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Work, Life and Law School: How Do You Balance It All?

July 11th, 2012 No comments

Troy Riddle, Multicultural Affairs Officer

Working full-time and attending law school can be a scary notion.  However,  Troy Riddle, Widener Law’s Multicultural Affairs Officer, is living proof that it can be done.  Mr. Riddle is an alum of Widener Law’s Extended  (part-time)  Division, his entry below describes his experience and tips that helped him through.

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Law school is challenging for a student of any age or academic pedigree, but I believe it is exponentially more challenging for students trying to balance a full-time job and/or family. The sense of accomplishment one feels, however, when the four year’s are over is euphoric.

As an Extended Division student, I was employed full-time as a middle manager in the healthcare industry, managing a staff of more than forty. The nice thing about my work situation, however, was that my boss and the staff knew I was in law school, and provided a lot of support and encouragement to me. This support system proved invaluable to me. Especially on those days where I hadn’t completed all of my assigned readings and needed to steal a few extra minutes at lunch time to try and cover the material before making the drive from Philadelphia to Delaware.

Four years later, it was all over, and to be quite honest, I was a little sad. I actually enjoyed law school. The rigors of legal education challenged me in ways that I didn’t know I could be. I learned a lot…not just about the law and how to craft ingenious arguments, but about life and how the world really works and how the law influences it. Because law touches virtually every aspect of human existence, it’s almost impossible to leave law school without having at least one “light bulb” moment regarding something you previously thought mundane or ordinary.
There are many ways to approach law school if trying to balance it with work and/or family.

Here are a few tips/advice I’d like to share with you:
• Don’t make any life-changing moves or decisions.
• Know that at times you’ll have more reading than humanly possible to complete.
• Know that the people you always see in the library aren’t necessarily getting the top grades.
• Understand that your family and friends won’t understand the demands being place upon you.
• Talk to your professors when you don’t understand a concept/case covered in class.
• Take as many practice exams as you can and get feedback.
• Take time for you (both mentally and physically); exercise, spend time with the family.
• Take at least one day during the week for a reprieve. (I made Friday my “me day.”)
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. (It doesn’t make you a poor law student.)

Much success to you as you embark upon what I think is the most transformative education one can obtain!

Thank you, Mr. Riddle, for sharing your experience!  If you have further questions about the part-time program please feel free to email the Admissions office at lawadmissions@widener.edu.

Here we go again.

Well the Christmas holiday has come and past.  It was a very pleasant and much needed break.  I had almost 4 weeks to recoup and get ready for Spring Semester.  Three semesters down and five to go!
While I was off, I had time to work on this Blog and study for my certification in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)  program that is held at the Harrisburg campus every year.   Volunteers provide  free income tax preparation assistance to low-income, elderly, and disabled taxpayers as well as to taxpayers for whom English is a second language. VITA assistance covers federal, state and local tax returns.  This is a great program that provides a needed service in the community and gives the volunteer valuable experience working with clients.  For more information on becoming a volunteer for VITA please follow the link.

Grades have been released for last semester and I did better than expected.  Grades normally come out the first few weeks of the next semester.  This is primarily because Ninety-five percent of the final exams are in essay form and consists of two or more essay questions.  Multiple that by twenty to thirty students per class and then consider each professor on average has two to three classes and the sum is that each Professor has many pages to read and evaluate in a very short time. I have heard from many professors that they would be happy to teach for free, but they would require considerable pay to actually grade exams.  So as you are waiting for grades to come out, the next semester is already in full swing.  Try not to worry about it and just concentrate on the present.

For Extended Division Students, the second semester of your second year is the first chance you get to choose an elective and decide your own schedule.  This semester I am taking Torts II, Civ Pro II, Professional Responsibility, and a seminar on Climate Change Law.  This means that I have class on Mondays from 4:00 pm to 10:05 pm, a two hour class on Wednesday and another four hours on Thursday.  So far it seems manageable.  My only concern is commuting to Harrisburg on Mondays.  I have exactly one hour to get from work to the campus via Interstate 78 to 81.  It is normally a 40 minute drive so any delays could be a problem.  If you will be commuting to the campus, it is always a good idea to talk to your professor at the beginning of the semester to let them know your situation and then they normally will be more understanding if you are actually tardy.  However, try not to be a habitual offender.  If you find that you are consistently late, then consider taking classes that start a little later or see if you can work out some arrangement with your employer on those days.