April 24, 2009
By Nikki Schwab
Part-time (law school) programs are available at scores of law schools across the country. Our rankings list 87 of them; one, Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich., even has more part-time students than full-time. Not all areas of the nation are equally well served, although if you live near Washington, D.C., you'll find no shortage; five of the six top-ranked schools are within 40 miles of the U.S. Capitol. Typically, part-time programs are four years instead of three; some give students the flexibility to switch into their full-time programs.
What these schools have in common is that they're tailored for the working professional.
Another thing these programs have in common: They're not easy. Not even close. . . Part-time classes usually run Monday through Thursday evenings, often with Saturday and summertime options for students who want to lighten their nighttime load. "We try to be very accommodating for the evening students, and so we try to schedule classes in such a way that they can go to class fairly easily and work full time," says John Attanasio, dean of the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University. "Evening education is not easy, period." . . .
In Dallas, when Southern Methodist's law school reinstated its evening program five years ago, it did so with the local legal community on board. Administrators stressed that their part-time students could work full time; many secure full-time legal jobs long before they graduate. Schools with evening programs help with the burden by doing the little things—keeping their administration offices open later, scheduling extracurricular activities, even having a monthly pizza night so students can socialize.
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