Like so many other parents balancing law school and life, Emily Horjus '23 was multitasking.
She answered interview questions about her law school experience while feeding her infant son, who cooed happily on her lap. Her three other children were in the room as well, playing quietly while their father was at work. All things considered, it was a pretty average day for the mother of four.
Technically in her second year at New England Law | Boston, Horjus is one of a select few in the school’s Part-Time JD Program for Parents and Caregivers, an ultra-flexible course of study specifically for parents and primary caregivers. It means her law school experience is quite different from full-time and even other part-time students. But then again, she says she wouldn’t do it any other way.
Law school as a parent
Though her background is in education (she graduated from Boston University’s School of Education and currently works as a tutor), the idea of attending law school crystalized for Horjus after a friend had to leave the country because she couldn’t get the legal help she needed with the immigration process.
Horjus felt she had found her calling. But to make law school happen with small children at home, she knew she’d need a special arrangement. Another friend clued Horjus into the Part-Time JD Program for Parents and Caregivers at New England Law. Horjus considered the program and realized it was probably the only way she could go to law school, she says.
Step by step, the possibility of law school became a reality: Would she do well on the LSAT? She did. Would she get accepted? She did. Would she get enough financial aid? She did. And the rest, as they say, is history.
So Horjus found herself starting law school in the fall of 2017. Because of the nature of the Program for Parents and Caregivers, Horjus’s schedule changes significantly from semester to semester. At first she was taking a mix of daytime and evening classes. Then, after her youngest daughter was born following her first year of law school, she moved to all evening classes. Now she’s back to a mix of day and evening classes.
“It's kind of been all over the place but I'm able to change semester to semester based on what I'm able to get childcare for,” she says. “That's part of the appeal of the program…[it] has really just allowed me to continue to pursue what I feel like is my calling in a way that I can still maintain taking care of my family.”
Because she’s on an extended schedule, Horjus is still taking more foundational courses. But she’ll work with her advisor, Professor Monica Teixeira de Sousa (who also happens to be a mother), more when it comes time to choose electives that fit her career goals and unique law school schedule.
Making it work
As for the million-dollar question—how does she balance being a mom and going to law school—Horjus credits her husband and a strong group of friends for helping her and watching the children while she’s in class. “That’s made the difference between me being able to do this or not,” she says.
“I have a really supportive spouse…he wants to help me succeed, and not everybody has that, so I'm really lucky,” Horjus says. “There are single moms at our school that have it really hard, but they're doing a really good job.”
Horjus reminds all law students, but particularly parents, to take things one day at a time—and she means that literally. Isolate and focus on each day’s given tasks. Horjus starts the semester by using her course syllabi to plan out her work in advance; then each week she updates her planner with her assignments. Every day, she focuses on the immediate tasks at hand.
“That's been really helpful to me, to segment it into one day at a time. I don't think there's any other way I could have done it. I would have just gone crazy,” she says. “If you look ahead, you're just going to get overwhelmed.”
About the Program for Parents and Caregivers
In the Program for Parents and Caregivers, law students have the freedom to take classes based on their unique needs and schedules, working closely with an academic advisor to plan their customized course of study. They also have an extended timeline to graduate: six years, instead of the four years most part-time law programs usually take.
The Program for Parents and Caregivers at New England Law is extremely selective too. It’s currently open only to students who would not be able to attend law school without these special conditions. They must outline their homecare responsibilities when they apply to the school, and admissions decisions are made on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with the Office of the Dean.
That flexibility was critical factors for Horjus, but so was location. A longtime resident of Boston, she knew she couldn't uproot her family for law school. New England Law’s demographics appealed to her as well. “It was the first law school for women, and in terms of diversity, it is a lot better than a lot of the other law schools out there,” Horjus says. “That mattered to me.”
As for the future, Horjus is still interested in the immigration issues that drove her to law school in the first place. Now she also finds herself considering criminal justice reform initiatives and positions in legal aid.
This summer she’ll be working in an internship with Greater Boston Legal Services in their HomeStart program, receiving a stipend through the school’s Summer Fellowship Program for her work too.
Where exactly her law degree will take, she’s not sure. But for now, Horjus says she’s fortunate to have some extra time and flexibility to think about it.
Learn more about the Part-Time JD Program for Parents and Caregivers.