Monday, November 9, 2015

Expectation v. Reality - The Curious Case of The Part-Time Law Student #1Lhell

There are certain things you expect when you start out on your law school journey. You expect to work hard. You expect to sacrifice. You even expect to go a little nutz-o when exams loom over you like the shadow of the Grim Reaper. And if you are considering going back to school (meaning law would be a second (or third, or fourth) career and not that k-JD + gap year crap) you probably expect things will be different for you.

And you're right. Things will be different for you. Very different.

Law school is hard and it will be hard for you. But there are a lot of little ways going 'part-time' isn't what I thought it would be.

1. Part-time is really Full-time minus 1 class - Not every school offers a part-time program. The ones that do offer part-time schedules aren't exactly what you might consider 'part-time' in the normal sense of the word. I'm not going to school two nights a week (or even three nights a week), no, I'm going to school four nights a week. First Semester, 1L year, my class load is identical to my full-time day student colleagues with the exception of one class. Now, that's not to diminish the work that day students do. I can't imagine tossing another class into the tornado that is my life a the moment. But it's just one class. Four days a week does not a true 'part-time' schedule make.

2. Constantly disappointing someone - If you are going to school, working, and have a life full of family and friends you will disappoint someone almost daily. That person might be you. Let's face it, you're here, in law school, because you are a go-getter, a do-er, an ambitious destroyer of goals. You get shit done. It's what you do. But now you're in a place where you can't possibly get it all done. You simply can't. I know what you're thinking as you read this, "no, not me. I can get it done. Just because you can't doesn't mean I can't." And maybe you're right. Maybe you're Superwoman/man or maybe you're just in denial. Who knows. Ultimately, there will come a time in your law school career where you will have to pass on spending time with family because of school. There will come a time when you will miss special events or forget birthdays because of school. There will come a time when you will chose to pass on a promotion because you can't manage a new role AND school. And promotions aside, you will likely run into difficulty with work because there just isn't enough time in the day to get work and school and family done at the previously held standards of excellence that got you here.

3. Not giving 100% to anything - Before law school, I would give 100% to my day job and when I was away from the office I would give 100% to my personal life, goals, and relationships. Not no more. No way, no how. I can't give 100% to everything ever day. I'd love to be back in my twenties and going to school full-time. But, alas, those days are behind me. Now I have a job, with clients who need me to solve their problems. And I have a husband, who needs me too. And I have school. There are days that I want to give 100% to work and that means school and relationships suffer. On days when I give 100% to school my other commitments potentially suffer. Which brings me to my next item;

4. Making sacrifices is harrrrrd! - When I got accepted to law school and started considering what sacrifices I would need to make I was riding high on the excitement. But now I'm in the throws of the semester and the reality of everything is hard. Just hard. And with difficult choices come guilt.

5. Limited opportunities - Even though my law school goes out of their way to provide opportunities for their part-timer's there are tons of events that I can't go to because they are offered during the day. Basically anything offered before 6pm is hit or miss. And anything offered at noon is a no-go. It's tough when you want to participate but can't.

6. Feeling left out - Feeling left out can happen everywhere. As number 5 above mentioned, it's easy for a part-time student to feel left out of law school life. But I also feel left out at work and home too. I miss things. People forget to tell me things. I'm just not plugged in like I was before. Some of that is by design. I work less hours for my job and they know I'm going to school so I miss out on work things. At home I'm not as plugged into family events so I miss out on things there too.

Which brings me back to Dory:

There are a lot of ways being an part-time 1L isn't what I thought it would be. But the best part of school so far is all the ways school has been better than I ever imagined. My classmates are awesome and supportive. I love the material. And when everything between work, home, and school gels it's an awesome feeling.

Are you a part-timer? How has your experience been so far?

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