Should You Work During Your First Year of Law School?

One of the questions that I get asked all of the time is if you should work your first year of law school. I worked throughout my entire first year, including winter and summer break and it was not overwhelming to me. Other students I was in class with also worked and said that at times they were completely overwhelmed and stressed out. So, my advice of whether to work or not really depends on a few things.

First of all, the American Bar Association forbids first year students from working more than 20 hours per week. They do this for a good reason as working more than 20 hours and going to school full time can be grueling. 

Personally, I felt that I absolutely needed to work to earn money. I was also used to working everyday in college so I did not think that it would be difficult to get used to. I decided to work on Fridays when I didn't have class from 9-5. I didn't make much money working one day a week, but it was enough to pay for groceries and to go out on the weekends.

To me, this was not overwhelming. I finished most of my homework during the week and after class so there is not much I had to do on Fridays. I will admit that I was jealous of my classmates who had a free day to do whatever they wanted on Friday, but you have to do what you have to do. One of the biggest things for me was managing my time. As long as I finished my tasks for the weekend before Friday, I was good to go.

My boss was also very flexible throughout the year and if I needed to study or had too much on my plate, I could take off. This was key to staying on top of my school work and was one of the reasons I never felt overwhelmed with working.

I also often went out after class on Thursdays, because most people didn't have anything they needed to do on Friday, so one of the worst parts was showing up to work hungover. Besides that, I have no complaints.

I had other classmates that had to work almost 20 hours a week. While this doesn't sound like a lot, when you go to class full-time, working 20 hours on top of that can be more than some people can handle. She would always tell me that she was really stressed out, that she didn't want to go to work, and she did not know when she was going to have time to get her work done.

So my advice is that if you are going to work your first year, make sure it is somewhere you are going to get paid. If its unpaid, it may not be worth the stress and the time it takes away from your studies. You will have the opportunity to work during the winter and summer to learn from an internship or unpaid externship.

On top of that, make sure that the job is flexible and you can take off when you need to study or have a lot of homework you need to complete. You most likely will not want to work during finals as you should spend most of your day studying.

My other piece of advice is to work when you have a day off or a short day of class and don't work everyday of the week. Personally, I think 20 hours a week your first year might be a little too much. 8-12 hours seems to be the perfect amount to be able to get your work done and also make some money.

The key thing to consider is whether or not you will feel overwhelmed or not. If you are someone who manages your time well and gets your work done right away then I am sure you will be fine working. If you are someone that puts off your work and procrastinates, working may not be the best option for you.

Overall the 3 main things to keep in mind are: Flexibility, Stress Level, and Productivity. If you maintain all of these things, then working will be a great way to make money during the year. Just remember to not overwork yourself and take much-needed breaks.

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  1. Where I went to law school, we weren't ALLOWED to work during 1L. Pretty crazy. Then again, I'm glad I didn't.


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