Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pregnant / having kids in law school

A reader asked: I am planning on attending law school as a 1L in the fall but I just found out I am pregnant and would be due in October of my first year. I am now discouraged. When I saw your blog I was encouraged. I was wondering if you had children while in law school and how you managed that?

My reply: I had an 18 month old when I started law school with a husband in Iraq. I can talk to you about it at length, but it is not quite the same.

A number of women bloggers had babies while in law school -- four spring immediately to mind:

http://lagliv.blogspot.com/
http://magiccookie.blogspot.com/
http://ceepalmer.blogspot.com/
http://attyworkproduct.blogspot.com/

Cee and Magic Cookie each took a semester off and graduated a semester late. Lag Liv and Attorney Work Product graduated on time (I think). All were employed upon graduation, all four are married. However, you'd have to read their respective archives to understand how they did it. They each faced very different challenges bringing their babies into the world while law students. They are amazing, inspiring, clever and wonderful women and reading their blog archives would be a great way to spend an afternoon.

But NONE of them did it first semester 1L. They had summer, 2L or 3L babies.

1L is stressful. It is wonderful. I'd do it again. But it is the most important year and you need to be able to commit fully to it.

Advice, since you asked for it: I would defer admission for a year. Seriously. It is much easier to start law school with a 10 month old than to give birth right before 1L first semester finals.

I am going to poll the MILPs and see if they wish to add their insight in the comments -- they might disagree with me.

Also:

The Weekly MILP (Moms In the Legal Profession) Roundup is hosted on a rotating basis between PT-LawMom, Butterflyfish, and Attorney Work Product blogs. We originally rounded up just the moms in law school, but then discovered that those women eventually graduate. Who knew? So now all the moms in the legal field (heh... MILFs) are represented. We aim for Sunday posts.
See the past Round Ups at my other blog here.


(pregnant in law school; baby in law school; pregnant law student; pregnancy law school; infant law school)

23 comments:

Cee said...

ooh, that's a tough one! I took a semester off to have my baby (first semester of 3L year). I LOVED having the whole four months to devote to my baby without lawschool. Law school is hard but managable as a new parent. But there is something about 1L year that just seems to overwhelming and scary. You have to LEARN how to be a law student AND learn the rules of law- it's not like being a normal student. I wanna say you can make anything work if you try but I feel like it will be a really (extra) stressful time working on very little sleep and high emotions (postpartum + feeling like a lawstudent failure is inevitable at first).

Good luck with your decision- only you really know what's best for you but if it was me, I'd try to defer. Your baby is only a newborn for a short time and you might feel better about putting off law school (if that's possible) than missing out on quality time with your little baby!

Cee said...

Let me also say that if you have A LOT of support at home- you can probably pull it off. Do you have a significant other or parent who can take the baby when you need to study (which will be a lot!) who will help with the multiple midnight feedings? If so, then maybe you can do both just be prepared for a hard first year- and that's where blog networks are very comforting and helpful!

Cecilia said...

I took spring of 2L year off. I would actually second the advice to possibly wait a year if you can. 1L year, at least for me, was just so critical because you're really learning how to do it.

Also, and this is going to sound bad, and certainly I dont mean it to, but I feel it's important advice - what school you're going to, might change my opinion. If your school is good enough that your grades don't matter (e.g. a lot of the top 10 schools do pass/fail first year), then that would make it a fair bit easier (it would take the pressure off, that first semester) than if you're needing to be in the top half of your class as a lower school.

CM said...

I hate to dissuade you from starting law school, because you've probably been getting excited about it. But I agree with all the other advice (except I have to differ with Cecilia a little -- I think your performance 1L year matters no matter where you are and lays the foundation for the rest of law school). The first few months with my newborn, I was so sleep-deprived that I could barely have a coherent conversation. I have one amazing friend who was sitting in her seat in Corporate Tax two weeks after giving birth, but even those two weeks 1L year would be really difficult to miss. If you can, delay -- being a new mom and being a 1L are both huge adjustments, and I think you could really enjoy both if you took them one at a time.

That said, if there's no alternative, it will be really hard but with a lot of support from both your school and your family you could make it work.

I'll point you to one more blog: http://transmogriflaw.typepad.com/transmogriflaw/archives.html

She had a baby at the end of her 1L year and was pregnant during 1L.

CM said...

(P.S. - just read over my comment and realized it could be shortened to, "What Cee said.")

Andrea said...

