Going to Law School

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  • Law school for dad past age 40?

    (3 replies)

    Any advice on an already over-educated male going to law school past the age of 40?  Is this a crazy idea, would I have to get into a top school to make it, what are the opportunities out there? What's the job market like?

    Yes, you are crazy.  The job market for lawyers is poor compared to the cost of a law degree.  And unless you have a large amount of money on your hands to pay cash, you'd have to take out loans.  Check out http://www.lstscorereports.com/

    You're not crazy ... but why do you want to do it?  You need to realize that law, for the most part, is a business.  If your desire is to save the world, I hope you have a lot of money saved up, because those jobs (even if you can get one) do not pay a lot.  And the competition for federal/state/county jobs (which do pay a decent salary -- albeit a pittance compared to private practice) is tough. 

    Law school is expensive, and job prospects are not great even for graduates of T14 schools.  You would probably face hidden age discrimination in the job hunt, since firms want eager associates who will buy into the idea of working horrendous hours to prove their partnership value, not people who have families and soccer teams to coach and school plays to attend.  Yes, everyone, I know there is a lot of blah, blah, blah out there about quality of life, and I don't believe a word of it.  If things are are so wonderful, why do I get hundreds of applications from people working in Big Law every time my agency advertises an entry level position? 

    Anyway, only you can answer the question why do it? 

    I loved law school. But working at a law firm is no fun. Super stressful, horrible hours, misplaced priorities. Big firm lawyers typically end up cancelling (at the last minute) every: vacation, dinner party, soccer game, birthday party, etc. They make a lot of money but have little time to spend it. They don't see their kids enough and miss out on the important milestones. Some people thrive on it, I don't. All I want is to be to succeed at my job while being able to pick up my son from school and do his homework with him. But my job doesn't want to make any accommodation that would allow me to do this. I'm now trying to figure out how to succeed at motherhood and being a lawyer at the same time. I feel like I'm failing at both. The though of doing what I'm doing for another 20 years makes me want to vomit.

    Yes, I'm financially successful. We own a gorgeous home in the hills. But I'm stressed out all the time and constantly worry that the rug is going to be pulled out from under me. 

    If there's a way for you to go to law school without incurring a ton of debt I'd say go for it. You will probably love the intellectual challenge. But if you come out saddled with debt that requires a big firm job to pay, you will probably regret it.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Law School as a 2nd career for a middle aged mom

Jan 2011

Hello All, I'm considering going to Law School (would probably be about 40 by the time I take/study for the LSAT, complete the application process etc) with the goal of opening my own family law practice or joining a very small and flexible one. DH and I have two kiddos; 1 and 5.

Has anyone out their pursued law as a second career? I would love to benefit from your experience! A little more about me: Over the last 15+ years I have enjoyed moderate success in an industry I really like (mid/upper management position). I'm hoping family law would be a good way to harness my passion about children and families, get the intellectual challenge I so enjoy, and also allow me to have evenings and weekends with my family while making a decent wage.

I know joining a big or even moderate sized law firm would not be for me. Those long hard hours would not work for my family. Also, I don't need to be on track to make $200,000+ a year. Although, $100,000 or close it is where I am aiming. I envisioning a law practice focused on child custody, divorce, adoption, and surrogacy.

How important is it to get into a ''good'' law school to pursue the dream of a private practice? Is this a realistic plan? Thanks for your insights!

Family law is the most litigious area of the law. Just imagine, a couple fighting over splitting their mutually built lives, down to the last house plant, more for the principle that they ''win,'' than anything else. Add children to the mix, and let the mudslinging continue. It is a really hard area of the law to practice in. Perhaps most importantly for your situation, this is one of the worst times to be entering the profession. Because of the financial market crash, huge law firms are literally disintegrating and laying off partners in their 50s and 60s. The ripple effect is that the market is flooded with experienced lawyers desperate for work, thus willing to take a pay cut, and jobs away from new grads.

