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Multimedia: Students balance careers, family life and law school with unique part-time program in Oregon

January 07, 2011

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Attributes such as the ability to work closely with faculty, gain hands-on experience in clinical legal work, and study in Portland’s unique urban setting distinguish Lewis & Clark Law School from other law schools.  

Less well known, but no less exceptional, is a unique program Lewis & Clark has offered for more than 30 years. The part-time law program affords professionals and others balancing multiple responsibilities the same caliber of education as the full-time program but with more manageable course loads that can be spread out over four years.

Why part-time?

Approximately one out of every 10 law students at Lewis & Clark enrolls in the part-time program their first year. Many students are managing full-time jobs along with the responsibility of children. For other students, being able to spread the cost of law school out of four years allows for greater financial flexibility to cover expenses.

No matter what inspires students to enroll in the part-time program, Shannon Davis, dean of admissions, said the school seeks to offer an environment of support and ample opportunities for success for all students.

“The law school can be very flexible in numerous ways with regard to the schedule and taking time off if need be, but the student and his or her family and employer must also offer flexibility and support,” Davis said. “We find that, for many people, it’s workable. We know it can be done, but it’s a very individual choice as each person has different needs, responsibilities, and resources.”

Same quality program, same sense of community

Davis said Lewis & Clark prides itself on offering a high-caliber educational experience for part-time students. Unlike some law schools who lose their competitive edge by offering a part-time program, Lewis & Clark is the most selective and the most diverse law school in Oregon.

Another big misconception about part-time law school is that it means students can only attend classes at night and may end up feeling disconnected from the law school community and their peers.

“Part-time students may take classes during the day and at night, allowing them to interact with and bond with full-time students. Some full-time students also take classes in the evening,” Davis said. “Our law school community is very reflective of the Portland and Northwest communities in that people are friendly, caring, and down-to-earth. It’s an intelligent and progressive, but very laidback, lifestyle where people enjoy recreation as well as hard work. The faculty have made this an extremely student-centered place. Part-time students can attest to that sense of support, camaraderie, and access.”

In this video, part-time student Darren Nichols talks about managing a career and family life while enjoying the strong sense of community from his peers and faculty at Lewis & Clark.

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