Thursday, August 30, 2007

Returning to School as an Older Student

An anonymous reader asked me what advice I have for somewhat older students hoping to "take the leap" and go to law school when they also have the obligations/blessings of a partner and children. That does seem like an area I am well acquainted with, doesn't it?

OK - first - talk extensively to your husband/wife/partner. You need to all be on board for this crazy ride. That person will end up needing to take up all of the parenting and household duties that you will not be able to do while you are in school. If you will also be working while going to school, this adds to the challenges and responsibilities that your partner will need to be willing to take on for the family. I work during the days, go to school at night and, depending on my schedule and when I fit studying in, have between 1-2 days on the weekends for my family. My partner essentially becomes a single-mom during the weekdays, and I don't see my kids except on the weekends. It is a huge sacrifice for everyone involved.

Talk to your partner about ways the two of you can stay connected. Law school is very consuming. I won't say "all-consuming" - but it can be. You must plan for making time for each other. It is also good to discuss how you will deal with potential feelings of jealously or inadequacy that may arise from your spouse since you are off meeting new people and learning new things. You will be excited about subjects your partner probably knows nothing about, and in which she probably has little interest. Not everyone is a law geek.

Studying for the LSAT is good practice for getting back into the swing of studying. LSAT advice? Take lots of the previously administered tests.

As a student who has been out of school for over 10 years, you may feel uncomfortable with your study skills. If you got accepted into law school, you undoubtedly did well in school and figured out how to do well on the LSAT. Trust that your skills will come back - just like falling off, I mean, RIDING a bike. You may struggle a bit during the first semester as you figure out what works best for you now. Even the younger students have to do that though. Your process may just take a bit longer. Give yourself a break, appreciate the experience you are getting, and trust that you will figure it all out.

I'd like to say something like, "know what you are getting into," or "know what you want to do," but that would be impossible and hypocritical. I had an idea of what I was getting into, but like parenthood, you don't know until you know. I am still exploring what I want do to and narrowing my focus, so I did not know what I wanted to do. I did talk to a few attorneys first to find out what they liked and didn't like about their position and previously held positions, and what they would have done differently in law school. Certainly I would recommend talking to practicing attorneys or JD's in positions in the field in which you are interested. Law has one of the highest dissatisfaction rates, and there are probably many reasons for this. I won't elaborate because my point is to try to make a well-researched decision about your own career goals.

If you know you want to be a lawyer, have your family's support, and think you can make it work with your other obligations in life, don't let fear stop you. This is your life and you should make it all you want it to be. It will not be easy. It will be hard. Moms, more so than Dads from what I have seen, will experience a lot of guilt and feel the sacrifices perhaps more intensely. Will it be worth it? I certainly hope so!

9 comments:

Monique said...

Dakota,

Thank you so much for your advice. I'm new to blogging so sorry about the anonymous I'm getting better. (This from someone who works with technology everyday)

I started a blog of my own to chronicle my adventure thanks to inspiring blogs like yours, PT Law Mom and others. I did take your advice and talked heavily with my spouse and children and well as my blogs states everyone is very supportive but my 15 year old is still on the fence about the idea.

One last question, what study guide if any would you recommend for preparing for the LSAT? I’m scheduled to take it in December.

Thanks again,
Monique

Dakota said...

Monique - Sounds like you are really on the right track! I don't have a strong opinion on an overall study guide, but use The LSAT Powerscore Logic Games Bible for the logic games. Excellent breakdown of how to do the games and why. (I love the games, but they were my worse section, as is very common. I never did get very fast, but here I am, in law school anyway!)

Best of luck!

Heather said...

Great job explaining Dakota. I know when i go to law school its going to be challenging and diffrent as i will be at home with the kids during the day then off to school at night.

Brian Cavner said...

A good tip to help on the LSAT games section (this is coming from an LSAT teacher and tutor) is to go into (physically go into, not call, not e-mail) offices of places around you that teach LSAT. Kaplan, Princeton Review, Blueprint, and any other local LSAT prep company around you (to find them, try Google or visit the bulletin board of a local undergraduate university). Ask to speak with someone who is preferably an LSAT teacher (not all of the office workers know the subjects) because you're interested. Say that the games section is the most difficult section for you. They will say "oh, we have great tips to excel in the games section". Say, "oh, like what?" or, "oh, I heard that [obviously wrong fact about a type of game that you frequently get wrong]". They will then tell you a tip. This tip is the tip they consider to be the biggest, most powerful tip in their entire course.

Thank them, and then go to the next office.

Or, if you can afford it, take an actual LSAT class. Your reading comp scores won't change much, but your logical reasoning and especially your games scores will. I highly recommend The Princeton Review.

Good luck!

Quirky said...

Dakota - thanks for a great post. I had not been out of school for 10 year, only for 5 - but I think some of your advice is great for me too. I've been really down on myself for how long it seems to be taking me to find my groove - and make friends. All those folks right out of undergrad go out partying and drinking in the evenings. Because I'm partnered, my spare time is generally spent at home. Thanks again for the encouragement for all of us newbies. :)

Henny Penny said...

There was no single parent phemonenon in my house. I remained the primary caregiver, daycare dropper off and picker up, taker off of sick days, worked all school year, commuted an hour each direction and went to a top tier law school full time. I graduated with a chip on my shoulder.

Dakota said...

Henny Penny - Wow - quite an accomplishment, or maybe I should say "accomplishments!" Sorry about the chip. Hope it has healed since graduation.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever heard of anyone going to law school at or after the age of 50? Is it feasible?

Dakota said...

Anonymous,
Anything is possible! I have had a few students over 50 in my classes. Their reasons and what else they were juggling are not known to me. I do know that one was increasing his skills for his current job - whether he ultimately will stay there, who knows? If you are seriously considering law school, I would take some time and speak with people like the academic dean, admissions counselor and career counselor at a law school near you (or it could be done over the phone if in person is not possible). Ask what they think the challenges would be and how others they know of have overcome the them. They might be able to put you in touch with a current or past student, too.

Best of luck!