The ABA recently posted an article on their webpage about the problem with law loans. Basically, I highly recommend going to the least expensive school with the best rankings, and networking like crazy. It's not the case that you get good grades and everything will work out-- I graduated cum laude with almost no job prospects. unemployed cum laude attorney

Attended UC Hastings as a newly single mom (but co- parented with amiable ex )with a 4 and 7 year old in tow. Graduated in 2006. Work in non-profit sector on education equity issues now but was a law school career counselor for 3 years. Family is my priority. Isabelle

I think you may have trouble making 100k+ working at a small firm. I think its more like 50-60k to start if you are lucky at a small firm. Going solo, it will take a long time to make that kind of money, plus no one really knows how to practice law immediately after you get out of school. The market is really, really tough out there right now. A colleague who recently advertised for a paralegal position (albeit in an public interest firm) got Staford law graduates with experience and who'd already passed to bar applying for the position. Although that's just one bit of anecdotal evidence, I think given your need for flexibility and a low billable hours commitment, you could have trouble finding a job that meets your needs if the glut in the market continues. Also realize that law school tuition is crazy high. UC schools are close to 40k a year, which may put more pressure on you to take a more demanding job than you really want.

Law school itself is very demanding and I personally would be incredibly stressed to handle that plus two young children. I completed law school before I had kids, now that I have 2 kids under 6, I can't imagine doing full-time (or even part time) school or entering a competitive job force. FYI - the folks I know at smaller firms work more than 40 hours a week. anon

Hi Jenny. I decided to go to law school as a second career at the age of 27, and a single mom of two. I now have my own practice, which allows me unbelievable flexibility with the kids and their schedules. On the downside, the income can very drastically swing up and down, especially in the first few years while you build a practice. There are other disadvantages to being out on your own including lack of benefits (or much more expensive to purchase on your own), and sometimes a lack of community. The other thing is that my husband and I are now expecting a baby in May, and disability benefits for self employed people is not great. Also, you should expect to put in very long hours in law school and afterwards while you build your practice. That said, I am very glad I did it and love what I do.

As to your question about the law school, I would go visit campuses of law schools, take tours, and sit in on some classes. While any law school is demanding, you really want a law school that is going to prepare you to take the bar because in the end that is kind of the whole point.

Hopefully that gives you a realistic perspective. Good luck whatever you decide! Autumn

Jenny: You have a good and realistic plan to have a flexible, worthwhile career as a family law attorney, an area where life experience, maturity and understanding of people and relationships are an asset. To answer your question about going to a ''good'' school, consider that virtually all family law attorneys practice solo, not in a firm or partnership, so the school you graduate from makes no difference in getting work, and very few clients even ask where you studied. Family law is not like other fields of law where a prestigous degree and high grades are necessary to secure a high paying job with a firm. If you did find an experienced attorney to work with as an associate, you would be chosen based on aptitude and personality, not because you graduated from a big name school. JFK University in Pleasant Hill and Golden Gate University in SF are both therefore great choices. But before you commit to even a year of law school I would suggest you self-educate as much as you can using the online resources that exist for people handling their own divorces without an attorney, and then intern for an attorney to make sure you enjoy working in this area.

The one person I know who did succeed at a niche job was a very smart and personable young person who was a paralegal at a family law firm, and her boss loved her as an employee and eventually promised her a job if she went to law school. I've heard the job market for new law graduates is brutal right now (from a law professor). Just an idea, is trying for a non-lawyer job in the area you are interested in, to investigate further. anon

I went back to school as a second career and I regret wasting $70,000 and three years of my life, and the cost has probably doubled since I graduated. In my experience, legal employers aren't very family-friendly. Some of them might be somewhat accommodating of attorneys who have been there a while before they had kids, but not to people who already have families when they interview.

I suggest talking to some attorneys who have solo practices in family law and get their advice on how realistic this is. If you want to meet family law attorneys, the county bar associations have family law sections which have regular events.

