Careers in Law

Books

Law schools do not recommend that you major in any particular field as an undergraduate. But they typically do recommend developing skill in careful reading and especially writing—the precise skills that English majors develop.  For example, see the American Bar Association's online guide to Preparing for Law School.

In fact, Justice John Paul Stevens of the U. S. Supreme Court has said that “the best preparation for the study of law [is] the study of poetry, and especially lyric poetry”—the study of literature, in his view, helps students learn to analyze language, to recognize ambiguity, and to develop consistency in interpretation. (Source: College English 46 (April 1984): 333-47.)

Tiffany Wright, who in 2016 became a law clerk to Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, received similar advice. To reach that summit, Wright had to overcome a number of obstacles (including the murder of her father when she was seven and, while still a child, having to live for a time with an aunt who was hooked on crack). But when she was in second grade, she met the lawyer overseeing her father’s pension and insurance, and when she asked him what she needed to do to be like him, he told her the key was to read a lot and become a good writer.  As described in a profile of her in the Washington Post, “The little girl found a library and asked for all of the ‘hard books,’ and she came back with ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ ‘The Great Gatsby,’ ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ and dozens of others that would consume her childhood.” Reading literature, and then writing, turned out to be crucial.

The department regularly offers a course in Legal Analysis and Writing.