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Pros v. Cons of Part-Time Law School for Students & Adults

Pros v. Cons of Part-Time Law School for Students & Adults
Choosing to attend law school is one of the most significant decisions most attorneys will make in their lives. Graduating from law school dramatically changes one’s career path and opens up opportunities that otherwise would never be available.

Law school is also an expensive and time-consuming experience; many qualified people simply do not have the resources to attend. Luckily, many law schools offer part-time programs, allowing students to continue working or raising their families while attending school. (For a list of part-time law school programs, check out U.S. News and World Report’s list of best part-time law programs.)

While attending law school part-time can be highly beneficial for the right person, the experience can vary dramatically from that of attending full-time. Below, we’ve weighed some of the pros and cons of attending law school part-time versus full-time. (This comparison does not factor in joint-degree programs, which deserve their own separate analysis.)

Pros of Part-Time Law School Programs


A student considering attending law school part-time likely has a number of reasons for doing so. Below are a few of the primary reasons why a student might consider a part-time program:

Time flexibility


Most full-time law students spend all day at school, with classes spread out throughout the day. Part-time programs, however, typically offer classes in the evening. Additionally, the daily class burden on part-time students tends to be lighter than that of full-time students, freeing the student up for work or family responsibilities. However, it’s important to understand that part-time students will still spend roughly 35 hours per week pursuing their law degrees, including classwork, homework, and other school-related activities.

Lower annual tuition


Part-time law students have a significantly lighter annual financial load compared to their full-time counterparts. For example, tuition for full-time students at Georgetown Law for the 2020–21 school year was $66,872. Part-time students, however, pay on a per-credit basis, with tuition set at $2,877 per credit for 2020–21. Depending on how many credits a student takes, part-time programs can save thousands of dollars over full-time tuition in a given year.

More lenient admissions criteria


Part-time law school programs often have more lenient admission criteria than their full-time counterparts. For example, at Fordham University School of Law, the 2020 entering full-time class had a median LSAT of a 164 and a median GPA of a 3.65. The 2020 entering part-time class had a median LSAT of a 160 and a median GPA of a 3.52. Prospective students whose LSAT scores or GPA might not qualify them for admission to a school’s full-time program might want to consider applying for part-time admission.

Exposure to students in similar situations


Students in part-time law school programs tend to be older than those in full-time programs. They also often have jobs, families, or other commitments outside of school. For these types of students, it can be valuable and comforting to be around students in similar situations who understand the unique pressure and stress of trying to balance school with additional responsibilities.

Cons of Part-Time Law School Programs


While there are many benefits to attending law school part-time, students considering part-time law school programs should also be aware of their drawbacks:

Long-time commitment to graduate


While most full-time law students graduate in three years, the typical part-time JD program requires four years to graduate (though many programs allow for an even longer timeframe). Not only does this mean that part-time students have to wait an extra year before they can start working as attorneys, but they also have an extra year of tuition, books, and other fees. Some schools do offer an accelerated part-time program; for example, part-time students at Georgetown Law can request permission to pursue a three-and-a-half year program.

Fewer opportunities for networking and extracurricular activities


Many law school graduates will say that their best memories from law school came from outside the classroom—attending events, working on extracurriculars such as journals or moot court, and getting to know their professors and classmates are all a part of the traditional law school experience. Part-time students may feel shut out from some of these opportunities; simply spending less time on campus means part-time students might not be aware of everything going on around the school. They also might not have the time to devote to extracurricular activities, such as journals, that are highly valued by prospective employers. Additionally, certain scholarships may be available to only full-time students—it’s important to check with each school and scholarship provider to ensure that part-time students can access such financial aid programs.

Less prestige


It’s no secret that the legal industry is prestige obsessed. Students, attorneys, and administrators all pore over annual law school and law firm rankings. Any small movement up or down a ranking is closely scrutinized. To some, part-time programs may be considered less prestigious than full-time programs due to their relaxed admissions criteria. In some cases, attending a part-time law school program might thus limit one's post-graduation employment opportunities.

Conclusion


The right program ultimately depends on the individual's goals and responsibilities. Candidates should weigh their options carefully, and know that law school is a major commitment, no matter which program they use.

For all law students—whether full-time or part-time—Quimbee has everything you need to make sense of law school. Law school is difficult and time-consuming even under the best circumstances; Quimbee can help make it just a little easier. Check out Quimbee’s law school study aids today!