preLaw - Winter 2011 - 32
BY REBECCA LARSEN
f you’re thinking about part-time law school, the statistics say you’re probably in your late 20s or early 30s or older and already have a career underway. Perhaps you want to junk that career, or maybe a J.D. can help you get a promotion or enhance your status in your current job. Even if you’re right out of undergrad, the idea of part-time (usually evening) law school means that you can work full-time and cut down on those dreaded law loans. But wait a minute. If law school is as tough as they say, is it too big a challenge for a human being to take on job and J.D. at the same time? The challenge is huge, but can be handled. One part-timer with an ongoing career is Matthew Dexter, 41, graduating in May after four years at South Texas College of Law in Houston. His experience seems to sum up the highs and lows of part-time law. “As a police officer in Houston, I spend a lot of time in court, and the district attorneys encouraged me to go to law school,” Dexter said. “But it has been hard. When you’re 40, you’ve already 32
It’s not easy, but part-time students find a way to make it work, and many schools are making it easier than ever to go to school part-time.
got a life and a career, and it’s difficult to balance school with an existing career. I had graduated from undergrad in 1993 so when I started, I had been out of school 14 to 15 years.” He starts work at 7 a.m. and puts in 45 hours a week on the vice squad fighting prostitution, pornography, gambling and organized crime. His classes run from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. on weeknights. He takes nine hours a semester and goes to summer school. “There are just not enough hours in the day for all of it,” he said. “It’s like trying to drink a tidal wave through a straw. I tend to do all my schoolwork on the weekends, though I do study from 11 p.m. to 12 a.m. at night after class. I try to take three or four days off right before exams.” A girlfriend and a mortgage? Yes, but no children. “I consider it fortunate I don’t have kids,” Dexter said. “Other students do, and I don’t know how they do it.” Even so, he’s given up taking vacations and day trips on his motorcycle, and hosting Thanksgiving dinner at his house. But he is excited about that J.D., and once he passes the bar,