A Full-Time Working, Full-Load Law Student

This may be an impossible stunt to pull off, but everyday, there are full-time working, full-load students getting up and gearing for life.

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It is the end of the semester, another tiring semester.

For many, at last, vacation is at hand. They can now go home to their family homes or probably book a flight abroad. For a few of us, another week is just another work week – the hustle never ends.

This is the life of a full-time working, full-load law student.

The demands imposed by professors to law students are impossible to be done in 24 hours. You have to read at least two reference books, a multitude of cases, a few reviewers to tune it up, and finally, reread them all again for mastery. After mastering the cases, you have to take your pen and scribble in numerous case digests, which can take an eternity to finish. As far as the seniors’ rule of thumb go, they tell us that for every unit in law school, three hours of study must be spent at home.

There are 168 hours in a week, and a regular load in law school may be at 24 units. Following that rule of thumb, that entails 72 hours of study at home and 24 hours of law school, leaving 72 hours for everything else. 3 hours for everyday’s routine may be allotted – eating, bathing, doing some chores – totaling 21 hours a week. That leaves you with 51 hours.

51 hours. That is still a manageable time for rest. Sleeping six hours a day will consume 42 hours in a week, giving you an entire afternoon for movies and for your social life. You have to sacrifice a little of your sleep though if you have to travel far from your residence to your law school classes. Still, that’s good. That’s good. That is all well and good.

This computation left my head scratching – it failed to allot my 40-hour requirement at work. If I do account for my 8 hours of work a day, and my hour of travel everyday from home to work, work to law school, and law school to home, that would cost me 46 hours – leaving me with 5 hours for sleep, or a little over 45 minutes of sleep a day.

Basically, we are taking the load of two persons.

That. Is. Just. Crazy.

It is no myth that there are a lot of law students who are working full-time. Being all Bachelor’s degree holder, we are all already capable of earning quite well, and a few of us take the chance and earn. Frankly, being in law school may be a temporary career killer. Your batchmates are getting promoted to managerial level while you are still in a coffee shop reviewing for next week’s revalida. However, as they say, it will all be worth it in the end. Getting that “atty.” before your name will be your biggest professional promotion, and if I’ll choose between working and studying law, I’d gladly call my classrooms home.

However, it is not always a choice of A and B. For many of us who do not have the means to cut off work and dedicate ourselves fully to academics, we have to endure the business, the hustle, the daily cramming, and the hourly panic. For many of us who aren’t as privileged enough as others, we have to work – for our tuition fees, for our rent, for our daily expenses, for our meals, for our present, and for our future. For many of us whose parents will not or are not able to support our law school pursuit, it is not a choice of A and B, we have to take them both.

They say it is suicide.

Indeed, it seems impossible. Before I entered law school, I always asked myself if I can do it considering that I have a history of falling ill. Well, days passed, my first weeks at law school went through, and panic has already set in. It’s tough. It really is tough.

Every day, you wake up early to go to work. Good thing, my bosses are a little amenable with my adjusted schedule as I start at work at 7:00am instead of the usual at 8:00am so that I can leave at 4:00pm. I wake up, around 5:00am, press snooze for around 30 minutes, and finally leave my bed at 5:30am. I have myself a cup of coffee, and if time permits, have some breakfast at a nearby eatery. If time won’t permit, I may take food out. I can’t cook, my skills and time just can’t. I just need something to fill my stomach up. My work demands me to be active, to stand up and speak a lot, and to have little food to keep me up in the morning exhausts me greatly.

Well, minutes and hours pass, and at the back of every working student’s mind, while staring aimlessly at computer screens, while typing random correspondences, while answering pesky questions from clients, while attending meetings you so direly want to leave — at the back of every working student’s mind is great panic, panic of not being able to read what’s due for later’s evening class, panic of being humiliated at recitations, and panic for the piling reading backlogs.

Lunch time – finally, a break – but it is not quite a break for a working law student. Lunch time is an opportunity to finally open a law book or flip a case or two. No time wasted. Well, if it is a working lunch, or a lunch meeting, then you’re doomed, you’re forced to socialize. After all, give it to yourself, you’ve been working all morning; indulge yourself in a relaxing lunch. (And yes, we can only dream of the word “relax”)

It will soon be afternoon, and work resumes. By the time the clock ticks four, I waste no time — I pack up my things and hurriedly leave. If ever I get delayed by 30 minutes, it will suddenly be rush hour. Leaving at 4:00, I usually arrive at law school at 4:30. Leaving at 4:30, and the travel time doubles, and I’ll arrive at 5:30.

