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Six Tips for Balancing Law School and Family

Law school is a challenging experience. When a student has a spouse or children, the challenge is even greater.  However, with careful planning, law students with families can successfully balance both family and school.  Here are 6 tips to help you achieve balance.

  1. Prepare the family. To minimize the impact on your family, before classes begin, discuss with your family what everyone should expect.  Figure out as a family what strategies will be put in place to ensure that the family continues to spend time together, continues to function as a family, and that everyone’s needs are met.  Take your kids on a tour of the school.  Show them the classrooms where mommy or daddy will spend time.
  2. Make a schedule and stick to it. Every law student should have a schedule.  For the law student with a spouse or children, the schedule should not only include details about class time and study time, it should also include family obligations and family fun time.  For scheduling to be effective, you must stick to it.  Of course there will be occasions when the schedule will need to be modified.  However, due to the amount of work required by law school, coupled with the importance of attention to the family, the schedule should be closer to the “written in stone” type then the flexible type.

In addition, make sure all members of the family who are old enough to understand are aware of your schedule.  Post a weekly schedule on the refrigerator so that kids can easily read it and understand mommy or daddy’s availability.  And do not forget to schedule date nights with the spouse or significant other.

  1. Study at the Library. Preparing for class and exams requires focus.  While it may seem like a good idea to complete schoolwork at home in order to multi-task– cook dinner and outline cases, or to generally be accessible to family, ultimately doing so will result in a loss of efficiency.  When planning your schedule, plan a certain amount of time to work away from home at school or at a library.  During that time, focus and get your work done.  Then, when you do get home, you are more likely to be able to fully attend to your family.
  2. Find good, dependable childcare. Finding the right childcare is essential.   You want your children to be well taken care of and safe.  Moreover, you do not want to have to skip class, miss a study group session, or leave the library early because your child care arrangement has collapsed.  Consider the different options available to you such as private day care centers, home-based child care, family, friends and nannies.  Figure out what is the best, most dependable arrangement within your budget.  Then find a back-up resource.
  3. Know that you cannot do it all. Many of the household responsibilities that you easily handled prior to returning to school may now need to be shared among other family members. Children may have to do a few more household chores. Older kids may have a little bit more responsibility for helping their younger siblings.  Even if you have a spouse or significant other to share family responsibilities, you may also need to enlist the help of family and friends to occasionally help with childcare or errand running.
  4. Visit student services. Contact your school’s student services office.  Many schools offer special services for students with children and spouses.  The services range from special housing, to childcare services, to counseling.  The student services office may also have contact information about local agencies who can provide additional services and support.
  5. Speak to your Professors. While it is common for graduate level students to be married with children so that it is not necessary to let your professors know, it is wise to let your professors know about extraordinary situations such as a child who is very ill.  Your professor can then let you know about options available for extending deadlines for papers, missing class or rescheduling exams.

 

 

 

 

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