I agree with Cee and CM. I had my baby 3L year during our 3-week winter term where I had a "writing credit" (no class) and graduated on time. It only worked because during spring semester I took the minimum units I needed to graduate, including pass/fail clinical credits I set up with a former employer to do as research from home, essentially quit all my extracurriculars except one, took evening seminars, and had my wonderful husband there to be with the baby when I was in those evening classes. And I was still tired and sometimes pumped milk on class breaks in a school bathroom.

I'd absolutely do it again, but only during 3L year. 1L would have been too much mentally, and I wasn't even a person who was trying very hard to get great grades. (I also had no family support because our parents live elsewhere.) Lots of luck.

Katie Luper said...

I got pregnant fall of 2L, had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and had to take a medical withdrawal which was really expensive and emotionally draining. So I know that's a total downer and I hate to be "ms. worst case scenario" but I would maybe put it off at least a semester in case things like bed rest or babies wanting to come early. I know my school was really accommodating of my circumstance and I'm sure even as an accepted student, the school will work with you!

Dinei said...

I'm a pregnant 2L, and I have to say that if it was me I'd defer law school. Others have made it work, though, so I can only go off of my experience.

My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage 2 weeks before finals in Spring of 1L year. It totally wrecked my grades and I spent a while recovering, mentally and academically.

This time around I dealt with some killer fatigue during 2L fall finals and just now came off of almost 3 weeks of bedrest because of an unexplained hemorrhage (woo!). Strangely enough, I've had my best grades yet under these circumstances. Go figure.

1L year was by far the most stressful - everyone around you is crazy, you don't know what to expect from finals or your grades. It's a lot of work. Having a baby before finals can be done - it's just that first semester of 1L year is probably the hardest time to do it.

I took some summer classes to build up extra credits, which I totally recommend if you can. They were some of the best courses I've taken in law school, and now I can take 2 very easy semesters 3L year and still graduate on time.

Hope that helps!

A's mama said...

Oooh, I might be the minority on here but I had my baby girl the same week as my 1L finals. The pregnancy thing during 1L studies didn't seem bothersome. Although, I'm not in a prestigious school nor do I care much about being the top 20 in my class. So, I got decent grades on the finals. One note - the exams I took prior to having the babe were MUCH better, the finals immediately afterwards (like two days after shooting out a baby) were rough...

My point is that I wouldn't want to spend a full three years in law school just after having a new baby. I'm SO grateful to be graduating next semester so I will have the free time to spend my sweetpea.

In reality, you can handle it... it will be tough but law school is tough. Do whatever you think will cause less regrets down the road!

Good luck!

Zach said...

I second the comment about it mattering which school you would be attending. My law school is pass-fail the first semester, so that would certainly make it easier. I had a concussion for the last two weeks of my semester, and still passed! (Everyone passes). The time commitment is still huge, though--the pass-fail aspect just reduced some of the stress, not the workload.
I would defer if you can afford it financially.

Zach said...

oh, also that if you are currently at a job where you could get maternity leave, especially paid maternity leave or even just continued health insurance--stay there! Be careful of deferring law school and thus not being able to access the student health coverage.

LL said...

I always start out by saying that you can make anything work. And, in so many ways, being a pregnant law student is a lot easier than being a pregnant attorney (which I am now; I had my first baby in between 2L and 3L year). But "making it work" will involve sacrifices on both the student and mother side of things and only you know what you're willing to give up.

I had my son a few weeks before 3L year began. I didn't want to take time off and don't think I would have changed that opinion even if I'd been due in the middle of a semester. My recovery was very quick and easy and I was running errands and feeling fine about a week after delivery. My son, however, was in the NICU for 2 weeks and had various medical issues throughout his first year. I had a picture perfect pregnancy and never would have expected those difficulties, and they definitely made school tougher. I think that's the biggest challenge- you just don't know what your delivery and your baby's infancy are going to be like. It helped tremendously that I was at a small top 10 school, that I already had a job, that the stock market/legal market hadn't crashed yet, and I had an extremely involved husband.

As for 1L year specifically- it really is harder than the other years. You're learning to be a law student on a very sharp learning curve, and you're making the friends and building the network that will help you get through the next 3 years. I could not have done as well 3L year with my baby without my law school classmates behind me- I also wouldn't have had nearly as much fun in between the medical stress and the studying. (Family nearby would be a huge help, we just didn't have any so my law school friends made all the difference in the world for us.)

