There seems to be something about conquering 1L year that leads many law students to consider a life decision beyond the classroom: getting a dog. I adopted a dog at the beginning of 2L year, and many of my law school classmates did the same on a similar timeline. It makes sense—after 1L, you’ve settled into the law school routine, and a furry friend sounds like a great companion for those long hours of studying still ahead. On the flip side, law school is one of the busiest times of your life, even after 1L year (and maybe even more so!), with law review, moot court, clinics, and any other extracurriculars you’ve taken on—not to mention your job search.
So how do you know if you should give in to the dog itch or postpone your pet plans? Here are some things to consider.
Whether you’re seeking to bring home a purebred puppy or a rescue dog, it’s important to be aware of the full budgetary obligations beyond the price of the dog itself. First, there are the “startup” costs for things like a collar and leash, bedding, toys, dishes, a kennel, and more. Then there are veterinary costs, including checkups, vaccinations, and monthly tick and heartworm prevention medication. Food and treats, of course, are a recurring cost. And there are extras like training, daycare, and boarding that you may want to add on, especially as a busy law student—and a future busy lawyer. This pet budget planner is a great starting point to see how much you can expect to spend on all of these details. When you’re on a student budget that probably doesn’t have much wiggle room, it’s important to understand the full scope of what you’re signing up for.
Your Schedule: Now and Later
It’s tempting to add a dog to your life when you have the flexibility of a student schedule. You probably only need to be on campus for a few hours each day for class and other obligations—and who wants to study in the library when you could be at home, outlining on the couch with a dog curled up by your side? I can personally vouch for how calming it was to have my dog next to me as I struggled through the exceptions to hearsay, but I had always preferred to study at home. If you’re someone who prefers to be on campus for most of the day, ask yourself if you’ll really be okay trading in some of that time to be at home with Fido. You’ll need time for training, walks, playing, feeding, vet visits, and relaxing with your pal. If you’re otherwise untethered, getting a dog means giving up the flexibility to have days where you can spend all day on campus, grab dinner with friends, head to bar review, and come home at any hour.
Further, you need to consider your schedule beyond law school. Getting a dog is not a decision that just affects you until graduation—it’s a decision that will follow you into the early years of your career. You might imagine a life where you work at the office from 9-5, come home, take care of the dog, and finish any work from home. But in reality, your life as a lawyer won’t always follow such a consistent schedule, especially if you start in BigLaw. You’ll inevitably have long nights at the office, unexpected commuting delays, after-hours obligations like social and recruiting events, or nights where you want to catch up with friends or partake in another activity after work. This isn’t to say you can’t have a life and a dog—it just means you’ll need to factor your dog into your everyday decision-making.
Even if you have the perfect plan in place for handling your dog on a normal day, you also need to plan for the abnormal and unexpected days. What if you get delayed at school and can’t get home to feed Fido in time? What if you need to leave town for the weekend for school or social obligations? What if you are stressed during finals, and taking care of another living creature isn’t in the cards for a few weeks? For these and any number of other reasons, there will be days when you’ll need a backup plan. If you live with family or roommates, you might have an in-home solution already. But if you live alone, you’ll need to think about who your backup caretaker will be in various situations. For a quick walk or feed, there are apps like Wag! that can help in a pinch, or perhaps you have a friendly neighbor who is willing to help. For longer time periods, consider whether you can afford the cost of boarding or you have a friend or family member nearby who could help. You’ll want to work out a variety of contingency plans ahead of time—trust me, trying to find a last-minute dog walker can be incredibly stressful on top of the pressure you already have from law school.
Getting a dog in law school can be incredibly rewarding, as you’ll have a best buddy who is there for you during the long days and late nights. But it does come with costs and responsibilities. So, before you bring that cute pup home from the shelter, make sure you’ve thoroughly considered all angles and are fully prepared to take on the challenges of pet ownership.
Unexpected events can also include naps on textbooks.
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