Why Study Classics? Law
Students study the Classics as strong preparation for law school.
- “Law schools report that by yardsticks of law review and grades, their top students come from math, the Classics, and literature - with political science, economics, ‘pre - law,’ and ‘legal studies’ ranking lower.” (Harvard Magazine, May-June, 1998, p. 50) (cf. “The Value of a Liberal Arts Education” [Harvard])
- “I finished law school Nov. of ‘10. Now I’m working law out in the Hillcountry (Marble Falls, Horseshoe Bay, Llano, Burnet etc.). Please tell any current SU student considering Classical studies as a major or minor that the program in all its forms would be an excellent foundation for legal studies. Of course there is the vocabulary / word-root knowledge and history, both of which are helpful for legal terms of art (e.g. ‘Res Gestae’ an exclusion to the hearsay rule), but more than that: the mental process and rigor of translating the original languages and making recitations of your translations on the spot in class is very similar to the process of reciting the often obscure and numerous rules out of case law. I found that mental process is extremely important in law school because the exams are recitations of rules (holdings) applied to new sets of facts to produce a ‘legal’ conclusions. The faster and more efficiently you recite and apply the rules, the more points the Prof. will give you on the exam. So, the only change I would have made to my SU studies looking back is that I would taken more Classics classes. I should have learned Latin! I’m sure you have heard all this before from past students…..but that is because it is true!” (Elijah McLeod ‘07)
- “Learning a language such as Latin or ancient Greek is similar to learning the law. There is a set of legal rules (grammar) which must be applied to translate the outcome of unique fact situations (original Latin or Greek texts). The skill of taking a structured language with rules, exceptions, and exceptions to exceptions and learning how to use it has provided me with a huge advantage in my legal studies. I even use similar studying methods to memorize case law and statute elements that I used to study ancient Greek and Latin.” (Aaron Blair ‘08)
- “My Classics major and the tutelage of the Classics department (and Dr. Haskell in particular, as my advisor) have served me well since graduating Southwestern. I ended up going to law school, and I now make daily use the analytical skills acquired as a Classics major in my law practice.
“I found there was much more to a Classics major than Greek myths and beginner’s Latin…. The acquired skill of careful analysis inherent to translating any language—but ancient Greek and Latin in particular, with their comparatively complicated conjugations and declensions—is especially applicable to the study and practice of law. The research papers I wrote for my Classics courses prepared me for the large amounts of reading and writing that both law school and my law practice require. When I worked as a litigator, the mechanical logic of translating helped me formulate legal theories for the cases I handled. I now have a primarily transactional law practice that involves interpreting, negotiating, and drafting contracts and legal instruments for oil and gas companies—it too is a fitting progression from my time as a Classics major.
“After I accepted a law clerk position at a firm in Austin my second year of law school, the partner who interviewed me mentioned my Classics major as one of the things that stood out on my resume…. If you choose a major that genuinely interests and challenges you, expect it to impact your career after graduation.” (John Marrs ‘03)