Attending law school part time can be a tough road to travel, but for Andrea Petersen and Laura McPheeters, their friendship and the support they received from friends, family and the Faculty helped make that journey a little easier.
Petersen, 48, and McPheeters, 42, met in their first year and soon developed a close bond after realizing they shared a common story. Both are mothers, both started law school after establishing careers in other fields and both understood the struggles of balancing competing priorities of school and family.
“I remember one experience I had, it was the day of the mock trial competition and I was nervous,” said McPheeters, mother of three. “I was hoping to get to the courthouse early, but for some reason it seemed to be imperative that I fold my children’s laundry right then. I was probably the only one in my class folding laundry at that moment.”
Juggling family priorities with career responsibilities isn’t new to the duo. Prior to entering law school, McPheeters was a freelance professional cellist who performed across North America. With two young children and another on the way, she wanted a profession that would keep her in town, and law school seemed to be a good option.
For Petersen, after teaching biology and chemistry for 13 years at Vancouver Community College, she was on the hunt for something more challenging.
“I love the fact that there are so many different avenues in law that I can pursue,” explained Petersen who hopes to pursue a career in health law to complement her background in science.
On average, only about three students enter UBC’s Faculty of Law as part-time students each year. Petersen and McPheeters took nearly five years to complete their degree, which they will celebrate with nearly 180 other graduating law students at congregation this May.
“The ability to do this degree part-time is a great privilege,” explained Petersen. “I never for a second took that for granted. It’s the degree that I’m most proud of.”
As for McPheeter’s mock trial debate—she ended up winning the competition and the subsequent national competition.