Going to a ''good'' law school has advantages besides prestige. Some of the ''not-so-good'' law schools automatically flunk the bottom 10-25 percent of the first-year class (most law schools grade on a curve and give people a class rank). Or they'll offer scholarships to half the class and you need to be in the top third to renew for the second year (so a bunch of people will automatically lose their scholarships). They're trying to weed out people who they think will fail the bar (to improve their bar passage rate and their USNWR ranking). Good luck with your decision! Anonymous

I think you are a little bit unrealistic about a legal career. First of all, it isn't necessarily the case that you'll work fewer hours at a small firm or as a solo. As a junior associate, at any firm, you'll be expected to work hard - it's the partners who have been practicing for 20 years who want weekends free to be with their families, etc., while the newbies are the ones stuck in the office doing document review and preparing motions. As for intellectual stimulation, you may not find a lot of that at first either. As for going out on your own, I do know a few people who have launched solo practices straight out of law school but it's rare, and, I think, very stressful. And speaking of stress, family law is extremely contentious and the clients can be pure nightmare to deal with. Sorry to sound so negative, but I think you need to spend some time in or around law practices and learn more. It's one profession where part-time is considered to be 40 hours per week. Lawyer & mother

I am a lawyer at a firm, so I can't speak to a solo practice. But here are a few thoughts:

1) Law school is a huge financial committment. Tuition rates keep going up and you are losing 3 years of income. Bar prep classes (which are highly recommended) also run several thousands of dollars. If you are planning to be self-employed, your income the first few years out likely won't be very high either and you will have a lot of expenses associated with starting a business, obtaining malpractice insurance, etc. Consider whether your family's finances can handle the debt and several years without significant income contributions from you.

2) You will not learn what you need to know to practice law in law school. Practicing law is essentially an apprenticeship. You learn by doing and personally, I can't imagine not having mentors the first few years to explain things and correct my mistakes. I don't know how common it is to dive right into a solo practice, but I would not have felt competent to do that straight out of law school. I went to UC Berkeley, but I think this is true anywhere.

3) I question whether a solo practice would necessarily give you the lifestyle you describe. I work at a firm and yes, the hours can sometimes be long, but I work part-time and have colleagues who can cover for me when my kids are sick or when I go on vacation. If you are in a solo practice, your clients will be dependent on you all the time and you will need to coordinate your schedule with their needs, court dates and opposing counsel.

4) Again, I don't know about a solo practice, but if you think you might need to look for a job as an attorney some day (perhaps with a small firm, or with the government), where you go to law school matters a lot. Look at employment statistics for any school you are considering and try to talk to alumni.

Sorry to be negative, but I have a lot of colleagues who went into law with unrealistic expectations and now wish they had done more homework before making their decision. It sounds like you already have a great career and if you are looking to branch out a little, you might try a less radical change. At any rate, I would suggest approaching some solo practioners in the area to ask for an informational interview. I'm sure you can find some who would be happy to tell you all the pros and cons. There are also numerous law blogs out there, probably some focused on solo practictioners. Good luck with your decision.

There is a long and very interesting article in the Jan 8 issue of the New York Times called ''Is Law School a Losing Game?''. It describes how bleak the employment prospects are for recent law school graduates right now, compared to the rosy picture painted by law schools, which are steadily increasing enrollment and tuition. Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/business/09law.html?src=me=general

This recent New York Times article entitled ''Is law school a losing game?'' discusses the financial hardship facing law grads who did not attend top tier schools: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/business/09law.html?_r=1=me=homepage anon

I hope the original poster got a chance to read this article from Sunday's NYT titled ''Is Law School a Game?'' http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/business/09law.html?src=me=general

I've been a lawyer for over 15 years, practicing primarily in the nonprofit and small firm world. But even there, with more flexibility and less of the downsides of big firm practice. it's been a lot of hours and sacrifice. I did negotiate a more flexible deal after I had kids, but by then I had a proven track record. As a brand new lawyer that would be much more difficult. And I always had to deal with court deadlines and client emergencies, which didn't always respect my ''day at home.'' I would definitely do a bunch of informational interviews with people actually doing the kind of practice you want, to make sure your vision is feasible.

I love my work and am very happy with my choices, but there has been one particularly critical element for me: I didn't graduate with huge debt. My classmates who did had to take jobs with very long hours and low quality of life in order to make enough to pay down loans. The NYT article points out how difficult the job market is becoming and how hard it can be to make enough to deal with debt. The advice I always give people thinking about law school is ''if you can't go to a top school, go to a cheap one.'' Look for an in- state tuition option or a place that will give you a scholarship or has a gold- plated loan repayment assistance program. The article makes clear something I have thought for a long time - low-ranked private law schools with high tuition can be a terrible economic trap for students, who won't be able to a get a job that justifies their investment.

