I spoke to a few PT students here, and was on the fence about FT vs PT. I actually almost emailed admissions and told them to downgrade my combined app to only PT, but when they admitted me to PT it sealed the deal for me.
First, I want to say that as a 3E I am a big proponent of the PT program. Please don't take the following as me trying to dissuade you from the PT program. That said, unless things have changed, you've gotten some really bad info.
The class load is "easier,"
It is easier for PT-students who are NOT working during the day. As a student who worked FT throughout LS, I don't believe the class load is easier for students who are working FT.
Something else to bear in mind is that PT students are only "locked in" to PT for the first year.
This is partially correct. You can start accelerating graduation by taking additional classes following your first year in the PT program. Each class year is broken down into sections, 1, 2, & 3. The PT program is section 3. You must take all required "1L" courses with your section. Section 3 always takes the required "1L" courses in the evening. Because the PT program breaks the 1L courses up over two academic years, Section 3 students must continue take some classes together in the second year of the program. In that sense you continue to be "locked in" to the PT program beyond the first year.
More importantly, for students accelerating graduation, the registrar and/or OCS will NOT allow you to change your anticipated graduation date until you are within thirty credit hours of graduation. PT students matriculating this fall will enter as the class of 2016. The school will designate you as a 2016 JD candidate until you reach 57 credit hours. You won't be allowed to change your anticipated graduation to c/o 2015 until that point. There is no way to enter school as c/o 2016 and get to 57 credit hours in time for OCI for the c/o 2015. This is important because, if I'm not mistaken, Symplicity (the OCS job system that controls OCI) is based on your graduation year. The computer system will lock you out of even participating in OCI if you don't have the right graduating year designation. In this VERY, VERY important sense you are "locked in" to the PT program beyond the first year.
You could catch up to the c/o 2015 in time for 3L OCI, but that isn't worth the effort.
They even offer summer classes in the evening, so that the PT students can catch up to their FT peers and be on equal footing for OCI eligibility and all that.
This is incorrect. As a PT student in the c/o 2016 you will have 21 credit hours at the completion of your first year. FT students in the c/o 2015 will have 31 credit hours at the completion of their first year. The maximum summer course load you can take is seven credit hours. The following link takes you to the course list for summer 2011. It is impossible to get more than seven credit hours out of that schedule (note that you are ineligible for clinics as a 1E):http://www.law.smu.edu/Registrar/App/Upper-Class-Courses.aspx?Term=Summer-2011&Year=2
I also seem to recall OCS telling us that you have to have at least 31 credit hours to participate in OCI. I don't see how you can possibly get to that number in time for OCI if you are accelerating graduation (perhaps you can get ten credit hours in Oxford?). ETA: I am not sure how they make this interact with Symplicity, but I do know that Symplicity is based on your graduating, a classification the school seems unwilling to change until it is clear you will graduate at an accelerated pace.
Also, an important caveat you seem to be missing is that accelerating graduation makes it really tough to get the benefit of LR in time for OCI. You could possibly get that benefit for 3L OCI, but, again, I don't think that's worth the effort.
I am not trying to dissuade you from the PT program. I am a strong supporter of the program and would absolutely do it again. I just want to make sure you are going in to this with all correct information.
Search my post history for a detailed posting on the positives and negatives of accelerating graduation. Long story short, accelerating graduation makes sense for people that are not likely to get something out of OCI. For people likely to get something out of OCI it is best to stay the course with the PT program.