Last  week I attended the 100 Year Anniversary of  my alma mater  the Fordham Law School Evening Division.  When Fordham was planning an earlier reunion, Assistant Dean Robert Reilly discovered that the school didn’t even keep a separate list of evening division grads. The school regarded the day and evening divisions as equivalent programs. Everyone got the same degree. A 2012  article in Fordham Lawyer highlighted the many notable evening division grads who include the late Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman ever nominated to run for Vice President. But  law firms often take a dimmer view of night programs. Evening Law students are generally not courted by large law firms, a fact which has always baffled me. Is it not obvious that night students have a very special capacity for endurance? …. but it baffles me even more in the current legal market. 

The Night Student Advantage. In fact, night students are probably better suited to work in the today’s efficiency driven law firm than most full time students. A recent article in Law Technology News  Big Law Whipped for Poor Tech Training underscores the advantages in hiring students with more sophisticated technical experience and attuned to the need for efficiency.

Here are just a few of the advantages of evening program law grads:

  • They have a high tolerance for pain
  • They are experts at multi-tasking 
  • They have demonstrated mastery of time management 
  • They know all about working 2,200 hours a year. 
  • Their mutual need to survive makes more collaborative and they are less likely to regard classmates as “the competition.”
  • Having worked in a business environment they will arrive with  a skill set and industry     knowledge that can be leveraged in both practice and client development.
  • They likely have spent more time using their computer for Excel than for Facebook.

A Word About Teamwork One of the key characteristics of  night school students is their willingness to help each other out rather than viewing each other as “the enemy.”  They tend to have empathy for each other’s unique “juggling act.” There are the famous stories of vicious competition among day students. That is not at all common among  night students who develop a very unique bond and special forms of team work  to help other “cross the finish line.” Night students excel at  collaboration which is a touted as a key strategy for law firm success.

The Night School Grind. In retrospect I do wonder how I spent 4 years leaving home at 6 am carrying 20 pounds of books to the train, worked a full day as the Director or Legal Information  Services at Shea & Gould,  attended class and returned home at about 11 pm.  Night school is not for the “faint of heart.”  People who attend night school are not about the glory. But too often in fact we simply “get no respect.”
At the reunion, one classmate recalled going on “white shoe” firm interview. The partner asked her why she had no extra curricula activities on her resume.  When she responded that her “extra curricula activity” was her day job, he quickly ended the interview. Now she is a General Counsel in a corporation and I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself  at the prospect of the tables being turned.

Are the Tables Turning? She like many other evening grads had ended up “in-house.”  The shoe is on the other foot now as partners compete to gain favor and business from GCs.  Let’s hope she is more open minded than the white shoe partner if he shows up to pitch work to her.

In light of the market upheavals, it may be time for law firms  to seriously consider the advantages of evening  law students as strategic assets in the “new normal.”