A history major, more than any other major, helps prepare you for law school and legal practice in one precise way: writing. Obviously, just about any field of study requires a little bit of writing. History writing imparts special skills, however.
I only recently graduated from law school, so I cannot speak from a vast array of personal knowledge of what it is like to practice. I have limited experience from my summer internships and my current one, though. One thing that has been repeated in each place I’ve worked has been that lawyers simply do not know how to write.
There are many different ways writing is used in the legal profession, but the area that a history major has helped me the most has been in persuasive writing. Just about every paper you write for a history class has a thesis. If done correctly, you end up with a story consisting of facts woven together with supporting ideas others have put forward that leads your reader to the conclusion that your thesis is right. The best briefs I wrote through law school, or for my jobs, have all been written like history papers. Sure, the form must change a bit, but at its heart, it’s a history paper that has cases cited instead of John Adams’s letters or a diary of a New England midwife.
History also constantly encourages you to expand your horizons. You have to be willing to learn about economics, sociology, political science, or religion if you want to have a full understanding of why or how something happens. At its best, law encourages you to do this as well, whether it’s learning about how a company is organized or what political situations led to the legislature enacting a certain act at a certain moment in history. The desire to learn new things, and the ability to convey them efficiently, these are skills that a history major cultivates in you.
Brian D. Bremer is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law. He is currently interning at the 9th District Court of Appeals in Akron, Ohio.