When I decided to attend law school, I did so because of the ability to work during the semester. By attending school part-time, I am able to leave my days completely open to hold a job.
Rather than take a sizable economic loss, I am able to attend school for free while bringing in a salary. This has allowed me to save up for my upcoming wedding and purchase my first property. Had I attended school full-time, I would be making little to no money and thus would be unable to achieve these other goals.
The Costs of Night School
However, attending school for free is certainly not without a cost. Much of my free time is eliminated. I may be finished with my job at 5:00 PM, but class will typically go from 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM three to four times a week. When I get home, I have to get to bed soon since I will have to get up for work the next morning. In other words, I am pretty much booked from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM between transit, work, and class on most weekdays. Weekends are nearly saturated with reading and writing, though I do get a few hours to pursue other interests, most notably spending time with my fiancée, friends, and family.
On top of that, the degree naturally takes longer to complete. Rather than be able to complete it in 2.5 to 3 years as a full-time student might, the part-time program is designed to take 4 years. This can be reduced to 3.5 and even 3 years by taking summer and intersession courses, but this requires the ability to take some time off of work or having a couple of incredibly dense semesters.
My flexibility to take a job or pursue some opportunity elsewhere is also limited. I need to work close enough to school. Thankfully, being in downtown Chicago doesn’t make that a big issue, but it is not as though I could take an opportunity out of state without surrendering my law degree at my current school. This is something that must be considered before committing to any part-time program.
Similarly, it can be hard to get involved with school organizations or attend events. Outside of luncheons, thanks to class and work, it is usually impossible to attend many of the networking and student organization events offered at school. It is very important to get involved in what few events that are accessible since there are not a whole lot of opportunities elsewhere.
Evening law school is fairly exhausting but quite doable. It requires significant discipline and a solid sleep schedule, and I am constantly reassured by other students who have their own families and careers but still make time to fit in school. Thankfully, I have less rigid obligations than they do at the moment, so I can pursue other interests with what time I have left.
The part-time law school option is one to definitely consider. It can be a great way for students to get a feel for school without risking a full year off of work as well. There is usually an option to transition into the full time program after the first year should that make sense, but it should nevertheless be taken seriously and not as some sort of hobby. The class content is the same as a full-time student; there are simply less classes at once so as to leave the days open for work. I am grateful for the opportunity that Chicago-Kent has afforded me, and I look forward to working through the degree over the next couple of years!