Part-Time Law School: The Pros and Cons

Attending law school is a daunting commitment, particularly in the first year.

The time and energy required to succeed may seem overwhelming to applicants with competing responsibilities. Older applicants, as well as recent graduates with family responsibilities, may feel unable to give their full attention to law school.

Fortunately, many law schools offer part-time programs as alternatives to traditional full-time J-D. programs. Part-time programs may include evening and weekend classes, online and low-residency programs, and other flexible options.

[READ:3 Tips for Choosing an Online J.D. Program]

Here are four key aspects to consider in deciding whether to pursue a law degree on a part-time basis.


A typical full-time J.D. program takes three years, although some law schools have begun to offer two-year accelerated programs in recent years. In contrast, part-time programs generally take four years.

However, many schools are willing to tailor such programs to student needs. Some allow part-time students to finish in three years if they take summer courses. Students seeking a lighter course load may be able to stretch their program over five years or more.

Rather than make assumptions, aspiring part-time law students should think carefully about the workload they can manage and look for programs that fit their schedule. Don’t hesitate to reach out to admissions offices with any questions about options for part-time scheduling.


Because part-time programs tend to take longer to complete, the financial burden of your legal education is spread out over a longer time frame.

Moreover, working during law school — even part time — can help offset educational expenses.

[READ:How to Decide Whether to Work During Law School]

For these reasons, part-time law school can be one way to reduce educational debt.

On the other hand, part-time students may not be eligible for academic scholarshipsthat can help lower costs. Spending more time in school and less in full-time employment can increase the overall cost of legal education.


Attending law school part time can give students a more manageable workload, which can make it easier to perform better and get more out of classes. However, there are downsides.

Because they may be taking different classes than full-time J.D. students, or going to campus on a wholly different schedule, part-time students may feel less involved in extracurricular campus activities like journals, clinics, moot court competitions and student organizations.

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

Part-time students may also have reduced access to on-campus interviews and other employment resources.

Most significantly, part-time students committed to work or classes in the summer may not be able to secure summer clerkships and legal internships, which serve as a steppingstone to postgraduate employment.


Part-time programs are generally easier to get into than full-time programs. Since part-time programs are more geared toward applicants in the workforce, their admissions committees can be more lenient toward applicants with low undergraduate grades or underperformance on the LSAT.

Unfortunately, lower selectivity can signal less prestige. Graduates of part-time programs may be viewed more skeptically by potential employers. Moreover, the schools that cater more to part-time students tend to be less well-known, with some notable exceptions.

For all these reasons, applicants should carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks to determine whether a part-time legal education meets their needs and serves their best interests.

If you feel unsure, consider applying to both full-time and part-time programs. You may even be able to transfer from a part-time program to a full-time program if you maintain high grades. In that way, you can ease into a law school experience while still ending up on even footing with full-time peers.

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Part-Time Law School: The Pros and Cons originally appeared on

Update 02/27/23: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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