreck makes some valid points, but law school is very different for each individual.  While I believe the 3 hours of prepwork for one hour of class may be necessary for some people, I don't think it is for the median law student.  I had a couple little kids and a wife at home during law school.   I was a top quarter graduate at a 50-100 school and I did law review and moot court.

During 1L, I worked hard and efficiently from 8 to 5pm, monday-friday, including class time.  That went up for the last few weeks of the semester.  I honestly think that was far too much time, and I believe I wasted a lot of time on stuff that didn't matter. 

If you are creative, at least 50% of your commute can be used preparing for finals.  You can try to get special permission to record your classes (this wouldn't help me much), you can get some study aids on CD, and you can read commercial outlines and outlines from upperclassmen out loud and record them.  Some people have to read to learn though.

I honestly believe that if you are OK getting Bs in a full-time program, you only need to dedicate 15-20 hours a week to non-class time.  You have to be consistent, and you have to take shortcuts. 

For example, during 2L I had to dedicate a lot of time to law review and moot court and my kids.   I made sure to get an outline for my class from a prior student and I took notes on that outline as I listened in class.  I only read the case summaries and headnotes for the assigned reading, and my finals prep consisted of improving my outline and taking practice tests.  This approach worked very well for me and my grades actually went up substantially.  I found reading and analyzing cases to be a complete waste of time.   However, some people can't deal with this approach.   I knew one 40-year-old mother of four who simply had to read every line of every case and make all of her own outlines.  She did well, but it took three times as long.

Thank you for the comments.  It does give me some more food for thought.  I did forget to mention that it would be a PT course load.  Criminal Law, Torts, Legal Research & Writing, and the 1L Law Class.  I did think of ways to utilize the time in the car by using CD lectures; and other information related to the classes.  I would want to utilize the time as best as possible.  Any other suggestions, or thoughts would be great.  Thanks again. 

I realize this is dated now a bit but wanted to chime in if you were still checking.

I have 5 kids, 3 of whom lived with me during 1L (2.5, almost 5, and 14). (The other two were older and wanted to finish high school in the place they started so they remained with family).

I find it very hard to imagine how I would have survived the hell that is 1L (though I kind of enjoyed it in a twisted way) if I had a 1.5 hour commute. I had a 30 min bus ride and often spent that trying to do reading.

A part time program, however, as you mentioned, would be more doable. But... I don't think I could have remained home (I was also a SAHM before law school) and continued on with running kids around and done law school at a nearby school.

And looking back, I don't know know I would do it again (and I'm employed in a major market at market salary). It almost ruined my marriage. I missed three years of life with my two oldest kids. And it changed me forever. The ONLY reason I would do it is I basically had no choice/no future where I was at. I had to take a big risk to get out of poverty.

Feel free to PM me and maybe we can even talk off line if you want some honest answers from someone who has been there/done that (except not the commute).


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