I’ve had a lot of exciting things happen in the last few months: I was accepted at three law schools, was offered scholarships to attend law school, and graduated with a degree in English from Ball State. Yep, I’m an English major going into something other than teaching or publishing—the two occupations family and friends assume my major is good for.
My emphasis was in Rhetoric and Writing, which means I’ve learned how to analyze other people’s arguments to find their reasoning strategies, strengths, and weaknesses. I chose the major because writing and research interest me, and I was hoping that someone at Ball State could show me how to make a career out of doing what I love. As it turns out, my professors in the Rhetoric and Writing program and an advisor from the Career Services Office helped point me in the direction of law school.
I never thought I would want to be a lawyer because all I could imagine was defending criminals. Criminal defense is a noble profession, but not exactly my cup of tea. Then I did some research and found out that for every hour a lawyer spends in the courtroom, there are ten hours researching precedents and writing analyses and opinions. There are also lawyers who don’t ever have to go into a courtroom, but whose job it is to do all of the background research for a judge. Moral of the story: there is a lot you can do with a law degree and the basic skills required are the same ones you need as an English student.
When I realized this was a direction I could really enjoy, it was time to apply to law schools.
First, I had to take the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). Turns out, being an English major is a great advantage for taking that test. It’s a six-hour test that involves five sections of questions: reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, an essay, and a random section of experimental questions. We practice at least half of those every day as English majors. Reading comprehension and essay writing are kind of second nature to us.
The Logical Reasoning section may sound a little scary, but the skills you need for that section are skills very familiar to English students too. According to the LSAC.org (Law School Admissions Council), this section tests students’ “ability to determine main points of arguments,… ability to find relevant information within a text, [and] ability to analyze and evaluate arguments.” Hey, we can do that! The only other skill tested in this section is the “ability to apply logic to abstract concepts,” so that was one thing I had to study.
You can also master the Analytical Reasoning section—which is also referred to as ‘logic games’—if you just learn to read what the question is actually asking. Analytical reasoning on the LSAT is like advanced reading comprehension mixed with common sense and math skills.
To apply to law school I also had to fill out a common application and write a personal statement. These are pretty standard, but I can say that I felt confident that my paperwork would stand out.
My English degree helped me apply to law school, but I also believe that it will help make me a great lawyer. I chose my major because I love language—there is a power to our words that people often don’t take the time to realize. I am good at reading texts and analyzing them. In fact, I’m even one of those nerds who thinks research can be fascinating and enjoyable. Now that I’m embarking on the next step, I’m picking my path for much the same reasons. My love of language, passion for helping people, and background in English have shaped me into a clear communicator; someone who can analyze not only texts and speeches, but also situations; a researcher; and someone who understands the power of language. So I head off to law school with all of these weapons in my arsenal.
I never thought I would end up here, but I am confident that I can succeed in my new field because I picked a major I loved in college and worked my tail off at it, and happened to acquire some pretty amazing professional skills along the way.