Nontraditional Law Student Myth # 1: “Part-Time” Student

The ABA recently released their digital awards for 2017, including awards to the best legal podcasts. One of the winners, Law School Toolbox, is a podcast and website geared specifically towards law students, so I have been going through listening to old episodes and scouring the companion website, trying to see if I could find any episodes relevant to my own experiences. The first podcast I downloaded concerned “nontraditional law students” and I was curious to see how they treated the subject.

A little background. The podcast founders and hosts, Lee Burgess and Alison Monahan, appear to have been “traditional” students in law school. They both attended day-time programs at top-tier law schools. Based on their bios, they both attended law school in their 20’s before firmly establishing a career or family. They clerked for federal judges and worked at large law firms, so I will admit I was a little curious what these two traditional attorneys knew about the “nontraditional” law student.

Turns out they have a very broad understanding that “nontraditional” law students exist. That is they recognize some law students attend class in the evening, work during the day, some may have families, and some may even put off law school until their late 20’s <gasp> (I’m sure it would really blow their mind there are folks like me, approaching 40 or even older, attending law school). For the most part, they fail to really provide any insight into the true value of a¬† “nontraditional” law student or give any feedback on how a “nontraditional” student can thrive in a law school environment. More importantly, they do little to eradicate any of the misconceptions about the nontraditional law student.

I point this out not to criticize¬†Law School Toolbox–Alison and Lee have a great website and podcast worthy of all the accolades and awards–but rather as a reminder to myself that I need to do a better job with this blog of doing those very things, so let’s begin with busting myth #1 about “nontraditional” law students–the “part-time” student myth.

I will accept the label “nontraditional” student, but I will not accept the label “part-time” student. Yet, almost all law schools with an evening program refer to their evening students as “part-time” students. I get it. This for financial aide purposes, but it creates the myth that we are doing half the work or less of the traditional law student.

My 1L year, I completed 23 hours of credit. That’s nearly 12 hours a semester, while working 40+ hours a week and raising a family. There is nothing part-time about this schedule. We read the same amount of cases, write the same amount of papers, and take the same exams as day-time counterparts. Our classes just happen to be at night and spread across 4-years as opposed to 3-years. The ABA requires law schools to treat daytime and nighttime students the same, so please refer to us as such and not “part-time.”