I don't know what I would do in your shoes. I think, knowing me, I would probably push ahead, start school, have the baby, and ignore anyone telling me I shouldn't. And I probably could have done it, but in the interest of complete honesty and knowing what I know now, I think I might have regretted it later.

But my first sentence is still true and I wish you the best of luck!

Lauren said...

I saw this post linked on LagLiv's blog. I am a lawyer and I had 2 kids before I started practicing law. I became pregnant during my first year of law school and my first baby was born during my second quarter of my 2L year of law school. I was pregnant for my 1L summer associate job at a law firm in NYC. I graduated on time, taking fewer credits the quarter my daughter was born. The ONLY way it "negatively" affected my law school career was that I was unable to participate in the law review write on - I was very sick with morning sickness at the time of the competition. But it didn't really matter that much - I ended my 2L summer with offers from two law firms and really didn't need it. My grades were also pretty good.

Then, I had another baby right after the bar. I was pregnant again at the end of my first semester of my 3L year and had my second baby a few weeks before I started my alw firm job.

I would not change the timing of my children for the world. It has been 10,000 times harder to balance motherhood and a law career than law school and a law career. If I had a do over, I honestly would reconsider law school but NOT the timing of my children. I personally think that in most cases (unless you have a staff of employees or you have a stay at home husband), it is extremely difficult to balance a law career and a family in a large city.

As far as the question of whether it would be doable as a 1L? Well, as a 2L, as I noted, I had the luxury of taking a lighter load when the baby was born. As a 1L, you simply don't have that luxury. Also, when my baby was born, I already had offers from two law firms - 1 was a reunion summer and the second was an upcoming summer associate position. The economy was also great. Things were just different. I'm not sure I'd recommend having a baby as a 1L, in the same way that I would not recommend having a baby the fall of your first year in a law firm. 1L is the time to get your good grades and prove yourself. It's hard to do that with a newborn and infant.

This is basically a long winded way to say: I'd defer law school, have the baby, and then really really think about what kind of mother/family life you want to have before actually enrolling in law school. Law firm practice in a big city is VERY VERY hard and it is not for everyone. Most of my (female) friends with kids have struggled.

Proto Attorney said...

I'm a firm believer in, if you want something bad enough, you'll make it work. However, as Katie sadly mentioned, there are often things that happen that are beyond your control, and you could end up hospitalized, or confined to your bed, and have to withdraw anyway, forfeiting your first semester tuition. I had serious medical issues with my pregnancy, but I was able to still finish the semester. I popped in the middle of finals, and had to make up three of them, one over Christmas, and two when the spring semester started. ABA accredited law schools force you to attend 75% of your classes, so if you miss beyond 25% of the classes, even with a medical excuse, you can't sit for finals. On the other hand, if you can stay within those absenses, check with your law school, they might be able to video tape your missing classes like mine can (we have an awesome IT department). Absolutely consult with your law school, the dean's office, your professors, to get help. You could possibly take your finals later, or meet with professors for extra help if you're struggling. The help is there, but you have to ask for it, they aren't going to just offer their assistance. They might try to talk you out of attending this fall, but ultimately it's your decision, and they will have to help you once you're a student and have a "medical condition."

Contrary to popular belief, law school grades just do not matter as much as people claim, unless you want to work at a big firm, or are competing for some other prestigious job, such as a federal judicial clerkship. If your goal is to be a family law attorney "back home" someplace they need young lawyers, then, girlfriend, C = JD, don't work so hard, it's not worth it. Also, networking is much more important in job hunting than being in the middle of your class (which is just mediocrity), and after your first job, no one (except big law firms) care about grades, they care about experience and reputation. Being in the bottom third does not prevent you from getting a job, in fact, some of the most successful attorneys I know like to brag how bad their grades were. The only people who think grades are vitally important are the people who actually got good grades. But I'm not saying you couldn't have a baby and still be in the top 10 of your class, it just makes it significantly less likely. The people in the top of my class lived/breathed/consumed law school. One dude didn't even own a TV. Two other dudes have probably never been on a date with a human girl. Just having a spouse/life makes it much less likely you'll be in the top of your class, let alone popping out a kid. Even still, 1L classes are important because they lay the foundation for the remainder of your legal studies. If you suck at 1L subjects, you'll have a much harder time studying for the bar. So, even if you get mediocre (or sucky) grades in those classes, you really need to have a strong grasp of the material.

So, really, you're the only one who can make that decision. You know what you're made of, and you know what resources you have to help. If it'd been me, I would have deferred for a year, but I certainly had that option (I would have finished my last semester of graduate school instead, so technically, I would have still be in school having a baby).