Arriving at 4:30 gives me a few minutes to compose myself. I open a book and read, but mostly, I chat with my classmates, and we exchange work-related rants. 5:00 and classes start; lucky if the professor is late. We’ll cover topics after topics, and I get increasingly worried that I cannot catch up in time for the exams.

9:00pm and classes end. For some schools, classes may stretch up to 10:00, and for some professors with an inclination for overtime, 10:30. Of course, one who has been awake since dawn for work is reasonably tired by this time. That has been more than 12 hours of grinding. However, one needs to eat dinner and to study more. No one sleeps in law school without studying. If one ever did, one would wake up guilty. By midnight, I tend to sleep, but for some, they can stay up as late as 2am or 3am.

That’s the grind on a daily basis. Saturdays are no exceptions, for I have classes the whole day at law school during Saturdays. At least, I have Sundays for rest. For some schools with classes for working students, their schedule occupies the weekend, so that is actually no rest for them — a seven-day continuous grind. 

I have been keeping up with that lifestyle for two years now, and so far, I am surviving albeit struggling. I am still a regular student taking the full load prescribed every semester, and I wonder how I manage to get thru every semester. 

Indeed, it seems impossible until it is done.

There are compromises made – I do not know the latest trend in Korean drama nor do I keep myself updated with the latest basketball scores. I have not watched a scene of Ang Probinsyano, and Sense8 is now being discontinued without me even having an idea what it is. I miss vacations. I miss outings. I tend to decline invitations to eat out.

Long weekends aren’t as long as I want. While my workmates use their leave credits to extend their long weekends, I use my leave credits during examination week. Company outings are a welcome news for most employees, but I usually not join because I have night classes to attend to.

Some are even more admirable. Moms and dads abound in law school, and it is crazy how they work, study for law school, do their parental duties, and ace law at the same time.

It is not easy, as it is not easy for a non-working law student.

For many working law student, they have opted to spread out the law school load – they plan to take the four-year program for five years just to lighten up the burden. For some, like me, I’ll try to stretch my limits and continue my course. Nothing is in a hurry, but I just want this to be over as soon as I can.

There are lapses in studying. Since I’m short of time, I try to strategize. Study subjects where the professor is strict, neglect (although not rightfully!) the subjects where the professor is lax. This practice will haunt me in the Bar, so I always try to cope up with that subject when the schedule permits. Memory aids and bar reviewers, although highly discouraged by professors, are your best friends in times of cramming – they will give you the general idea of the topics just to give you something to write on your essay. At least, you won’t get a zero for blabbing nonsense, you’ll get a few points for, at least, having the slightest idea. However, you owe it to yourself and to your Bar success to read the annotations some time later.

When it comes to study times, you force yourself to be focused, for you have no time to waste. You do not have the luxury to think that you will have plenty of time tomorrow and end up procrastinating; you’ll be forced to make use of your time wisely. I think that’s what’s good at being a working law student – you tend to value time more. You always cram, and you achieve things at a faster pace. I am not a time management master, but my recent experiences in law school is swiftly molding me to become one.

I think it is an advantage – you are making your curriculum vitae grow at twice the pace by developing two areas at a time: your professional experience and your educational background. By the time I graduate from law school, I will already have four years of work experience with me.

Well, working likewise affects your mentality. You get to mingle with your workmates of various ages, you get to talk to your bosses, and I think that makes you act professionally in school, enabling you to communicate with your lawyer-professor and with the various offices in law school more clearly and effectively. You tend to be more composed in dealing with stressful situations because stress is your daily pill. You tend to be strong against nagging professors, for you may have already faced a more nagging boss in the morning.

You tend to establish more connections at work, and finally, you have printing resources in the office. Sneak in a few coupon bonds and print in a few cases. While you’re at it, while you leave your workstation, make you sure have alt-tabbed back to that work-related Microsoft Word screen and not leave it at Lawphil’s website! I’m kidding.

Well, I take inspiration from those who have done it. Finishing law school while having a full-time work is not a novel feat – it is a difficult endeavor that has been repeated by many. It is difficult, but difficulty is not tantamount to impossibility. If they can, why can’t I? I see no reason why, and that is what’s keeping me in this tiring journey.

They say it is suicide, but I’m alive, and this is what I want inside.