CAN YOU WORK WHILE IN LAW SCHOOL

Can You Work While in Law School?: Pros and Cons

Introduction

“Can you work while in law school?” is a common question without a one-size-fits-all answer. Every law student’s experience is unique. Some students can manage a part-time job alongside their law school studies, while others struggle to juggle the demands of both. The decision to work during law school varies for each student. This article examines factors to consider when contemplating employment during law school, a list of jobs while in law school, and offers tips for those who choose to work, focusing on balancing work and academic success.

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Balancing Work and Law School

The idea of working in law school is a topic that many law school newbies ponder. The challenge lies in striking the right balance between your job and legal studies. Previously, the American Bar Association (ABA) limited full-time law students to working no more than 20 hours per week. This rule, known as ABA Standard 304(f), was removed in 2014.

Yet, even with this change, many ABA-approved law schools may still have rules about how much their students can work. Consult your school about any job limits, especially if you’re receiving financial aid or law school scholarships, as they may have their own employment policies.

This brings us to the question, “Can you go to law school while working full-time?” On average, law students dedicate around 50-60 hours per week to classes and studying, essentially treating law school as a full-time job. Those contemplating working full-time alongside their studies need time management abilities to handle both roles efficiently.

Additionally, if you’re exploring options like law school online or law school part-time, remember that law school’s later years (2L and 3L) often involve activities like moot court, law review, mock trials, clinics, and on-campus interviews. These can demand a significant amount of your time, further complicating the balance between work and study.

Can You Work Part-Time in Law School?

Can you work your first year of law school? This question often arises for students entering full-time programs. Generally, more work opportunities become available after the first year as you gain more flexibility in your schedule. A good place to start looking for jobs is your school’s job boards, where many firms post openings for 2L and 3L interns, externs, or fellows. 

Applying directly to firms is also a beneficial step, offering more options and valuable legal interview experience for your future career. Moreover, remote work opportunities with online legal service companies are also a viable option.

Balancing work and school might allow you to continue working in roles like a paralegal while completing law school. However, note that paralegals typically need an Associate’s degree. 

Exploring jobs within your law school is another avenue. Positions like a library assistant, tour guide, or research assistant for a professor can be fitting roles. Furthermore, many bar exam prep companies hire law students, which can be a great opportunity to make money while also receiving discounts on bar prep courses. Here’s a list of possible part-time jobs:

  • Legal Summer Internship
  • Legal Secretary
  • Freelance Writer
  • Legal Research Assistant
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Tutor
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Virtual Assistant
  • Social Media Manager

Pros and Cons of Working During Law School

When considering jobs to have while in law school, weighing the pros and cons of such a commitment is essential. 

Pros of Working While in Law School

  1. Resume Building: Working in entry-level legal positions like a paralegal, legal administrative assistant, or clerk during law school can boost your chances of landing a lawyer position. These jobs provide valuable experience, enhancing your law school resume and making you a more attractive candidate post-graduation.

  2. Generating Income: How much does law school cost? Many students need to work to cover expenses like tuition and books. Working while studying can help in managing or reducing debt, especially for those with financial obligations like undergraduate loans or family support.

  3. Improving the Ability to Manage Time Effectively: The legal profession demands excellent time management skills. Working part-time while attending law school teaches you to juggle multiple responsibilities efficiently, a skill crucial for a successful legal career.

  4. Break from Studies: Law school is demanding. Having a job allows you to take a mental break from academic pressures. This change in routine can prevent burnout and help manage law school expenses.

  5. Networking Opportunities: Working in the legal field or other industries while in law school can expand your professional network. It offers chances to connect with seasoned lawyers and professionals, potentially opening doors for future career opportunities.

Cons of Working While in Law School

  1. Conflict with  Internships: Internships are critical for law students, offering hands-on experience. Working might conflict with these internships, especially since they often occur during summer when coursework is lighter.

