Can You Go to Law School Part-Time? (With Pros and Cons)
Updated December 21, 2022
Becoming a lawyer typically involves completing an undergraduate degree and then attending law school. Many schools offer part-time and full-time programs to provide flexibility for their students. Understanding the possible benefits and drawbacks of attending law school part-time can help you decide if this option works for you. In this article, we answer the question, "Can you go to law school part-time?", share the benefits and potential drawbacks of part-time education, and provide you with a list of tips to help you find success as a part-time student.
Can you go to law school part-time?
Learning the answer to "Can you go to law school part-time?" can help to determine whether to pursue this type of education. Universities may allow students to choose the number of credits they take each semester, meaning that you may complete law school part-time in five to seven years, depending on the number of courses you take. While some schools allow students to complete programs at their own pace, others may ask students to complete programs in a set period, such as six or seven years.
Individuals may attend law school part-time rather than full-time because it can offer them more flexibility for working or caring for family members. Schools may also offer evening or weekend classes to provide part-time students with more flexible schedules.
What are the benefits of attending law school part-time?
Attending law school part-time rather than full-time offers many potential advantages for you, including:
The ability to continue a career
Attending law school full-time can be a time-consuming process. Most law school classes are typically held during the day, making it difficult for you to continue working while in school full-time. If you choose to go to law school part-time, you may be able to continue your career simultaneously. For students already working in a related field, such as paralegals or legal secretaries, attending law school part-time may offer additional benefits because it allows students to gain relevant experience while earning a degree that can help advance their career.
Increased flexibility for other commitments
In addition to having the ability to work while attending school, the increased flexibility of part-time law school schedules offers opportunities for you to pursue other activities. Schools with part-time law programs often offer evening or weekend classes to better fit into students' schedules. Students often attend school part-time because they have other daily commitments, such as caring for children or other family members. You may also choose a part-time schedule to have time for other activities, such as volunteering or hobbies.
More financial options
Since part-time students take fewer classes at a time than full-time students, their tuition typically costs less per semester. For example, full-time law students might take three to four courses each semester, whereas part-time students might take two. While part- and full-time students take the same number of classes to graduate, having costs distributed over a longer time frame can make obtaining a law degree more financially feasible. Additionally, part-time students may continue to work while attending school, and having a source of income can be helpful for you.
Opportunity to develop important skills
Part-time students often balance schoolwork with other activities. This can present an opportunity to develop skills that are attractive to employers, such as solid time management and organization. During interviews, potential employers may ask questions about an individual's work ethic. As a part-time student, you may be able to present examples of how you managed busy schedules or relied on your strong work ethic and motivation to graduate successfully.
Many law schools offer networking events to both part- and full-time students, which can effectively build professional networks and discover leads for future jobs. These networking events can allow you to communicate with professors and potential employers. They can also be an excellent way to network with peers, create connections that can help provide support, make recommendations and referrals, or be available for potential collaborations.
More time to apply for jobs
Part-time students often have more time to apply for jobs than full-time students. You can use this time to research jobs and companies and improve your resume. Part-time students may also have more flexible schedules than full-time students, making scheduling and attending interviews more convenient.
What are the potential disadvantages of attending law school part-time?
Although there are many benefits to attending law school part-time, there are also several possible disadvantages. Understanding these potential drawbacks can help determine if part-time law school is a good option. Some disadvantages of attending law school part-time may include the following:
Institutions ask part-time and full-time students to earn the same number of credits to graduate. Because part-time students take fewer credits per semester, it takes them longer to graduate. For example, full-time students may graduate with their law degree in three years, whereas part-time students typically take four to five years to earn this same degree. A full-time program may be more suitable if you're looking to begin your law career within the next three years.
Less time to manage commitments
Part-time students often attend school because they want to simultaneously continue their careers or have other commitments to attend to. Planning these commitments around attending class, studying, and completing coursework takes significant time management. It's also helpful to understand how much time you spend with your other obligations to allot the proper time for school.
More opportunities for full-time students
While law schools typically offer opportunities such as networking and career-building workshops to all students, there may be some opportunities that are only available to full-time students. For example, some scholarships may only be available to students who are taking a full-time course load. Additional activities, such as clubs, may also only be available to full-time students. Programs for part-time students can differ between schools, so it's vital for you to research to determine what different schools offer to part-time students.
Easier access to events as a full-time student
Although universities typically offer networking events and career-building workshops to both part- and full-time students, these events are often scheduled during the day. Full-time students who don't work during the day or have other commitments often find it easier to attend these events. It's also important to consider when instructors offer office hours. You may find it easier to get extra help if these office hours aren't during regular business hours.
More challenging to get an internship
Law students typically have a full-time internship during the summer months, which can help them gain practical experience and may lead to a full-time job after graduation. It's usually easier for full-time students to commit to a full-time internship than for part-time students who are working. You may consider checking to see if your school offers part-time internships.
Tips for excelling as a part-time law student
There are several ways that you can work to be more successful when attending law school as a part-time student. These tips include:
Communicating with your employer: If you're planning to work while attending school, it can be helpful to communicate this with your employer to make them aware. You may consider informing them when you plan to attend class so they can schedule you around your classes.
Taking a law school preparatory course: Many schools offer law school preparatory courses that discuss study strategies and begin to introduce you to law terms. These can help you prepare to be more successful in your program.
Creating a schedule: Time management is crucial when balancing school and other commitments. You can track exams and other important dates in your calendar so that you're able to create study schedules.
Connecting with peers: Connecting with other students can be helpful as you work through law school. You can help each other study, complete assignments, and stay motivated.
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