The Judicious Balance of School and Family Walking by a study carrel in the law library, it would be easy to mistake Joshua Lute for just another student preparing for class. But the self-possessed 26-year-old is not your ordinary law student. Lute, a second-year student at the College of Law, deftly balances his school work with a home life that includes a wife and four children. Despite his many responsibilities, Lute has been highly successful; he is ranked in the top of the class of 160 students.
with the family. After dinner, Lute spends time with his children before putting them to bed — then is back at the books again. Although he spends six to eight hours studying on Saturdays, he tries to devote all of Sunday to the family.
ute decided to go to law school in part because of the pressing need to support his growing family and because of his interest in dispute resolution. After earning his undergraduate degree from Oregon State University, Lute worked for the district attorney’s office in Corvallis, Ore. Lute said it was difficult to leave the security of a position with benefits in order to enter law school. But he and his wife, Melanie, decided that going to law school made good sense in a number of ways. It was a risk they were willing to take because it meant pursuing a dream they had for their future.
This past summer, Lute took advantage of the College of Law’s close proximity to the state government complex and clerked in the Special Litigation section of the Trial Division of the Oregon Department of Justice. Lute said he enjoyed his clerkship because he is interested in learning more about what he calls the “practical part” of law. He also enjoyed seeing how the law he has learned in school is translated into legal issues that are part of real disputes. Lute’s goal after graduation is to clerk for a federal district court judge.
Lute credits much of his success to Melanie, who stays home to care for their twin boys Nathan and Jeremiah, 4, and their daughters Anna, 2, and Samantha, 8 months. Lute said Melanie works harder than he does, raising their children and performing the household duties. He understands that her job is difficult — especially when he is gone for long hours. He said she is a “phenomenal support” to him and that he could never have gone to law school without their strong partnership.
Although Lute said that for now he and Melanie are more limited in terms of the time they have for each other, he knows their investment is worth the price. One thing seems certain: Thanks to Lute’s success balancing work and family, he should have some great opportunities in his future. — Kathy T. Graham
His other secret to success has been to treat his classes and his time preparing for them like a job. His routine is to go to school early in the morning every day of the work week and to return home at 5 p.m. for dinner
Kathy T. Graham is associate dean for academic affairs and a professor of law at Willamette University College of Law.
Willamette’s Pioneering Law and Government Program