September 5, 2018

Should You Have a Job While in Law School?

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There are only 2 types of law students -- those who take out student loans to pay for law school and those who don't. Sadly I had to be in the former group. So, the goal with taking out student loans for law school is to take out as little as possible so that you have a smaller principal earning less interest and therefore overall will have to pay back less. To put it in to perspective how much you'll actually have to take out, let me explain that I went to the same school for undergrad and (most of) law school and that my law school tuition was just about double that of undergrad! 

There's lots of ways of taking out as little as possible ways to cut down on how much you have to rely on borrowing to survive, and one way is through working while you're a law student. Today I'm breaking down why you should and shouldn't have a job while in law school.

Related: How to make side money in law school


Working as a 1L

If you're a 1L, I highly recommend you don't try to work during the semester! You're already going to have plenty to keep you busy when you're not in class. This means that in the evenings and weekends, you're going to be either reading or taking a break from reading. The obvious worries are that if you work during your 1L year, you're going to end up neglecting your readings or neglecting yourself, and both could be disastrous. 

If you neglect your reading/studying, then there's a good chance you're not going to do so hot on your finals. This could mean long term not being able to get a good job because your GPA is so low or even short term failing out of law school altogether, in which case now you still have those loans to pay off but now no law degree to help pay for them. 

If you neglect yourself, you're making it highly likely that you're going to burn out. I've experienced and seen lots of burnouts during my 3 years of law school and the consequences range from getting bad grades to fully dropping out because you just can't handle it anymore. Plus, remember that most of your classmates are not going to be working and will have more time to study than you, which could really affect your grade and rank because of the curve.

Related: A typical law student daily schedule

If you're a 1L who still financially needs to work, I have some suggestions. Instead of trying to work a part-time job on the side and do law school, try to do either or. This means that if you're on Christmas or summer break, you can take up some seasonal work (preferably legal related) to help get you some cash. 

Alternatively, if you need more income than just this coming in, maybe consider doing law school part time instead. A lot of schools are offering law school classes that are part time and in the evenings only. This way you're not over committing yourself to too many things and aren't also overworking yourself. 

If night classes/part-time law student isn't for you but you absolutely need a job during the semester, it can be done. Even though it's not ideal, I actually did know a few people in my section who had side jobs and were still full-time students. 

First off, you absolutely need a flexible job with a good boss. There will be days when your legal writing brief or outlines have to get done and you'll need a job that will accommodate your schedule. Ideally, you can find a legal job so not only are you getting relevant experience, but your boss will be very understanding of your school commitments. Another option is to do a side hustle like drive for Uber/Lyft or make deliveries for Amazon/Postmates. Secondly, you're going to get organized like hell. Take your week and schedule out when you'll be in class, when you're committed to working, and when you will study.

Related: How to time balance in law school


Working as a 2L/3L

If you're a 2L or a 3L with a busy schedule balancing a full class schedule plus some extracurriculars, you're just not going to have the time or energy to do law school plus a job. If you don't have 10-20 free hours in your week (the most common part time job work load), then you probably don't have the free time to hold down a job and meet your law school commitments. Also, if you've never worked while going to school, then maybe law school isn't the place to try this out.

As a 2L/3L, you'll have a lot more control over your class schedule. This means that you can take less hours so that you have the time to work a part time job. I scheduled all my classes for in the mornings and working in the afternoons, but you just as easily could load up classes on Tuesday/Thursday and work all day Friday-Monday and use Wednesdays to get ahead on readings. 

Talk with your friends and your career office to see if there's any openings available. You can work at a firm, for a judge, for a professor, for your school's library/admissions office/etc., LSAT tutoring, or anywhere that will be flexible with your schedule but still help you get your next job. Just remember that taking on a job is also taking on added stress, so be prepared and watch how your semester plays out so you don't over-commit and over-work yourself. 

Deciding to work in law school can put more on your already full plate, but it has a lot of advantages. You get to earn income (and therefore require less loans) and hopefully can build up your resume. Even if you end up not scoring a legal job, you can use this to show potential employers your work ethic and time management skills. Personally for me, I'm glad I worked during my 3L year and for financial reasons wish I would've started earlier.


If you've worked in law school, I'd love to see a comment with how you did it and if you thought it was worth it or not. Also, feel free to drop any tips you think my help a fellow law student with deciding on working while in law school or just tips in general on how to make it work!


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1 comments:

  1. I worked three jobs during law school (research assistant for two different professors and a TA). It was hard sometimes, but with good time management, it was very doable especially with a flexible job (which I was very lucky that all three were flexible). I say find a job that is flexible and where your boss understands what is on your plate, and you'll be fine.

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