Good luck with whatever you choose, and please do your homework. Law school is three years of your life and a lot of $. It can lead to a very rewarding career, but there is no guarantee. J.D. Mom

Part-time law school with young children?

March 2010

I am looking for some good, honest, and non-judgemental advice. I am a 30 old SAHM of two who wants another child within the next 5 years. I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was 13, but decided to ''take a break'' after college and pursued a teaching. I want to apply to USF law school's part-time evening program to begin during the 2011-2012 school year. My children would be 5 and 2 years old at that time. I would want to take a year off to have another child, and would time it so that child would turn one about the time I was returning to law school.

I figure I would need child-care for 4-5 hours a day to prepare for classes. I also figure I would need to dedicate 6-8 hours a day on Saturday and Sunday for my studies. I have a very supportive husband who is encouraging me to follow my dreams.

I am hesitant to follow through with my dream of being an attorney beause of the following fears: I really want 1) To work in the non-profit or government sector 2) Prefer to work part-time until my children are older 3)think that I might be crazy to think that I might find such a job and am 4) scared to end up like a lot of my lawyer friends: miserable in high paying jobs or miserable and laid off or miserable and just scraping by because of loans. Most of them tell me not to go to law school and regret their decisions.


1) Is my plan for attending law school part-time in the evening while having young kids and having a baby realistic? Or, should I wait until the kids are older?

2) Do part-time non-profit law jobs really exist? I hear they are terribly hard to get.

3) If they do exist, is USF law school's reputation strong enough to get me employment in those jobs?(I don't know if it matters, but I have an ivy league undergraduate degree. Not mentioning that to be snotty, just wondering if it will help in the job application process.)

And to top it all off...because of the economy and job loss, I filed for bankruptcy a year ago. My father has offered to co-sign any graduate school private loans that would be necessary. Does anyone have experience with getting private loans for law school (or any other graduate programs) with a co-signer after declaring bankruptcy? Who do I even ask for more information about this?

Thanks. --Will i ever get to law school?

My first child was born a few weeks before I started law school. It was a positive experience for me and I actually had more time with my child and flexibility in my schedule as a law student than I do now working. I think your estimates are realistic about that time it requires. You can do it and be successful but it requires sacrifice from the whole family and only you can decide if that sacrifice is worth it.

My only advice is to really consider whether you want to put yourself in that much debt. You can go to a less expensive top tier school and rely on only federal loans and scholarships and still get a good job without the stress that could come down the road from having to pay off huge loans. Good luck! Happy Law-school Mom

I went to a fourth-tier law school and was surprised by how snobby many firms are. One prejudice I wasn't aware of at all was the bias against lawyers who have attended law school at night. My school had both a day program and an evening program and NUMEROUS lawyers told me at least you weren't in the evening program. I did find a job (in a much different market than we have now) but I was at the very top of my class. My advice to you is if you like USF, attend during the day. Honestly, it will be easier. Your kids will be on the same schedule as you are. You'll have time to study in between classes, at school (it will take discipline not to just head off for coffee with classmates, but you CAN do it). You'll be able to see your spouse and kids at night. And apply to Boalt and Hastings; they are more prestigious, cheaper, and you'll save a lot of commuting time too -- Hastings is right near BART. Take a prep course for the LSAT, so as to get the best score possible. Lastly, I think you might have trouble landing a part time gig right out of law school. The only part-time lawyers I know are ones who have managed to negotiate something with their employer after working fulltime. And 'part-time' for law is often 40 hours a week, sorry to say!!

Well, take my advice with a grain of salt... I'm not a lawyer, but am in graduate school and a mama....

Do not go to graduate school if you expect to get a job right out of school. Do not pay out the nose or sign loans and expect to get a job to pay for school, especially an super expensive school like USF.

When evaluating a school, it is good to look at the rate at which students pass the bar. USF is pretty strong there, but it is brutally expensive. With huge law firms closing on both the west and east coasts, there is even more competition for the less appealing jobs...

One situation (expensive school) without the other (job market being crappy--even for folks who pass the bar) might be survivable. But both seem-- frankly crazy.

I would try to get into a public school such as Hastings or Boalt. If you have a great undergrad degree, why not apply and see what happens?