If you do decide to start 1L this fall, you have my support, and you can contact me with any questions. I would recommend getting a head start on the semester. They always say, oh, don't start reading before school starts, you don't know what you're doing. Whatever. Like they don't spend all semester 1L Fall hiding the ball anyway. Go buy Examples & Explanations for your 1L fall classes and read them over the summer. And once your baby's born, hey, 4am is a perfect time for reading Con Law. It often makes more sense in a sleep-deprived fog.

G Love said...

I am a 1L, I have an almost-2-year-old, and I am pregnant with baby #2, due in June following my 1L year. This is the second time around, and my kid is coming in the summer, so it's a different situation from yours in many ways. Mid-October of 1L year is almost the worst you could do, dear, as far as timing goes! If your pregnancy goes swimmingly (and many do, so you will probably be just fine), well - you could *just* do it. By October, you'll have a handle on how things work in class, maybe have done a practice exam or two, so you'll know how things work. And you've still got 6 weeks til exams start, so you'll have some time to recover before the stress of exam-time study. If you make some friends and a good study group early in the semester, then they can help carry you through those few weeks you'll be out. The school may accommodate you, too, with taping lectures or something. You will be a zombie and not retain much for the few weeks after the kid is born, but first semester 1L grades don't have to be perfect - you have 5 semesters left to recover!

I worked 60 hour weeks at a job I hated when pregnant with my first kid, and had to go back to work at 6 weeks on the dot. I absolutely loathed every minute, believe that it delayed my son sleeping through the night because of the concessions I had to make with night sleeping just to stay alive.
I find law school much, much easier than working, the schedule much more conducive to parenting a small child and to pregnancy. I have found it to be way easier than I expected after hearing about how tough it is from other friends, from books, etc, and a number of my friends have, too (not all, but some). Excepting exam time, I probably study and go to class 30-40 hours a week, and I got great exam grades. I think that having a kid helped. I have focus that nobody else in my class has (except the one other other) - he's not in daycare, so I only HAVE 30 hours a week sometimes to get everything done, and half that time he's tugging on my sleeve begging me to get him juice or pick him up. I read for class, I take good notes in class, and I meet with my study groups at my house while my kid is napping once every two weeks. There is no time for extra, and so I don't get distracted. Also, a lot of my younger classmates go out drinking and partying several nights a week with friends. That's what grad school is for, and it's fun, but I'm sure it also takes a lot of their energy and time. I go to bed at 10 or 11, get up with my kid at 7, and of course right now don't drink at all. This enforced schedule also helps keep me healthy and focused (although, sigh, it is much less fun).

I am so glad I'm having this kid now, and I plan on popping out #3 during my 3L year if my body can handle it, because I never want to work while pregnant again. So in short, I'd say - if you are a go-getter and you feel (a)confident in your abilities to adapt to a new academic environment, and (b) healthy and strong, and (c) you have a lot of family/friend support - then do it. October, November, and December will supremely kick your ass, but you won't die.

Also, if you do go, prepare ahead in the summer. I read Planet Law School, by Atticus Falcon, and read all the stuff he recommended before I started. He has good tips for preparation. I found that reading ahead gave me a good foundation for class, even though half the stuff we didn't even cover. It just got me in the mindset of "thinking like a lawyer" before I had to do it in class. I don't know if it helped me do well on exams, but it sure helped me feel confident in class, like I knew what I was doing from day one.

Good luck. Feel free to email me if you have further questions . . . reluctantgillian@gmail.com. Either way you decide, you're going to be just fine, so don't let this decision terrify you.

Me said...

Does your school offer a Spring entry? Perhaps you could do that. Otherwise, if this is your first pregnancy, I would agree that you should defer. I haven't started 1L yet, but I was laid off from my full-time job at 6 months pregnant. Looking back, I am so grateful I was laid off. In my third trimester I had trouble focusing and remembering things. Definitely not something you want with exams looming ahead. I was also SOOOO tired, something you will have anyway in 1L, but not to the extremes you will have while being pregnant AND a law student. Congrats, and good luck!

Butterflyfish said...

I have the most amazing blog friends. Thank you, everyone. I do hope the writer of the question will take the time to read all of your insightful comments.

Katie said...

