News & Features
Law student-parents balance books and babies
(Oct. 28, 2013) Last May, Tim Surdyk had four final exams to study for and two papers due. That's enough to keep any law student up at night. But it was just a small fraction of his busy month.
He also had to factor in eight track meets, the SAT, an AP history exam, lifeguard training, three doctor appointments, one dentist appointment, two sleepovers, one piano recital, and the start of summer swim team. And, to top it all off, he had surgery on his left arm at the end of the month.
Surdyk, 49, is not only a law student but also raises four kids, aged 17, 15, 11, and 9. Since his wife passed away in 2009, he's been a solo parent. Somehow, he manages to keep track of everyone's schedules. "Logistics is everything," he said. "If it's not on the calendar, it doesn't exist."
Balancing the demands of law school with the demands of raising a family can be challenging. That's why students Brianna Johnston-Hanks and Erin Lecocq, both 2Ls, founded Parents Attending Law School (PALS), a group that meets occasionally to share stories, ideas, and support.
The two moms met as first-year students in the part-time program, each one wondering if they were the only person crazy enough to attempt law school while caring for an infant. Roughly 13 percent of Seattle University School of Law's incoming 1Ls have children, on average, and it's not uncommon to see a tot or two around Sullivan Hall, or crossing the stage with mom or dad at graduation.
"I always tell my friends that my dream is to graduate with my toddler in one arm and my baby in the other," says Jake Kempton, who has a toddler son and a baby on the way in February. Kempton and Surdyk are both 3Ls in the full-time program.
But until graduation day, how do perpetually sleep-deprived parents stay awake for all ... that ... reading? "Coffee is really helpful," said Lecocq.
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