Loans for graduate school are really expensive and are more like a credit card (as far as interest rates, etc.) then an undergrad loan. I've got the Grad school Blues

1- Part of me wants to say: Go chase your dream. Only you can find out whether fulfilling that dream will make you a better person, and enable you to lead a more meaningful/fulfilling life. Part of me agrees with your lawyer friends: Law is a miserable field if you're not lucky enough to land a dream job (depending on what that is.) Only you and your family will have to endure all the ramifications of a wife/mother in law school and a lot of other concerns thereafter. I shared your dream about law school many years ago. There were other differences: I had no children, and a great flexible job which somehow sucked the life out of me due to its lack of intellectual stimulation. So I went for my dream. There were other moms and dads in my law class and they seemed to get by just fine. Law school was great. Being a lawyer could be totally different experience. I think I liked the esoteric aspects of the law but as a lawyer, I hate the adversarial/contentious nature of lawyering.

2-Having another baby in law school could cause a lot of delay in your timely graduation. Check with a law school admission advisor for info on their matriculation. I actually waited until my last year to get pregnant and studied for the bar being about 4-5 months pregnant.

3- Just like any other professional fields, if you want to work for non profit, then pay your dues by doing clerkship, internship, and volunteer at those organizations. Of course in this abysmal economy, any job is hard to come by. Once you get a job, probably it might take some time prior to you being able to fulfill the wish to work part time in law. BUT I want to emphasize: There's no guarantee of a part time job in law. Simply put, why would employers give you any love when they can hire someone else, non attached, childless who is willing to put in more than 40h/w?

4-Don't wait! You would get less energy and enthusiasm you have for law school the older you get.

5- I suggest you speak with a financial aid adviser at law school about the private loan in light of the bankruptcy issue. Good luck - anon

Re whether law school is for you, I say if you have been interested in being a lawyer since you were 13, you should go for it. Many people drift into law school after college because they can't think of anything else to do, and those are the ones that tend to be miserable. As a gov't lawyer, I can say that a USF degree is fine; in my office, we have attys from all levels of law schools. Getting your foot into the door with nonprofits or gov't is not easy; you should consider private firms that do the work you're interested in (not all firms are the large civil litigation firms we've grown to hate). Can't say that finding part-time work will be easy in any sector, but I think the profession is slowly coming around to accepting more flex time arrangements, especially considering that most law school grads are now women, who are demanding more family-friendly policies dr

I can't answer the loan/bankruptcy part of your question, but as a spouse of someone who just finished law school and as a parent, I think what you're trying to do is very hard. My husband graduated from Hastings a couple years ago, and he worked/studied quite a few more hours a week than what you are describing. He was unavailable more like 8-10 hours a weekday, and 6-8 on the weekends. There were days he took off, but there were also days he worked all day (12+ hours) There are definitely part-time non-profit jobs out there, but you're right, they are scarce. Not only that, but they pay terribly, and you might find you can't pay off your loans.

Outside of nonprofit jobs that don't pay too well, the field of law, for the most part, is very bad at the work-home balance. My husband has a pretty ''cushy'' job compared to his other lawyer friends (but makes much less), and he still needs to bill 2000 hours and we still have a very hard time managing the house, time with the kids, spouse time, etc. I'm a SAHM, I don't know what kind of work your husband does, or if he'd plan on staying home.

I don't know about USF specifically, but the pedigree of your school counts A LOT. Second to that, it matters quite a bit where you rank in relation to your classmates. Not to say that you shouldn't follow your dreams if this is what you want, but go into it with your eyes open. It is great that your husband is so supportive, but I think you'll need much more. You'll need grandparents, friends, lots more, as well as taking a good hard look at what kind of role you'll have as a mother. Good luck! jisun

What practice area do you want to work in? I would recommend working as a paralegal or other support position in a law firm to see what the lifestyle is like, first- hand.

Generally, going to law school will put you in a big financial hole unless you work at a big firm doing corporate work when you graduate. So it's not a good idea unless you get a lot of financial aid, and by that I mean grants and scholarships, not loans. USF is not a very well- regarded school (sorry!), so you will have trouble finding any type of job after graduating unless you do very very well there. You will not have your choice of jobs unless you graduate in the top 1-5%. I would not recommend going to law school unless you go to a top 20 school. Otherwise, your options are limited. Back when I went to law school you could justify going to a less-well regarded school if it was public, since it was so much cheaper, but now the UCs charge almost as much as Stanford.