I had my daughter the May before 1L, and she was 3.5 months old when I started. I am a 2L now, so I can't speak to the career part, but I thought 1L with a small person was not that bad, and completely worth it - honestly, the hardest part was being on the time schedule with the nursing (my daughter was exclusively breastfed, so we had a very strict schedule - eat at 7AM, go to school, pump at 10 and 1, home by 4 to nurse), but in some ways it was really nice- I got to make sure to see her, even during finals, and the only thing I think I really missed out on was socializing - I did less of that. I think that if you have the right support network it is totally do-able.

Honestly, I find parenting a 21-month old while in law school quite a bit harder than an infant. My husband is at home with the baby during the day (he travels on weekends for work but doesn't have strict time commitments during the day) and it is much harder to schedule work around her than it was when she was little. During 1L, no one cares about your time, but it's incredibly scheduled and that's it. My daughter went to a couple of mandatory 1L lunch speakers and one Constitutional law class (in her Ergo, and slept through it), and otherwise there was no problem scheduling. 2L year, with law review, jobs, events, and such, there are way more overlapping demands on your time. I am really glad that I did the first year with an infant, and not a toddler, because it was easy to adjust and just have that be part of your routine. Infants sleep, and I read while nursing, and it was nice.

That seems different than the general tenor of these comments, and a lot certainly depends on your baby (mine sleeps well, always has, and was a champion nurser and generally a "good" baby) and your family (I have a more-than-co-parent and an entire network of family in the area) and other, intangible factors, not all of which you can control beforehand. But I would do it, and still think you could do it well. I certainly don't think my grades have suffered from being a mother in law school, though I might be in the minority on that one.

LEO said...

I don't have much to say that is new or different from what the others have commented, but thought I would throw my two cents in anyway. I had a baby between semesters my 3L year (on Christmas actually). I went back to school when he was 17 days old, graduated on time and had a job lined up. It wasn't always easy, but I couldn't imagine having a baby every being totally easy. In general, I'm a HUGE proponent of having a baby in law school, but in your case, I think I would try to defer or skip it.
1L is infinitely harder/more stressful/time consuming than 3L. Even if it used to matter where you went to school, I think no one is guaranteed a job these days with the market in the shitter. I'm sure you could do it (i.e. make it through the year alive), but I am not sure law school is something you just want to get through. You want to either do well enough to get a good job, learn something or both. I only took 10 units my last semester, but the grades were my worst of all three years. Luckily, I was ending on that note, not beginning. It's hard to bring a GPA up.
Finally, I think being pregnant during law school is a billion times easier than having a newborn during law school. My best grades (all 17 units worth) came when I was sitting for exams at 9 months pregnant. You still have control of your brain (for the most part) while pregnant, but I cannot say the same for the first few months after having a baby. Good luck!

J.M.Macelroy said...

Well I came at this from the other direction, I started my LLB at uni the week my wife had our first kid (whats so hard about that you ask?). Well Im a former soldier and my wife a NAavy nurse, so 6 months later shes off to Afghan and Im left a little confused as to what side to put the food in. Turned out well in the end though. Now end of second year, one year left then to the bar.

Juliana said...

I started law school with a 18 month old and #2 is due new years (please all going well).
I did not find 1L to be that horrific or consuming- perhaps because I had a partner and baby to worry about (and and fantastic extended family support system)
But I do think it is difficult to anticipate what becoming a mother for the first time will feel like. My baby was healthy and the birth was pretty straightforward and I was still not really ready to rock for at least a month.
A lot of this is hormonal and emotional as well as physical.
This time I feel like I am better prepared for both baby and law school.
I think it might be better to wait, though I am sure you could plow through if you are determined and a good advocate for yourself...

Camille Valdez said...

My name is Camille bruno Valdez my partner and I have been trying for a baby for over two years now, We were going to a fertility clinic for about 5 months before somebody told us to contact this spell caster who is so powerful, We contacted him at this email; arewaspecialistttemple@gmail.com , for him to help us, then we told him our problem, he told us that we will either conceive in February 2014 or March 2014,but after two years of trying we were at a point where we were willing to try anything. And I'm glad we came to Dr Dahiru, Because his pregnancy spell cast put us at ease, and I honestly believe him, and his gods really helped us as well, I am thankful for all he has done. contact him via email: arewaspecialistttemple@gmail.com if you are trying to get a baby or want your lover back. he has powers to do it, he has done mine,

Green Gables said...

At Green Gables, we believe education is a natural ‘give and take’ where we learn as much from children as they from us; that our children transform us as we transform them.
Best Pre Primary Schools in Hyderabad
Best Kids Schools in Madhapur
Secondary Schools in Hyderabad