Grad School Student Stories: Christiaan Stone, JD

A glimpse at one man's real-life experiences studying to be a lawyer and earning his JD.

You survived the undergraduate process, and now you’re ready to further—or change—your career. A great means to that end is graduate school. If you’re like many people considering this fairly momentous decision, you’re probably wondering what the experience is like. Often, it helps to talk to someone who’s been there. So that’s what we did.

Name: Christiaan Stone

Graduate school: Western New England University (then College) School of Law

Degree: Juris Doctor (J.D.)

Duration: September 1996 to May 1999

Full or part time: Full

In person, online, or both: In person

Current occupation: Assistant Manager, Labor Relations, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Why grad school?

I graduated from UMass Amherst with a degree in history and found myself completely rudderless. So, I took a year off and decided to pursue my interest in a career in law.

How did you find the right program for you?

I found one that was affordable and near the people I love.

Did you engage in graduate student life activities and if so, what?

I was newly married and worked 40 hours a week, so time for that was limited.  

Did you have a fellowship or assistantship, and if so, what was your experience like?

I worked for both the management side of the United States Postal Service as well the American Postal Workers’ Union. In my experience, I learned that in any argument, the side you’re on aren’t necessarily the angels like they seem to be, nor is the opposition the devils we believe they are.

Did you study something different from what you studied in undergrad, and if so, why?

No, I studied early American History, focusing on the History of the Constitution.

What were some of the biggest differences you noticed between your undergraduate and graduate studies?

Life was more expensive! My colleagues had more focus, more drive, more money.

Did you hold a job during grad school? If so, how did you manage your schedule?

I held three jobs averaging 40 hours a week. I managed it through caffeine and the support of my wife.

What effect did attending graduate school have on your career?

It introduced me to labor law, which I love, and brought me to MIT, a great place to work!

What would you do differently?

Nothing. I am in a good place.

What advice can you offer students pursuing a similar program?

It’s cliché, but don’t settle; don’t pursue graduate school because there’s nothing else to do. Find the thing you love to do and do that and figure out how to make it pay.

Any advice regarding paying for school and pursuing financial aid?

Seek private scholarships and consider nonprofit and government work; they provide real-world experience in interesting subject matter. They pay dividends almost immediately   

Bonus question! What was your favorite class and why?

I loved First Amendment law and copyright law because I was fascinated by the concept of a nation that was founded on the principle that in a free society, words and ideas should be protected.

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