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(Message started by: TraleBlayzer on Jun 20th, 2007, 10:21am)

Title: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by TraleBlayzer on Jun 20th, 2007, 10:21am
Hello everyone.

I've got an MS in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from an Ivy League school, and I've been working in the field for about 2 years.  I worked in the manufacturing field for most of that time, got bored, and now I've moved into Software Consulting.  I'm now very interested in going back to school for a degree in Law.

The dilemma is this...  continue working (good salary 75k) and go to school part time, or leave work and live on a shoe-string so that I can go full time.  There are ups and downs to both.

If I go part time, I keep getting paid, but I'll have to fit the school work in after my job.  This is bound to make good grades harder to acheive, raise my level of stress considerably, and make the whole experience take a year or two longer.  Also, the highest level schools do not offer part time programs.

If I were to choose the full time route, it'd mean no salary (or finding some small part-time job) and living like a grad student again.  However, I'd be able to dedicate my time to my studies, and maximize my performance.  The program would be shorter than part time, and I could apply to all the good places here in the North East.

I'm really at an impass on this one.  After spending 6 straight years in college previously, I'm not so willing to dive headlong back into being broke all the time, unless its definately the best thing to do.  Consider also the fact that Law School would likely result in ~$90k of student loans, or so I understand.

Suggestions?

Thanks everyone.
-Tom

Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by pentazole on Jun 20th, 2007, 1:25pm
If your intent is to practice intellectual property law, why don't you start out as an agent, make more than what you are making right now, work for a couple of years, and if you decide you like it, then go to lawschool part time and have your firm pay for it.  Your job won't really change from patent agent to patent attorney.

Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by guest1040 on Jun 20th, 2007, 5:55pm

on 06/20/07 at 13:25:41, pentazole wrote:
If your intent is to practice intellectual property law, why don't you start out as an agent, make more than what you are making right now, work for a couple of years, and if you decide you like it, then go to lawschool part time and have your firm pay for it. Your job won't really change from patent agent to patent attorney.


Yea, good luck finding a job as a patent agent.  Those jobs are not easy to come by...

Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by refahr on Jul 2nd, 2007, 4:41pm
I can't give you a complete answer but I can give you some insight.  I'd been working as a software engineer for 20 years when I went back to law school.  I have a family so I had no choice but to go part time.  I was able to go summers and finish in 3.5 years.  It was definitely hard because it's like working 2 full time jobs.  Starting out you'll spend about 3 hours outside of class for  every class hour.  I did well but wasn't in the top 10% of my class.

If you can afford to focus on just school then I think that's a better way to go.  It also allows you to get a clerking job, hopefully with a firm that does IP work.

If you are considering a move into the legal department at your current employer you should ask about that now.  What I discovered is that even though I had significant experience with my company's products, the legal department wasn't willing to consider that experience.  They wanted me to come in as an entry level attorney at an entry level salary.  For now I'm still writing software and considering how to take advantage of my new legal knowledge.

Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by Drew83 on Jul 3rd, 2007, 9:13am
I am also considering part time law school.  Many people do it because they have to (i.e. they have a family to support).  If you dont have to do part-time, it may be better to go full time for the reasons described above.

If you do chose to go part time, I would definitely try to get a job doing patent work.  That way, when you graduate, it'll make finding a job much easier given your experience.

You could also consider going part-time for the first year, take summer classes to catch up on the 8 or so credits you missed, and then transfer to full time for years 2 and 3.

Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by plex on Jul 3rd, 2007, 12:37pm
I definitely plan on going part-time through law school. Work experience is just as important as a high GPA, and it also makes law school a good bit less costly.

Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by Mickey72 on Jul 4th, 2007, 3:30pm
"Starting out you'll spend about 3 hours outside of class for  every class hour. "

If you have 2-4 class hours per day, then you would need 6-12 hours study time per day. This sounds impossible, if you have a job (and intend to sleep, eat etc).
Ok, maybe you have classes only 3 days per week but still this sounds a tough task.
Is this typical for part-time law school?

What about atmosphere in part-time law school in general? Are professors as intimidating as in full-time program? I would assume that students in part-time school tend to be older and working full-time and the atmosphere might be less intimidating (compared to full-time law school, full of with 20-something kids).

Do you still have to be prepared every class to be called to brief a case and be intimidated and embarrassed by the professor in the front of class? I was hoping that the atmosphere is a bit more relaxed in part-time program. For example, I travel a lot (for work) and I would not have _always_ time to prepare well for the class. Will the out of touch activist professor harass me out of class ?

Or do professors understand that people have a life/work outside of class and be flexible?

I don't care about the grades so being in the top 90% is fine.


Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by Isaac on Jul 5th, 2007, 6:56am

on 07/04/07 at 15:30:00, Mickey72 wrote:
If you have 2-4 class hours per day, then you would need 6-12 hours study time per day. This sounds impossible, if you have a job (and intend to sleep, eat etc).


It's not impossible of course.   Lots of us have done it.  I attended law school part time while working as an engineer during the day.

Taking 9-10 hours of class per week means that you'll have to study during the weekends and during the evenings of weekdays on which you do not have class.  Occasionally I used vacation time to prepare for exams or to complete law school projects.   I also attended class the summer.


Quote:
I was hoping that the atmosphere is a bit more relaxed in part-time program. For example, I travel a lot (for work) and I would not have _always_ time to prepare well for the class. Will the out of touch activist professor harass me out of class ?


