Being enrolled in law school as a part-time student is an experience unlike any other. Not only must you navigate the rigors of law school, but in all likelihood, you’ll also be balancing that with a full-time job. Add to that kids and a family for many students, and things can quickly feel overwhelming.
But worry not!
There are several ways to help manage your time and keep yourself mentally vigilant:
- Take Classes Seriously – Even though you won’t be taking a full course load, you should still treat it as such. After all, part-time students typically only take one less class per semester than their full-time counterparts.
- Talk to Fellow Part-Timers – Sharing experiences and learning how others maintain a work-school-life balance creates a support system unique to part-time students. Only people who have gone through this experience can truly relate to the hardships and unique challenges part-time law students face, so developing a support system among your classmates creates an environment of irreplaceable insights and empathy.
- Join Student Organizations – McGeorge has several organizations for law students to join and share their passions. Joining one or more of these allows both part-time and full-time law students to engage in activities they’re passionate about and collaborate with fellow classmates to share and grow ideas about today’s legal issues and nuances. In addition to student organizations, there are several evening events hosted by the CDO which part-time students are encouraged to attend whenever possible (these can also be found on McGeorgeCareersOnline).
- Create a Routine – In order to remain focused on the task at hand and prevent yourself from falling behind in school, it’s best to create a routine that you can follow on a daily basis. For instance, due to how busy weekdays are between working, law school, and family life, many former part-time students recommend saving reading assignments and outlining for the weekend. This will prevent you from stretching yourself too thin on days that you’re also working, while simultaneously allowing you to focus more intently on the material you’re taking in. If you commute to and from work and class on public transit that is a great time to catch up on reading or audio supplements, as well. It can be tempting to use that time to nap or simply let your mind wander, but those hours (particularly in the morning, before you’ve really done anything at all) are best used for chipping away at the myriad readings you’ll need to do to stay on top of your classes.
- Acknowledge and Avoid Distractions – No matter where your academic or professional life lead, there will inevitably be things that distract you from the tasks that you should be focusing on. As a part-time law student, these distractions can be exponentially more damaging to your success because of how many aspects they can potentially impact. Falling behind in school will cause stress that bleeds into your performance at work, in turn fostering frustration at home and further distracting you from school assignments, and so on and so on in a vicious cycle. It’s best to identify possible distractions early and actively avoid them. If you know that TV, video games, or other kinds of home entertainment are among your vices, try to do your school work away from home so that you’re not tempted by them.
- Network Through McGeorge – Making connections with attorneys in the various courts, agencies, and firms in your desired practice area can be difficult due to the lack of time you have to attend networking events. However, you’d be remiss to ignore the plethora of resources available to you as a McGeorge student. Many professors are practicing attorneys and judges who love helping law students advance their careers – that’s why they’re here and teaching despite putting in a full day’s work in the office. Even if they are no longer practicing, they certainly have a wealth of knowledge from their years in the field and can provide connections to active attorneys whom you should meet. Speaking with professors, meeting over coffee, and probing them for career insights are simple tactics that can quickly put you on the inside track to a coveted job. The best part? You’re already on campus for classes, so you won’t necessarily have to go out of your way to meet with them.
- Consider Daytime Courses in Your 3rd or 4th Year – After having a couple years of experience under your belt and understanding how to balance competing priorities in your life, it may be beneficial to enroll in daytime courses near the end of your academic career. Many employers will work with you to accommodate your work schedule if it’s only for a semester or two, and doing so will give you the opportunity to engage in more on-campus events and clubs at McGeorge.
- Make Time for Breaks – Not to be forgotten among the freneticism known as life as a part-time law student is the need to make time for yourself. True, you should dedicate as much time as you can to studying and work, and it seems to be at odds with everything outlined above. However, it’s just as important to take a step back to breathe, relax, and take your mind off of the law. Do what you can to stave off burnout from your 4-years long balancing act. Exercising is a great way to reset your mental state while simultaneously taking care of your physical health, or schedule time in the evening to watch a show or movie with your family. After all, the need for multi-tasking doesn’t end after law school – if anything, you’ll be asked to do even more balancing once you’re handling cases, researching legal issues, writing motions, and counseling clients. Getting an early grasp on how to manage your time between work and your personal life will be invaluable for your future satisfaction and success as a lawyer.
For more information about how to make the most of your years as a part-time law student, be sure to make an appointment with a CDO advisor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.