Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Giving Evening Students the Credit They Deserve

As the dog’s day of summer come to a close, many of our nation’s finest minds prepare to enter the hallowed halls of our country's legal institutions. This time of year always has me reflect on my own law school experience. If I could only have it to do all over again. The camaraderie of late night study groups. The socratic induced anticipation of getting called on in class. The four hour long exams that determine a semester’s worth of work. And lest I forget, the illustrious bar exam determining whether or not you would indeed put your freshly framed law degree to good use. If only I could have it to do all over again, I would probably choose a career as a professional crash test dummy. "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool" -Billy Shakespeare I started my student life as a full time law student at New York Law School. I was the typical first year law student. I had a dual major in English and Political Science from Manhattanville College. I took some prelaw classes. I was a cocky wiseass kid. And why not, I was going to be a lawyer. As I often point out on my blawg, I was planning on being a hotshot on Wall Street complete with one of those Gordon Gekko type blue shirts with the white color and designer red suspenders. I would have one of those metal ball thingamawhatzits on my desk that hit back and forth and a secretary named Candy. I was going to have the whole shebang. Not surprisingly, I had many of the misconceptions of my fellow full time law students. The first was that law school would be no different than college. The second was that somehow the evening division was easier because they were “part time.” They weren’t serious students after all. During my stint at New York Law, I was given an opportunity to work for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Along with his partner Karl Coplan, he directed a litigation clinic at Pace Law School. The two men were professors at the school and among the leading environmental lawyers in the nation. As an employee of the law school, I would get a dramatically reduced tuition. Of course I would have to become a dreaded evening student. "Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't." - Billy Shakespeare I soon learned that evening students deserved much more credit than they were receiving. They were crazy. Sure, they had what amounted to one less class. But they were completing law school while working full time. How I considered someone who worked forty hours a week, went to class and spent whatever free time was left studying, was beyond me. (Not to mention many of them had families) The evening students were anything but part time. If anything, I missed being a full time student. I had much more time to prepare for class. Of course, there were obvious disadvantages of being an evening student. It was difficult to take part in student organizations, moot trial competitions and internships. I remember Thursdays in particular. I would work at the litigation clinic from 8:30 AM to 5: 30 PM, go to class from 6 PM to 10 PM and then I would work at a local bar from 10:30 PM until 5 AM. I would then go to work the next day and start it all over again. Its important to remember that most of the students in the evening division are already professionals. Imagine the intimidation of taking a criminal procedure class with a bunch of New York City detectives, federal income tax with accountants and insurance law with insurance adjusters. Of course, I did see some advantages. The faculty was usually composed of actual practicing attorneys. While theory is important, these were the faculty members that really provided practical advice. And with limited time, I found myself working much harder. I became more focused. My grades improved. So if you happen to be a first year law student, don’t ever call an evening student “part time.” Give them the credit they deserve. _____________________________________ Want to relive the trials & tribulations of law school. Check out these great blogs. No Reins Girl and Only 3 Years. If I could offer some advice to current law students. Make your friends and family watch "The Paper Chase." It will garner you a little sympathy and maybe they will stop bugging you. Just make sure to tell them that law school is "exactly" like the movie.

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