How to Decide Whether to Work During Law School

In my first semester of law school, I taught an LSAT prep class a couple of nights a week to pay for car repairs. At first the job seemed manageable. I enjoyed teaching others and having a life outside school.

However, pressure mounted as the semester wore on and my workload grew. The extra money was not worth the stress of losing homework time, commuting across town and missing out on campus activities. I learned that law school is a difficult enough balancing act without taking on extra weight.

Working part-time during law school can be tempting. Three years of law school is not cheap. Law students who do not receive substantial financial aid may find themselves saddled with debt. While law jobs can be lucrative, not every law job pays well, and not every law graduate lands a plum position.

[Read: Understand the Cost, Payoff of Law School Before Getting a J.D.]

Before taking a job during law school, consider these questions:

— Is the job worth taking time away from school?

— Is the job worth taking time away from campus activities?

— Are law-related work opportunities available?

— Does the job violate any school rules or requirements?

— Would the job contribute to or relieve stress?

Is the Job Worth Taking Time Away From School?

Full-time law school programs require tremendous focus and energy. To succeed in class, students must stay on top of dense reading assignments. Unlike most undergraduate classes, law school classes are incomprehensible without first reading assigned cases, and students must be fully prepared for classroom discussions.

Law students compete against one another for grades, clerkships and jobs. Taking on a distraction or new commitment can put you at a disadvantage, especially during the grueling first year of law school.

[READ: How to Survive and Thrive First Year of Law School.]

Working makes more sense for students in part-time law programs, but such students should still be conscientious about how much time and attention their classes require before taking on too many outside commitments.

Is the Job Worth Taking Time Away From Campus Activities?

Law schools provide a wealth of opportunities outside of class. A legal clinic or student journal can provide entry points to future careers while social activities can lead to lifelong connections and friendships.

Campus life is a big benefit of attending law school, and neglecting it can unknowingly close doors. Even if a job does not conflict with schoolwork, consider the opportunity cost of time off campus.

Are Law-Related Work Opportunities Available?

Working as a research assistant for a law professor or center on campus may allow you to earn money while padding your resume and making professional connections, without taking as much time as an off-campus job. Paid part-time work with a legal office might provide law-related experience akin to a clinic or externship.

[READ: Turn a Law School Internship Into a Job.]

Explore such career-related job options, including over school breaks or weekends, before taking on part-time work in another field.

Does the Job Violate Any School Rules or Requirements?

In 2014, the American Bar Association eliminated a longstanding rule that limited student employment to 20 hours per week, but some law schools have maintained their own rules covering student employment. Before taking on a job with a significant time commitment, make sure it is compatible with school rules and requirements for financial aid and scholarships.

Would the Job Contribute to or Relieve Stress?

Law school can be stressful and intellectually exhausting, so it does not mix well with high-pressure jobs. However, many law students have enjoyed finding part-time or piecemeal work that has nothing to do with law school, like freelance work, the service sector, creative pursuits or working with animals. Jobs with flexible hours can be a particularly good fit.

Overall, the calculus leans against working during law school, but many law students still find part-time work that does not conflict with their studies, campus life, career search or school rules.

The second and third years of law school, when class schedules are more open and career plans may be more settled, are particularly amenable to work, along with summers. So even if, like me, you find it too hard to juggle work and school during the first year of law school, you may find more time down the line.

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How to Decide Whether to Work During Law School originally appeared on usnews.com

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