Part-time Law, Full-time Life: “Fools rush in…” or Enrolling in a Part-time Law Program

Three weeks ago, I uploaded my last exam response of the semester. I went through my now-typical process of double-checking my formatting, reviewing the instructions, taking note of the time of upload, re-calculating the number of words, and cautiously hit the submit button. Later that night, joining my husband for a post-semester celebratory drink, it dawned on me that I had transposed my exam number during submission – on that exam, and two others. I remember freezing with terror as my husband looked at me, panic in his eyes, worried I was having some kind of attack, until I shrieked “I failed!” – at which point his face went blank and in an acerbic tone, he said, “Oh no. Not again.”

Ok, so I have been here before. The panic, the momentary trepidation I felt after realizing my error is something I experience with every exam or assignment. How I have not suffered a heart attack up to this point is nothing short of a miracle - though the stress ulcer slowly growing in my stomach may have more to say on the subject. I may appear cool and confident on the outside (queue the guffaws from my family), but law school has invigorated my stomach jitters, sparked continuous goosebumps, and introduced me to stress double anything I have experienced (and I handmade 1,000 paper flowers for my wedding). So, why do it? Why subject myself to something that many others seem to handle with ease and far more grace? Some might think it is the rush I get from accomplishing something or that I thrive on stress, and although these are factors, it is simpler: I am a fool.

My foolishness derives from one of my initial reasons for enrolling: jealousy. During a dinner outing in 2014, a friend mentioned she was considering law school to complement her master’s degree. I was slightly taken back at her belief that she, a new mom, could commit to law school while working and caring for her child. Everything I knew about a JD program led me to believe it was a full-time job and a student could not have a life separate from school. Here was someone that truly believed a woman could “do it all”. I was jealous of her positive attitude and her ability to take her next career step with so much fervor and excitement. I had just gotten married and I had no “next step” planned. So with my soon-to-expire LSAT score I sent in an application. Not wanting to hear all of the reasons I should not consider law school, I did not tell anyone but my husband and we eagerly awaited my acceptance letter. When the letter came, I called my friend to tell her my news and she surprised me – she had changed her mind. She wanted to spend more time with her daughter. Law school could wait or never come at all and it did not matter to her. And I felt like a fool. I decided to apply out of jealousy – not jealous because my friend was so accomplished or because many of my peers were furthering their careers while mine felt stagnant, but jealous that someone was appropriating my dream. Because for so long, law school and the world to which law school has introduced me, was my dream, but it took another person’s wish for her life to make me realize my path. 

I have since reorganized my priorities. For me, a part-time program was and continues to be the right choice. It allows me to focus part-time on my studies while maintaining a fulfilling relationship with my husband and family. I have made new friends and held on to important friendships outside of school, preserving my sanity during this process. Although I am by no means an expert in balancing life, a career, and my studies, I am deeply invested in this experience. It does not make me Superwoman (though, I am not going to argue with my mother-in-law’s opinion regarding my hero-status) and many of my accomplishments pale in comparison to my equally or often more successful classmates. Every day is a new experience from which I learn something that helps me make better decisions, but my foolish moments are far from over. I still attempt to get through a 16-hour day without eating regular meals, and work hard to quiet the voice telling me that taking an additional loan will make things harder once I graduate. But, that night in the bar following the semester’s end, after my panic died down, and my husband forced chili fries on my empty stomach, we reflected on how far we have come over the past four semesters. I was a fool when I first started, making decisions based on the actions of those around me, and not allowing my decisions to be entirely my own. Now, I make decisions based around my priorities – priorities I have established to work on my marriage, pursue a successful career, and reduce my stress over school. I am looking forward to this year-long journey of sharing my experiences and hope to provide insight into the full-time life of a part-time law student.

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