To answer your specific questions:

(1) I don't know; I went to law school full-time, before I had kids.

(2) There are no ''part-time'' jobs in law that I know of. I work an 80% schedule, which means I work about 45 hours a week. And it's hard to progress wihout being full-time.

(3) I think I already answered that question, above. I don't think most legal employers care where you went to undergrad. they do care what school you went to, and if it's not a top 5 school what your grades at law school were.

(4) I can't answer your question regarding obtaining loans, but I should warn you that in some states you may not pass the ''moral character'' portion of the bar admission process if you've had financial troubles. You should call the bar association of the state you plan on practicing in and inquire what their standards are.

Sorry to be so discouraging, but it's really not a very glamorous field! -anon lawyer

I totally understand where you are, I also really really wanted to be a lawyer. I became one, and then quit once I had kids, so that gives you some idea of what my answer will be. As for going to law school, once you have kids there really isn't a great time to do that -- it's incredibly demanding and since you brought up the concept of rank (i.e, Ivy League undergrad), you will have to work that much harder at USF to be top of your class since it's not top ranked. I went to Boalt and was not top of my class and had fewer choices than I would have liked as a result, but was better off than friends entering the market from lower ranking schools. Further, I'm sure there are happy lawyer moms who have different experiences, but for me it turned out there was no way to happily practice law and be a happy mom. The hours are brutal and the culture is unforgiving. I was at a firm, which isn't what you're looking to do, but I have friends at nonprofits who feel similarly. I don't have that many friends who are still practicing, or who are happy if they are. The best set-up I've seen is permanent clerking at the appellate level, which you can do part-time but the jobs are scarce. I know what it's like to have this dream and I don't regret the years I practiced law, but I finished law school and practiced for several years before I had kids. Overall I'd say think very carefully because your kids will not see a lot of you, it's just the nature of this particular beast. Good luck! recovering lawyer mama

I went to USF law (graduate 2005) and think its a fantastic law school. It is was not easy, you'll be competing against many very intelligent, talented and motivated people, but as an institution I thought the administration did a good job of being personable to the student, providing a solid education, and providing a nice atmosphere to learn.

I did not have a family in law school, but the year I graduated, one of the women who graduated top in my class had a baby the week of final exams. She was reading her text book in the delivery room! Then she had a second baby in her 3rd year! Other people at USF also had children or were pregnant during their time there, although the vast majority of students don't have kids and are in their mid 20's. To be honest, I don't know how they did it because I barely had time to eat and sleep myself. But they did it, so it is possible.

USF is a pretty well recognized school, especially locally, and certainly you find the graduates of USF in all types of legal jobs in the bay area. Of course top tier school are more prestigious and therefore provide more opportunities, but I have found people to generally have a good opinion of USF. If there is a certain area which your interested, like child welfare, it would be a good idea to ask someone who works in the field about their opinion on schools and hours.

On the negative side, being a lawyer is not a guarantee of financial stability in any way. It is very difficult to find non-profit or government jobs, especially for new law graduates. You may want to look at Craigslist and see what is out there for availability and salaries, you may be very disappointed. One friend who works in a nonprofit fund raises her own salary - she has a passion for the cause so she is OK with it, but she is as wealthy as a starving artist. Similarly, at the moment there are not a lot of legal job in government and considering that the State/country is broke, I don't expect there to many more in the future.

If you have a very strong passion for a certain area of law, then being a lawyer can be rewarding. On the flip slide, when you consider the money, time, energy which is put into being an effective lawyer, there are many easier ways to make money.

Good luck to you!! Sarah

As a bit of introduction: I graduated from law school in '98, and love my job (most days) as an attorney at a mid- sized firm in SF. My son was born in '05. I encourage you to follow your dreams. I can't answer all of your questions, but wanted to share what I could.

The job market now is terrible, but may be (hopefully, will be) different by the time you graduate. It is always very difficult to find a non-profit job. Always. You will need to show dedication to the cause, good grades, etc. I'm not sure about USF's reputation in that respect -- you might try to get information from their career services folks or current employees. But you should know that it's going to be difficult to find that dream job.