  2. School Policy Restrictions: Some law programs restrict or prohibit students from working, particularly in their first year. Violating these policies can lead to complications with your law school standing.

  3. Reduced Personal Time: Working while in law school means less free time for personal activities and family. This limited downtime can affect your ability to relax and recharge.

  4. Increased Stress: Balancing work and rigorous law school coursework can heighten stress levels. High-stress periods, like finals or major assignments, can be particularly challenging for working students.

  5. Risk of Missing Classes: Conflicts between work schedules and class timings can lead to missed classes or work opportunities. This risk underscores the importance of considering flexible options like law school online or part-time programs to minimize scheduling conflicts.

A tutor providing feedback to his student

Essential Strategies for Balancing Work and Law School Studies

Can you work while in law school? Yes, but the dual commitment to academics and work demands strategic planning and smart choices. Here are some essential tips for students juggling work and law school.

Strategic Class Scheduling

In your second and third years of law school, you gain more flexibility in choosing your classes. Aim for a balanced mix of intensive and lighter courses. Avoid loading your schedule with numerous challenging subjects if you plan to work simultaneously. 

Consider clustering your classes on certain days or times, like having classes only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, leaving the other days for work. Alternatively, you could opt for morning classes, keeping afternoons free for employment. Ensure ample time for case studies and exam preparations regardless of your chosen schedule.

Limitations on Extracurricular Activities

With the significant time commitment to work and study, your availability for extracurricular activities will be limited. While these activities are beneficial for personal growth and future career opportunities, it’s crucial to be selective. Focus on one or two activities that interest you rather than spreading yourself too thin.

Aligning Work with Academic Interests

If your job aligns with your legal interests, consider enrolling in courses that complement your work. This synergy between work and study enriches your professional experience and may enhance your academic performance. For instance, if you work in a firm specializing in criminal law, prioritize classes in criminal law, constitutional law, and evidence.

Planning Work Absences Mindfully

Law school will inevitably require your full attention at certain times, such as during mock trials, finals, or while writing extensive papers. Foreseeing these commitments and informing your employer in advance about your unavailability is imperative. Planning ahead ensures you don’t inconvenience your colleagues and demonstrates your responsibility and foresight, traits highly valued in the legal profession.

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FAQS: Can You Work While in Law School?

Can You Work Full Time and Go to Law School?

Working full-time while attending law school full-time is generally not recommended due to the intense demands of both. However, it’s a reality for some students. Many manage this by working full-time and attending evening law classes, with several law schools offering programs tailored for such students. If you need to work full-time, attending law school part-time is advisable to avoid getting too tired because managing a full-time job and a heavy course load can be very stressful.

What is the Best Job to Have While in Law School?

A great job for law students is in entry-level legal positions such as a paralegal, legal administrative assistant, or clerk. These roles provide relevant experience and can enhance your prospects of securing a lawyer position after graduation.

How to Afford Not Working in Law School?

Students often rely on financial aid options, such as loans and scholarships to manage finances without working during law school. However, many still choose to work part-time. The ideal job in this scenario offers a good salary for fewer hours. Employment within the law school, such as in administrative roles or as research assistants, often fits this bill, providing flexibility and relevant experience.

Final Thoughts: Can You Work While in Law School?

Should I go to law school? Many people ponder whether to attend law school and must weigh the demands of work against their academic responsibilities. Working while pursuing a law degree is possible, but it demands careful planning and a well-organized approach.

When seeking part-time employment during your law school years, it’s essential to research the best jobs during law school and understand the work-hour limits set by your institution. While working alongside your studies in law school offers numerous benefits, such as financial independence and practical experience, it’s vital to keep your primary focus on education and maintaining good grades. After all, a strong academic performance improves your chances of landing a secure job after graduation.

Joining a reputable LSAT prep program is a smart move. A high LSAT score can improve your chances of getting into school and boost your likelihood of getting financial assistance, reducing the need for extensive work while studying.