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February 20, 2006

Are you experienced?

I have this friend... no seriously! Not only do I have friends, but this is actually a post seeking advice for one of them who, like me, is a non-traditional law student. I have a bit of an edge: my wife is an attorney, so I've been able to get some experience from her firm and they've been more flexible about it. My friend has a bit of a harder situation, though. She works full-time, takes classes in the evening (four nights a week) and last year, her husband had a very horrible accident. As a result, she cannot quit her job (the insurance is absolutely necessary) which leaves her in a bit of a quandary for gaining legal work experience.

Now, typically, a law student would either do a summer associate position, or maybe clerk for a firm, etc. Or perhaps a judicial externship, or maybe even work in one of the school's clinics. However, nearly all of those options require some minimal time commitment of 20+ hours per week. When you're a non-traditional student, who has no choice but to work full-time and attend classes in the evening, that means you actually don't have enough hours in the week to participate in many of those options.

So what are some creative ways you've encountered to put some legal experience on the ol' resume that are practical and, more importantly, flexible?

Posted by dgulbran at February 20, 2006 04:21 PM

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What about some kind of judicial externship? Oftentimes, those don't require the extern to spend time in the office, except for an hour or two a week to get assignments and turn them in, work with the judge. That might not be flexible enough, though.

I also think I heard that Catholic Charities in Chicago has a legal referral clinic one night a week at one of the soup kitchens. Depending on her class schedule, she could do that.

Posted by: kristine at February 20, 2006 04:56 PM

Step One: Take out a loan

Step Two: Use loan to fund health insurance (and other stuff)

Step Three: quit job

Step Four: Seek summer associate position

If your friend really wants to be a lawyer, she'll have to quit her job at some point. The sooner she invests totally in this future, the better.

Posted by: Dustin at February 20, 2006 05:31 PM

Please please please do not head Dustin's remarks. Obviously that individual does not realize that the job your friend holds pays for more than just health insurance. Not everyone has the luxury to simply quit a job and take out loans to pay for life's obligations.

Perhaps a better solution would be finding a job in a law firm comparable to the salary she currently makes, either para-legal or secretarial wise. This will at least get her feet wet in the legal field and look good on her resume.

Good luck to your friend!

Posted by: Beth at February 24, 2006 03:20 PM

All due respect, but of course I realize the job pays for.. well whatever all expenses exist.

However, if you want to be a lawyer, you should devote all your time to school. Be the best lawyer you can by being the best law student you can.

Health insurance for students isn't ridiculously expensive. Debt is something to be managed, but it isn't some sort of stain on your record.

Even if your job is in a law office, it won't help you nearly as much as studying. It will look worse on your resume than better class rank.

I appreciate the realities of taking care of an ill spouse but I think this student should transfer into a full time program ASAP and take loans to fund necessities.

She will have to accept a student's lifestyle to some extent. Sorry, but ladder climbing is work.

Posted by: Dustin at February 25, 2006 06:35 PM

Just for clarification, Dustin, non-traditional means that we work full-time jobs and go to school in the evenings. Not everyone has the option of going to school full-time (loans only go so far). Just for the record, going to school full time doesn't mean you are 1) a good student or 2) going to be a good lawyer. In fact, you could make a counter argument that being able to have a great GPA (which she does) and make law review (which she did) all while working full-time *and* caring for an ill spouse makes her likely to kick-ass as a lawyer.

Posted by: Dave! at March 5, 2006 05:35 PM

Dave!, you made excellent points. (Not that I am biased or anything, being a non-traditional student myself.) Finding more hours in the week might be this woman's first step, lol.... ;)

One suggestion would be to approach an attorney who teaches at your school or graduated from your school and see if s/he would be willing to be flexible. Especially those with their own small firm who might need/want help but can't necessarily afford a full-time staff yet.

I would also talk to the staff in the office at your school, and see if they have any suggestions. Sometimes attorneys need some research help on a particular case, versus a full-time researcher, so a short-term assignment might work for them both that way.

Whatever your friend does, I wish her the best of luck. It sounds like she is quite a motivated woman, I am sure she will forge quite a path.


Posted by: S-M at March 7, 2006 05:27 PM