It is also very difficult for newly-minted attorneys to find part-time jobs. I know very few attorneys at any level who find part-time, intellectually-stimulating jobs, and don't know any who did it as new grads. (It may depend, too, what you mean by ''part time'' -- I know many more attorneys who work 80% than who work 50% time). You need to remember that most of your competition for jobs as a new grad will be other new attorneys, who will mostly be single, kid-less, and in their mid- to late-20s. Best of luck!

Hi - as a relatively recent law school grad I'd like to offer some of my perspective ... First off, I totally support following your dreams, but try to make sure you're doing it with open eyes. I am NOT a ''miserable'' lawyer (even though I work at a big firm!) but always had this idea that a law degree from a top school would be the ticket to an easy career path of my choosing -- and this has definitely not been the case. It's a super competitive market even in the best of times, which these clearly are not.

That said, I strongly encourage you to go to the best law school you can get into. If that's USF, great, but if you can swing Hastings or Berkeley, you will find your job prospects to open up much more widely. (Sad to say, but lawyers can be kind of snotty about where you went to law school -- even if you have a great undergrad pedigree, they will just question why you ended up outside a top- tier law school). I didn't have kids while I was in school but knew plenty of people at Boalt with small kids who made it work. Studying is certainly time-consuming but very flexible -- you can do it wherever, and get a lot done after the kids are in bed, etc.

Also, wherever you end up applying, make sure to investigate the school's loan forgiveness program. I only know about Boalt's, where if you end up at a nonprofit or gov't job they will help pay off a substantial part of your loans. I'm sure other schools have similar programs - - know what the parameters are and how it can affect your future job choices. And if you're dedicated to seeking employment outside the big firm setting -- it's doable but you have to be MUCH more entrepreneurial than going the ''traditional'' route. You need to apply yourself early to find out who's doing the kind of work you want, network like crazy, and be prepared to wait in uncertainty while your classmates line up their firm jobs in advance of graduation. My friends who ended up in gove't/nonprofits all seem really happy with their choices, but it took a lot of work and anxiety for them to get there. I hope this doesn't all sound negative -- again, I think you should go for it, just make sure you know what you're getting into!! I really had pie-in-the- sky ideas about law school that did not serve me well, but you already sound like you're thinking a lot more about the path in front of you than I did. Good luck! Lawyerette

I am a lawyer (inc. a stint in public interest law), and a mom of 2. I can offer are some harsh insights about this profession. First, despite all the rhetoric about work-life balance and family-friendly firms, this is almost entirely BS. There is a high degree of bias against women with small children in this profession. If you are not already in a secure position when you have kids, it is very difficult to get a part-time/flex/even reasonable-hours position once you are ''older'' and have kids. Even if you are in a secure position, it is very common to have the employers basically write you off after you have kids. And don't think this is limited to private firms. It is equally true in many public interest organizations, which often have dysfunctional, unenlightened, and even misogynistic management.

Now let's talk money. Unless you have a trust fund or a spouse/partner who makes plenty of money, if you are a public interest lawyer in the Bay Area with a family, you will be poor. That would be true even without law school loans, and even more so with a big debt. That debt will dictate many of your choices. Do not underestimate what that will mean. Now let's talk about what it is like to practice law. If you litigate, you will spend your days fighting with the nasty lawyers on the other side. Do you enjoy conflict? And I do not mean elevated, academic writing in an appellate brief; I mean having someone yell at you over the phone or write you an extremely nasty email at 4:45 pm on a Friday afternoon that totally ruins your entire weekend. If not, do not become a litigator. How well do you handle stress? Do you like to work for people who have way more money than you will ever have, and are not nearly as smart or as hardworking as you, but who will treat you like crap? The people who rise to the top in this profession are frequently not very nice. Do you like to spend your days sitting at a computer writing letters and briefs about things that are not very interesting? All of this is to say that you should think about the reality of what it means to be a lawyer on a daily basis, in terms of what you will actually spend your time doing and what your life will be like. There are very real reasons for why many lawyers are miserable; do not let your dream keep you from facing that reality. Best of luck in your decision. Anon

Law School with Young Children?

