Law School and Full-Time Job: Save Yourself From Student Debt

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Can one go to law school and keep a full-time job?

The short answer: 

Yes, it is possible to work full time and go to law school part-time or evening programs. Some of the successful attorneys came out of part-time programs. But full time gives that necessary immersion in law that is hard to gain in any other way.

It is impossible to work full time and go to law school full time.

By attending law school full-time you are expected to complete it in three years. Roughly speaking, law school takes about 15 hours of class time each week. For each hour of class work, students are expected to spend 2-3 hours of self-study law outside the classroom. For a total of 45-60 hours. That precludes the possibility of working full time.

But, it is possible to go to law school and work

American Bar Association prohibits full-time law students from being employed for more than 20 hours a week. When I was a law student, I worked at small law firms starting in my second year. I tried to keep it less than 20 hours per week, but remember that some fellow students accidentally or by necessity would rack up 25-30 hours a week. That is closer to full time. I just learned right away in my 1L how to use supplement materials and structure studying so that I would focus only on important concepts to nail law scjool exams.

I had to compete with many classmates who did not have a job during law school and spent more time studying. Yes, I had to use supplements and a bunch of tricks to go through law school. Yet, I was able to get A’s in some classes, despite working part-time. Which should tell you that second and third years are not so brutal as the first year in law sxhool.

So, if you need to work as a full-time law student, it is possible to do so. However, because your 1L (first year of law school) grades are of utmost importance for over GPA and employment prospects, I suggest that full-time law students who are law school newcomers do not work during their first year of law school but rather fully focus on beating the grading curve. 

Practical legal work is good

If you did not get into at least the top 25%-30% in your first year, then I suggest that as 2L you should start looking for legal internship, job, part-time job, or another opportunity anywhere you can land it. And try to work or intern during the summer. Because anything outside top 25%-30% in any law school other than tier 1 means pretty much absence of convenient job offers after law xchool. 

On the other hand, if you are in at least the top 25%, then make sure to maintain your grade average. In either case, in your 2L I suggest simultaneously start preparing for bar exam a little by reviewing bar outlines and materials concerning subjects that you study in law school because all you need is to finish law school and pass the bar to become an attorney.

By the way, some full-time law schools specifically prohibit law students from working in their first year – check with your law school.

Attending law school part-time and working

There are advantages and disadvantages of going to law school part-time or in the evening while working. If attending law school part-time, a student will probably complete a part-time or evening law school program in about four years. Another disadvantage is that it is probably harder to duly focus on law studies after a full workday, and weekend study cramming must be brutal. A full-time job is a distraction. On the other hand, sticking to such a schedule shows discipline. 

Another advantage of a full-time job is probably the ability to avoid part or all of the student debt. Depending on the job, at least, living expenses can be covered. In my personal opinion, this route makes sense only when law student has good professional or other position with decent pay to reduce law school cost. Working full-time menial jobs for low pay full time just to get by while in law school probably does not make much financial difference. 

Making anywhere less than $1,500 per month full time is a joke anyway. On the other hand, $2,000 per month adds up to $24,000 per year and accumulates to $96,000 made during a four-year part-time or evening law school. Meaning, that at least law student reduces student loan debt by not borrowing for living expenses. 

Another advantage is that such student does not lose any opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is, for example, loss of full-time income during three years in law school. For professionals making good money, this opportunity cost is quite high. 

Plus, leaving secure nicely paid position for an unknown perspective after law school probably is not a good idea. You can probably feel that I am not against part-time or evening law school programs. They give students plenty of benefits and opportunities. 

How to decide between full time and part-time law school while working?

It depends on your finances, on your existing job situation (e.g. do you have a lot to lose if you quit your current job?), and on your goals. Do you have a dad or mom who owns a law firm and will hire you after law school? Then maybe full-time law school is the best option. 

I will tell you this, law school is really about self-study, which may be initially hard for a law school newbie. About 90%-80% of what I have learned was from self-study outside classes. Therefore, I would not worry about losing the opportunity to attend day classes full time unless this is tier 1 law school, or, at least, in the top 50 by ranking. 

The following factors need to be considered:

  • School rank
  • School cost
  • Personal finances
  • Existing job or lack of it
  • Existing obligations (job, family, children, taking care of someone close)
  • Willingness to work hard on every weekend
  • Willingness to complete law school in four instead of three years
  • Willingness to forgo some law student tribal fun and extracurricular activities – clubs, groups.
  • Part-time law school gives good law education and graduates pass the bar too, primarily because many law students pay for bar courses after graduation anyway.

Other activities

In law school, you will face a bunch of other activities like law journals, different groups, clubs, etc. If you can get accepted to law journal – go for it, because it offers not only good experience but also solid connections with other future colleagues – a network. Most jobs come from a network of connections. 

You can join groups by the interest for connections as well, but I do not think most groups are worth it unless groups are politically oriented and you want to get into politics later. 

Some groups can be by the specific area of law, but how useful those groups are remain to be seen. In top tier 1 and tier 2 law schools, it makes sense to engage in extracurricular activities. In tier 3 and tier 4 law schools, it does not give many advantages but for a network of connections. Otherwise, study, intern, work and get ready for the bar exam. 


You will have less time for hobbies in your first year. But you still may find that in the second or third year you actually may continue your hobbies as usual. Hobbies may be a good way to connect with other law students. Start a club, for example. 

Teach them something – they will appreciate and maybe will help you with job connection in the future. If you enroll part-time or evening law school then most likely you will have no time or possibility to join groups, clubs or other extracurricular activities unless you stretch yourself. 


Volunteering to some cause related to law is also a good way to make connections, get references for future jobs and maybe gain some legal experience. A friend of mine, top law student, volunteered for the Innocence Project, where they reviewed old inmate cases to see if new DNA evidence can clear them from wrongful conviction. 

An honorable activity which looks good on resume plus she had a chance to review at a bunch of real legal documents. If you enroll part-time or evening law school then most likely you will have no time or possibility to volunteer. 

Take breaks

Take breaks from study and work. If you work full time and go to law school part-time then definitely find some time for recreation and sports, especially outside. Even barbeque is good, as long as you can relax your mind and your body and reenergize. 

Law study puts a lot of stress on the mind, and you will need those breaks to keep your sanity. That’s where you can join other law students and you all be on the same plate. Not drinking too heavily, but relaxing socially and discussing topics that are common only between your gang. I found it hard to discuss law school with someone who never went to it because they simply do not understand things works there. 

Final verdict regarding attending law school and working

Now, I do recommend full-time JD because law school is so much work and effort, especially if you can get into top law school or go to law school for a low cost. Otherwise, you may keep your full-time job and pay expenses from your wages to substantially reduce law school debt. You may appreciate it later. 

If you have to pay a massive amount of money for law school no matter what, then it may be better to go full time and focus solely on law studies, finding work and getting ready for the bar exam.

Do you want me to write more on this topic – attending law school for working students? Let me know in the comments below. 

Max Feo JD, MBA, Tax LLM.