History and Law School: An Ideal Match
If you’re considering law school, a degree in history can guide and embolden your path.
History students hone valuable and transferable skills for a multitude of industries and professions, including the law. At the top of the list are critical thinking, factual analysis and reasoning — all essentials for law school.
“As I have told scores of future lawyers, there is no better preparation for the rigors of law school than a history degree,” says Steve Lechner, a former litigator and current assistant teaching professor of history at NC State. “Let’s talk about it. Anyone who is interested is welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Meredith Criner exemplifies this ideal match. Criner earned a bachelor’s degree in history from NC State before enrolling at Duke University’s School of Law. After graduating from Duke Law in May, Criner will serve as a judicial law clerk with a Federal District Court judge and then with a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
We chatted with Criner to learn more about how her undergraduate studies prepared her for law school.
How is a History Degree Valuable for Law School?
My history major prepared me well for what others found most difficult.
As a history major, I already read hundreds of pages of material a week — from books to shorter, first-hand pieces and essays. And you also learn to think about sources and conduct factual analysis. You question who wrote the piece, what was the time period, did the date or weather matter, and different kinds of factual analyses like that.
How are History Degrees and Law Degrees Connected?
This questioning of sources from history is very similar to analyzing cases in law school, in order to understand judges’ conclusions and how the law will move forward on new issues like novel technologies, fourth amendment searches and seizures, and things like that.
Which NC State History Classes Did You Find the Most Valuable?
NC State has really great, specific classes on Constitutional history that put me ahead on Constitutional law — and already understanding the history around the foundation of our country.
I think through American history classes and comparative history classes, you can see what’s unique about our history.
Would You Recommend a History Degree to Students Considering Law School?
Understanding history, particularly Anglo-American and English history, would benefit any law student. And I would recommend anyone going to law school to be a history major.