Aug 2002

My husband, who is 28, is about to finish his undergrad in Spring of 2003. During his college career he has had a career in financial services and is now part owner of a small company, which demands about 60 to 70 hours a week. He has been considering law school for graduate school. We have a 10 month old daughter and would like to have another child soon. Has anyone experienced such an intense grad school experience with a young family? Did one spouse work and support the family while the other spouse attended school? What was the most challenging part? Was it worth it? I would appreciate any advice or insight.

It sounds from your post almost as if your husband feels like he has to go to grad school, so he's choosing law school. The job market for new lawyers is really bad right now, so unless your husband really wants to be a lawyer, and has a specific goal for his law degree, I would hold off, to give you my candid opinion. I think he should try working in a law office as a secretary or paralegal first. Law school is very demanding and family un- friendly, although it's something both of you really want, of course, it can work. But I am compelled to tell you that lots of people go to law school because they want to stay in school, not because they really want to be lawyers, and that is a mistake. A lawyer

My husband is about to enter his third year at Boalt. I had our second child a month before he started law school, so I've been living your query for the last two years. Law school is hell on a marriage, but you can do it. The trick is to have as much knowledge about what's going to happen as possible up front. Your husband will not be able to work a 60-70 hour week and go to law school. You'll need another means of support; savings, student loans, or you. I support our family financially and do most of the child care, which hasn't been easy on our marriage. But here we are, still married. Expect to be a single mom during the school year (and that includes most weekends, too). Email me and I can give you the gory details. Julie T.

Hi, I did the law school thing while raising a very young child. When I entered law school my child was 15 months old. I have to say that it was very difficult at best and I ended up quitting. Not so much because it wasn't doable, but the toll on my child, my husband and myself just didn't seem worth it. Adding to that was the fact that law just wasn't as exciting or intellectually stimulating as I thought it would be. I waited until I had the chance to do some clerking and it was still dull. I went to school all day, and studied for 4-5 hours a night. Needless to say, I only saw my child between 5-8 pm each day. What killed me was I would leave the library at 5pm each day, returning at 10 or 11 to resume studying and the same students would be there but they were packing up to go home and get a good night's rest. While I was just beginning to hit the books they were done for the night. I felt at a real disadvantage. Plus, I was a first time mom and I was in love with my child and law just lost it's luster in comparison. If you can support your husband in the same fashion as it sounds like you've been doing, then he should come out of it successfully. However, you will both have missed alot in terms of your family life. But in the end this sacrifice may be worth it for some, it depends on your situation. There were a few couples with children and even a single mom in my class who made it. But go into it knowing that law is a jealous mistress. Naomi

we had our baby in my husband's 2nd year of law school. my suggestions if you decide to go forward with it are:

1) If he goes to Boalt, live in family student housing. we lived in both the village (pre-baby) and Smyth Fernwald. You then have a built in support network...someone in every family is a student, and every one has a family, so they're all dealing with the same issues. I found the village more community oriented (the courtyards are a great playground), but Smyth Fernwald was a LOT closer to law school. Things have obviously changed, but check out what the community seems to be like now. When we were there, S-F had more grad sudents and the Village more undergrads. S-F has that beautiful track at Clark-kerr, and some apts. have gorgeous views...but I think I'd choose the Village for me, in retrospect.

2) Establish a routine for when he will be with the family. What we did was dedicate 6-9 **every** night to the family. He'd come home, help with dinner prep & bedtime, then go back out and study/work on law journal until 2-3 am. We tried to save one day every weekend also for family time, but that only worked for the first half of the semester...usually, i was on my own on weekends. but having him there EVERY night kept it all together. I actually miss that schedule...now that he's a lawyer, he comes home much later. And, with him going back out every night, I actually had at least an hour to myself every day.

I did work during this time, and it was the only income (except for summers & loans). We didn't have much money, but i think we both look back fondly to this time. (it was over 7 years ago, so I guess we can count the passing of time as a factor!) We borrowed a fair amount of money, and Boalt actually gave us some very good financial aid. I think tuition may have gone up a lot, but, if your husband wants to work for a big firm, you'll be able to afford to pay all the loans back.

I would also think about whether your husband really wants to me a lawyer. my husband loves his work, but it seems that job satisfaction is low for most lawyers. the hours are very long, and it can be hard finding a satisfying job. Good luck! meghan