Becoming a lawyer was kind of like a hybrid dream for me. Hybrid as in – it was partially inceptionized by my family, and partially what I really wanted to do.
My grandfather was a lawyer in my native Bangladesh, and my parents kind of planted in my mind that it would be a ‘good profession’ when I was a kid. It stuck with me, but died down while I partied through college.
On my side, I saw characters like Matt Murdock, Jack McCoy, Ari Gold and Harvey Specter, and researched real life sports agents and CEO’s with law degrees and thought – having that education is never going to hurt me, whether I practice or not – I should be able to apply what I learn to whatever I end up doing (hence Lawlternate).
After graduating with a BA from Temple University in 2008 – I got into sales – first advertising, then software. I liked what I was doing, and I was good at it.
But that childhood dream eventually came back around. I wanted that law degree. That’s when the dilemma hit – I didn’t want to give up my career in sales. I wanted to keep moving forward while getting that degree – and it became clear that going to school part time was the best way to do that.
I started in the Evening Division at New York Law School for the Fall 2013 semester – and graduated December 2016. It was the most intense, challenging, and rewarding journeys I ever made.
Attending law school part time while maintaining a full time career is difficult, but not by any means impossible. In fact, hundreds of people like me do it every year. The thought of spending your weeknights in class and weekends doing homework seems (and totally is) horrifying, but if you manage your time and efforts right, you’ll find it much easier than you think. This is what worked for me:
Set Expectations in your Relationships
Right before I started at NYLS, I got into a long distance relationship. My girlfriend (now wife) was in Toronto, and I was in New York. We did our best to see each other every 2 weeks – either her visiting me, or me visiting her. This alleviated some of the guilt of neglect – but it was still difficult.
Whether it’s with your immediate family, close friends, or significant others – set expectations here. You will be busy Monday to Thursday evenings, and probably at least one day of the weekend. But at the same time, make sure you make time for them – don’t neglect them entirely. Plan date nights, visit your parents, hang out with your friends whenever you can carve out some time. One casualty here will be you will
Set Expectations at Work
Evening classes start at 6:00pm. NYLS was in Tribeca, and my office at the time was in the Financial District – so a 7 minute subway ride, or 15 minute walk got me there with time to spare. Set expectations with your supervisors at work that you will need to be out that door by 5:00PM to 5:30PM – and tell them why. I’m sure they’ll understand.
You can make up for missed time and work by coming in a bit earlier. For me, my work could be done on my laptop and over email – so I’d be working in class too to make sure I don’t fall behind.
Get into a Time Management System
Time management is everything in this situation. Most nights, you’ll get home after work and school around 10:00PM – and will be way too tired to do any reading or homework – let alone retain any information if you try. Get into a system, find out what works for you. Here’s what worked for me:
- Wake up at 5:55AM
- Get reading done for school until 7:30AM
- Get to work by 8:30AM
- Skim notes during lunch hour (at desk)
- Classes 6:00PM to 9:30PM
- Wake up by 9:00AM
- Get reading done for the week until 1:00-2:00PM (depending on workload)
- Enjoy the rest of my weekend.
Outlines are your Friend
There is a shit-ton of reading in law school homework. I personally believe it’s almost impossible read everything thoroughly and retain all the information you need to. Skimming is your friend, and so are outlines. Professors don’t generally change their syllabus from semester-to-semester, unless a new version of the textbook comes out, or there was a significant change the law. So – make friends with people who have taken your class before, and ask for their outlines. You can also rely on sites like OutlineDepot and pay a small fee for outlines from past students in your class, with your professor.
Keep in mind, how other people write and understand will not be how you write and understand – so make your own version of the outline. This will come in handy for finals.
Buckle Down for Finals
If your school runs on a semester schedule, finals will be the middle 2 weeks of December, and the middle 2 weeks of May. Most law school classes don’t have multiple exams – just a midterm worth a small percentage of your grade, and a final worth a majority of it.
Buckle down accordingly. I gave myself 2 full weeks to buckle down and study for finals. My outlines were everything. I’d read them on the subway, I’d read them at lunch, and I’d read them before bed.
Keep your Social Life Alive
This might be one of the most important keys here. If you don’t have a social life during these stressful 3.5 to 4 years, you will lose your mind (and friends).
Go out with your new law school friends on Thursday nights after class. There are no classes Friday evenings, so keep them free for happy hour, or hanging out. Get your studying done in the mornings on Saturdays and Sundays, so you can leave the afternoon and evening for activities, dates, parties, weddings, etc.
These are the main things that worked for me in getting through part time law school. Different things might work for you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via the contact form.