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Working Part Time during Law School

published July 16, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
Published By
( 255 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Should you work part time while attending law school? The answer with respect to the first year is probably not, if you can help it. (Exceptions exist if you need the income to support yourself, or the work complements and does not unduly interfere with your studies.) As discussed previously, the first year is the most stressful and important year of law school, so if you can avoid the distraction and burden of working part time during that year, you should. (Of course, those students attending night law school will normally be working at least part time during their entire period of law study; Chapter 4 addresses the special needs of this growing group.)
 
Working Part Time during Law School

For full-time law students, the short answer with respect to working during the second and third years is "it depends." There are a number of issues to consider: your need for additional cash, the value you place on your free time, the alternative uses you have for your time, and the value you place on the experience of working.

Disadvantages

The disadvantages of working part time are fairly obvious. You will be spending a certain amount of time working rather than doing other things, such as studying for your classes. Moreover, although your hours will be flexible, by the very nature of the legal profession, at times your job will demand more of your time than you would rather give. To the extent that the time demands of work are unpredictable, working will create difficulties in pursuing other law school activities. For example, working part time and working on a law review will create scheduling problems, if not outright conflicts. Viewed optimistically, this can be advantageous if it forces you to manage your time well, but it also results in a certain amount of stress that you might want to avoid.

Since working part time will definitely limit your ability to participate in other activities, you must balance the benefits you expect to derive from working against the benefits of the activities you will have to forego or curtail. Among those activities is studying your course material. This is not to say that working will make you get lousy grades. However, recognize that working will limit the amount of time and mental energy you will have available to put into schoolwork. If graduating at the top of your law school class is very important to you, you might not want to work part time if you do not have to.

Another disadvantage of working part time is that it limits your freedom as a student. Part-time work forces you to be responsible to and for other people. This runs somewhat contrary to your situation at law school, where you are generally only responsible for yourself. As a student, you generally do not have to answer to anyone for your actions, except to the extent that a professor may give you a poor grade; even then, you are the only one injured by your exercise of poor judgment. Once you begin a part-time job, however, you do have to answer to someone, and other people are profoundly affected by the judgment you exercise.

These added responsibilities will, of necessity, force you to forego certain fun activities that you could previously have engaged in as a more carefree law student. For instance, if you are obligated to burn the midnight oil to help crank out a last-minute reply brief on the same day a truly great party is scheduled, you will have to forego the party or lose your job. In other words, a part-time legal job will limit your freedom, especially the freedom to occasionally do irresponsible things, which is one of the hallmarks of being a student. Therefore, if you want to cherish and enjoy your last moments as a student, taking on a part-time job may not be the best decision for you.

Thus far, we have deliberately omitted discussion of the resume value, if any, of part-time legal work. Some employers do not consider it at all. Others give it a fair amount of weight. It probably depends on whether they worked part time in law school. Most employers tend to notice it in terms of heightening the importance of other accomplishments; in other words, a student who receives high grades without the added responsibility and time pressure of a part-time job will not be looked upon as favorably as one who achieves the same grades with the added stress of part-time work.

In sum, the advantages and disadvantages of part-time work must be weighed with your personal values in mind. Working part time is not for everyone, but it can be a rewarding experience.

Obtaining a Part-Time Job

If you decide you want to work part time, the next question is how to go about getting a job. The placement office of your law school is the best resource because lots of local attorneys telephone in their needs for law clerk assistance. Alternatively, a summer job can easily turn into a part-time job if it is in the right location. If you worked out of town, your friends who worked in town can provide you with some contacts. Otherwise, try reviewing the want ads and mailing letters offering your services to local firms.

Pursuing the part-time job is much like pursuing the summer job, except that it is done in a more relaxed manner. Remember that part-time employers are looking for hired help, not potential partners. On the other hand, they are not interested in hiring just anybody. In interviewing, always come prepared, dress nicely, try to make a good impression, and be yourself. Once you get the job, show up on time, take care of things you promise to take care of, and do good work. It is that simple.

published July 16, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
( 255 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.