Top 5 Reasons to Attend Law School Part-time Over Full-time
Whether to attend law school full- or part-time is an important decision on the way to earning your JD. After the LSAT and before you attend your first class, there are many decisions you need to make along the way to becoming licensed. A crucial decision is whether you apply to attend law school full-time or part-time. Typically, a part-time program will take four years to complete, rather than a traditional three-year, full-time program.
For some, a part-time program provides an opportunity to attend law school when it would otherwise seem impossible. A part-time law program provides students five key benefits: financial stability, work experience, mentorship, diverse class environments, and self-efficiency.
Maintaining Financial Stability
Choosing to attend law school is a significant financial decision. Currently, the tuition at the University of Denver for the part-time program is roughly $38,500 per year. Most people who choose to attend a part-time program continue working while attending school. Maintaining your salary allows you to continue to support yourself and your family while pursuing your degree. It also minimizes the loans you need to cover the cost of attendance. This reduction stems from the fact that you may not have to take on loans to cover the cost of living (estimated at roughly $20,000/year).
By enrolling in a part-time program, you can avoid $20,000 in student loans per year so that you can pursue the job you want—not the job you are forced to take to pay off loans. If financial stability is important to you, then a part-time program may be the right choice.
The part-time evening program at the University of Denver allowed me more flexibility in scheduling class and how quickly I wanted to complete the program to be able also to spend time with my family. Although being able to work during the day created some limitations as to the amount of time I had to spend with my family during the week, while also attending class in the evening, it allowed me to continue to provide financially for my family. This would not have been possible in a traditional law school program. Had I not had the opportunity to work and attend class, I don’t know that I would have been able to go to law school at all. Having to juggle school, work, and family also forced me to prioritize and be as efficient as possible with my time, a skill I have found to be tremendously beneficial as an attorney.
Associate at Griffiths Law and past DU Law part-time student.
Gaining Experience Working in a Law Firm
As a part-time student, you will have a very different experience than full-time students, but that does not mean it will be any less rewarding. While you may not have the ability to do a different internship each summer, you have the benefit of gaining in-depth experience in your field. Working in a law firm while attending school will teach you things that you cannot learn in a classroom, such as the day-to-day life as a lawyer, the business side of running a law firm, and how to navigate law-firm politics. This experience is instrumental in your development as a future attorney and will set you apart from your peers graduating in the full-time program.
To be successful as a part-time law student, you must find a firm that provides a supportive and understanding work environment. The amount of stress and time constraints that law school forces you to deal with will require flexibility on both sides. When you are working for a firm that has a positive culture and environment, you will have the support you need to succeed. I recommend that you find a firm that is just as invested in your success as you are in theirs.
You should look at whether your current job offers student incentives. For example, some firms provide employer-paid tuition assistance to employees who are furthering their education. Employers may provide up to $5,250 per year to cover their employee’s tuition, fees, and course materials and is non-taxable. If your current company does not offer incentives, then you may want to find a firm that does.
Overall, the part-time students that choose to work in law firms are more likely to keep their job throughout the four years. This is likely because the students are invested in the firm and want to continue working there after licensure. Having a standing job offer before graduating from law school is a benefit that you should not overlook.
Obtaining Meaningful Mentorships
Working full-time while attending law school provides you the unique opportunity to work with a mentor for your four years as a student. Unlike a full-time law school program, where you rotate through a few summer internships, you have the opportunity to create a long-term, meaningful mentorship. This mentor will have the ability to work with you day after day to enhance your legal development.
Not only will this mentor be able to guide you, but they will also provide you with a robust professional reference if you choose to work elsewhere. Having reputable attorneys as references will go a long way in helping you land your first job as an associate.
Learning Alongside Working Professionals
An underrated benefit of a part-time program is the unique class environment that it provides. Nearly every one of your part-time classmates will be a working professional. This provides for an environment that is much less cutthroat than the typical full-time classes. This is because most of your classmates already have careers, and they are less threatened by others.
Some of your classmates may have 24 years of work experience, while some may only be 24 years old. This diversity of life experience, stretching from VP’s, CEO’s, Ph.D.’s, managers, mothers, and young professionals, creates a unique learning environment. The perspectives that your classmates bring will likely teach you as much about the world as your course material does.
Becoming Your Most Efficient Self
No doubt about it, working full-time while attending school part-time will teach you to become your most-efficient self. When almost every hour of your day is devoted to specific tasks, you have no option but to become highly organized and efficient. To be successful, you will have to learn to prioritize. Learning these skills is crucial to success in the legal field and could put you a step ahead of full-time students, who may not have to endure four years splitting their focus.
Working full time while attending law school certainly made me the most efficient version of myself. When you only have a set amount of time each day to accomplish what seems insurmountable, you don’t have time to waste, and you just get it done.
Associate at Griffiths Law and past DU Law part-time student.
Regardless of whether you determine that a part-time program is for you, remember that the purpose of law school is to learn: to learn the law, to learn about yourself, and to learn how to help your future clients. In my experience, being a part-time student and a full-time working professional teaches me precisely that.
Cheyenne Somers is currently enrolled in the University of Denver’s Part-Time Professional JD Program in her second year and also works as a paralegal at Griffiths Law.