You really are going to need to talk to someone at the particular school you plan to attend.   Professors in evening programs are well aware of the schedules of their students, but the professors' expectations vary.   My experience was that many professors used a schedule for calling on evening students so that you knew ahead of time when you were going to be grilled intensively.   You wouldn't want to blow a scheduled grilling.  On the other hand, a certain minimal level of preparedness was expected on a daily basis, but the repercussions for being unprepared when called on randomly were not so great.

However a few professor's expected daily preparedness at a high level.   If you messed up on your turn, you generally did get another opportunity.   Class participation was generally about 10-15% of the grade.


Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by Mickey72 on Jul 5th, 2007, 7:52am
What happens if you miss a class? In other words, is class participation mandatory?

If you don't care about grades, 10-15% is not important (as long as you pass the exam - or is it possible to pass the exam without attending classes?). I would hope that you can read a book and pass the exam without bothering too much about class participation.

Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by MrSnuggles on Jul 5th, 2007, 8:09am
The school I attended had a part-time program.  While some of the professors were more aware of issues with part-timers, others were of the opinion that law school is a rigorous program requiring great amounts of study and preparation, and being such, there were no concessions made (lower curves in a class, fewer assignments, etc).  In fact, one professor actually failed 6 people in his first year contracts class.  Typically, in a class the size he had, based on the school's recommended curve, 1-2 people should fail.  Although some people agreed with him that the students' work was failing work product, others disagreed on his harsh grades in light of the students all being part-timers with jobs/careers outside the school.

In other words, be prepared to work your butt off and don't expect a free ride just because you're a part-timer.  Part-time is great for those who need to keep the income flow and for other situations (e.g., going to part-time in your 3rd year to work at a firm and complete school).  However, I chose to quit and attend full-time because the added stress of trying to work full-time and attend school, along with family and other obligations, would have been too much.  My decision was made easier because (1) I got a full ride at school and (2) my wife works and makes enough for us to maintain the same lifestyle with a little bit of help from our savings.

In your first year, our school recommended 4 hours of study for each hour of class.  Expect to put in at least 2.5-3 hours of study for each hour of class.  For full-time, with 15 hours of class a week, you can expect to study for another 40-50, which isn't that bad if you think about it.  I knew several people who were closer to 5 hours per hour of class.  For part-timers, they had one less class than FT, so they had 12 credit hours.

In your second and third years, the number of hours drops (at least in my experience and many of my friends) to closer to a 2:1 ratio.  Although some classes are still bears, regardless of which year you take them.

Looking back, I can figure that I lost about $225k in salary, but my starting salary out of school is ~$40k more than my last job.  Also, each year, I'll be raising my billing rate such that I will receive $25k increases each year up to my 7th year, at which point partnership will be evaluated.  I figure it will take me about 4 years to recover my lost wages, and by then, my salary will be ~$100k more than it would have been had I stayed in engineering...

The bottom line is that you need to be able to find a job after school.  If that means going FT to a better school, concentrating, and working your butt off to get the grades, then maybe that's your best option.  If that means that you work PT to keep in contact with a potential employer, and then work into your future legal job from there, then that may be the better option.

Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by Isaac on Jul 5th, 2007, 8:20am

on 07/05/07 at 07:52:34, Mickey72 wrote:
What happens if you miss a class? In other words, is class participation mandatory?


Class attendance was mandatory.  We were allowed a certain number of absences for each class per credit hour.   I cannot recall the number, but you'd easily exceed the limit if you missed one class a week all semester for a 3 credit class.  If you exceeded the limit you were required to document reasons for every missed class.   I'm sure traveling for business was a valid excuse.  

I can only recall one or two people in the class having travel schedules that made them exceed the minimum.   In one case, the student ended up graduating a semester behind the rest of us, so I assume that the student had to drop a class on occasion.


Quote:
If you don't care about grades, 10-15% is not important (as long as you pass the exam - or is it possible to pass the exam without attending classes?).


I wouldn't recommend going to law school if you aren't planning to attend class.   In particular, much of the material in first year law school classes really does require explanation, and the professor often indicates the areas of emphasis in class.


Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by MrSnuggles on Jul 5th, 2007, 9:09am
In follow-up to Isaac's post, I have two things to add.

First, I believe the ABA sets a minimum number of hours of instruction time for law students to graduate.  (see Standard 304(b)).  To comply with this, many schools take attendance.

Second, I've known of two instances (one being a close friend) at different schools where students would show up for the first day of class, or a few times during the semester, and then for the final.  In both cases, the students received passing grades on their respetive final.  In both cases, the students were reprimanded and in one case, the student was suspended for one semester.  My friend did not get to keep his grade.

Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by bjr on Jul 5th, 2007, 9:36am
Under the ABA rules you must attend at least 80% of classes.  Some profs take attendance and others don't.  Also, some profs. call on you in class and others don't.    

I am a current part-time student with a rigorous full time job and family committments.  While 3-4 hours of studying per hour of class is recommended, it is not realistic for me.  I studied 12-15 hours per week the first year.  I study in class and two weeks before finals nowadays.  

Title: Re: Part-Time vs. Full-Time Law School
Post by Drew83 on Oct 29th, 2007, 7:52am
I have an opportunity to work for a law firm doing IP work with the intent on going to law school part-time.  The law school would be a Tier 3 or 4 school.  

My other option is to attend a school ranked ~60.  It may not matter that much, but the school has a highly ranked IP program.  

It seems that PT would be the most beneficial towards my career, but I've heard working and going to school PT can be extremely brutal.  I dont have any obligations, so going FT is no problem.    

Any thoughts/comments on these options?  Will having a few years of IP experience with a Tier3/4 degree outweigh having a degree from a higher ranked school having maybe 1-2 summers of internship experience?

Thanks in advance!



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