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Tom Peterson, 2L's picture

Tom Peterson is a 2L originally from Seattle, and now living in Lincoln, R.I. He is a non-traditional student, attending Roger Williams School of Law after finishing a career and retiring from the U.S. Navy. He received his undergraduate degree from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.,...

Tom Peterson, 2L's Post

The 1L Experience-- A Great "Full Time Job"

Posted by Tom Peterson on 10/08/2013 at 03:35 PM

After a full career in the Navy, as I was preparing to retire, I would always get the question, “so what are you going to do after retirement?”  I was always proud to say that I was going to be attending Roger Williams University School of Law (whew… from here on out, RWU Law) and I would always be told, “Oh, so you are JUST going back to school…”  It always struck me as a little bit of an understatement, and it always seemed that they were implying that I was going to have all sorts of time because I was “just going to be in school.”  As it turns out, it was more than just “a little bit of an understatement….”

First things first, law school really is a GREAT full time job.  The classes are really interesting, but require a lot of preparation.  In most cases, it involves reading applicable court cases and trying to understand the concepts that they represent, as well as writing case briefs on those cases to try to boil down a several page case into just a single page summary of the key facts, the court’s holding, the legal issue and reasoning…(okay, still haven’t gotten to a page yet… most of my briefs are at least two).  The good news is having looked at this like a job, I feel like I am at least keeping up with the material… so far.  So what does a typical day for me look like?

I try to get to the school by about 7:30am in time to have an hour or so to review for the day's classes and get my mind in gear.  Classes are all one-hour and fifteen-minutes long and you have to be ready and on your toes.  This isn’t like college (or at least like college was back in the early 90’s) and RWU Law, like most law schools, relies on the Socratic method that I will discuss in a future post.  Even if you aren’t on the “hot seat” and you think that you know the answer to the question that is being asked, you better feel pretty comfortable that you will be ready for the three or four follow-up questions that come right after that “obvious” answer that you wanted to volunteer.

After the morning class it is back to the library to utilize the time between classes to get as much studying done as possible.  On most days, you have about three and a half hours to work, have lunch, maybe attend a lecture or luncheon and be ready for the afternoon class.  Another hour and fifteen minutes for your afternoon class and you are already at 3:30pm.  That gives me another three hours to study before heading home for dinner, maybe a little TV and then a little more studying before heading to bed at around 11:30pm.  A full day and a full time job.  

I will say that the faculty and the staff here at RWU Law have been great in helping a “non-traditional” student get back into the swing of academics.  Whether it was the Jump Start Program over the summer before classes start (a future post), discussions after class, or during office hours, it feels like any time I have a question or concern, as long as I ask, it will get answered.  I feel blessed to have found such a great place to start my second career. 

Just going back to school, especially law school, as it turns out IS a full time job, but so far it has been very rewarding personally and I look forward to being able to share my experiences with you as I proceed through my first year and beyond.