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as a pre-law undergraduate major

Law is one of the humanities, that is, a branch of knowledge concerned with human beings and their culture. – Margaret V. Turano

10 excellent reasons to major in English to prepare for law school:

  1. "Because a lawyer's principle tools are words, a strong background in English and its uses gives [English majors] an advantage in law school work. The chief complaint of most legal educators is [about] law students poorly equipped in our language.” -- Orly R. Lilly, Admissions, Univ. of Tulsa School of Law.
  2. you get to spend your time with challenging, interesting, and enjoyable material, a situation likely to lead to an excellent undergraduate GPA.
  3. you get intense exposure to writing as a discipline, developing life-long skills in written expression: clarity, precision, persuasion (more immediate uses of this benefit: the essay section of the LSAT; the personal statement accompanying your law school application).
  4. you get training in thinking logically and critically, in assessing information rapidly and accurately, in assembling evidence, in interpretation of texts, events, facts, narratives (and the messy, complicated thing we call human life).
  5. you get numerous opportunities to practice oral articulation of ideas and concepts, to get used to “thinking on your feet,” as well as preparing material for presentation
  6. you get to spend a lot of time in the library, honing essential research skills, getting quicker and more relentless as you go
  7. literature and law mutually concern the following complicated circumstances: “human beings interact with each other, harm each other, relate to their spouses and their children, relate to the earth, and strive for power, justice, vindication, or revenge” (Turano).
  8. you get to develop a life-long habit of reading, not only for information and for data, but as a route to understanding people whose experience is other than your own; you get to start working on “wisdom,” as well on your professional expertise. (You'll need it when you are appointed to the Supreme Court). “Reading keeps lawyers attuned to the miracles language can produce, allows them to see a situation through a lens other than their own, nourishes their capacity for astonishment, and keeps them asking the right questions.”
  9. “Law schools are suspicious of narrow, specialized majors, or overemphasis in any one area of study” You'll be amazed at the variety contained in the English major these days: there is of course, the world's literatures from Homer to Toni Morrison, but you'll find yourself immersed in film studies, women's studies, issues of race and cultural difference, theatre, linguistics, creative writing, environmental issues, rhetorical theory, mythology, and so on. “Those who have been given the gift of words (Charlotte Brontë, Thomas Hardy, Zora Neale Hurston, the Psalms poets, to name a few) … give us access to the enormity of life” (Turano).
  10. you get the services of the best writers of letters of recommendation in the University (!), your literature and writing professors, who will come to know your skills and potential very particularly, given the intense and intimate nature of the communal study of literature.

"Sydney Yates -- who I should point out is a hard-nosed prosecutor, a Cook county prosecutor, city of Chicago, he has prosecuted some of the worse criminals in US history ... -- stopped and said, and this is in the Congressional Record, 'I learned more about human nature from studying Chaucer than I learned in four years of law school.'"
-- Richard K. Emmerson, speaking at a THES panel
discussion, July 2003