You’ve probably heard about that many Law Schools now expect you to have some experience in the Humanities. Whether that means double-majoring or just taking some courses in that discipline, it’s hard to understand just why you should spend your energy and time on a discipline that seems so wholly different from law. The Humanities are known for their subjective nature, and for their emphasis on different interpretations. So how will this help you as a lawyer?
There are few disciplines that depend on critical thinking skills than the Humanities. True, there are often different interpretations, whether you’re looking at the French Revolution or Heart of Darkness, but that doesn’t mean you can say or argue just anything. Like in law, you need evidence to back up your claims, as well as an awareness of other possible arguments against those claims. You need to be able to back-up your interpretations with facts and text. It is because subjects like English allow so much room for interpretation that they are so crucial, because taking classes in those disciplines will force you to consider the same exactly story or text from innumerable standpoints. To look at all angles of a conflict or character is a crucial skill for lawyers.
As you’ll surely find during your time in law school, one of the things you’ll spend the majority of your time doing is reading. Long, dense texts of law and procedure, case histories and trial transcripts. Over the course of your three years you will read tens of thousands of pages, at least. Studying the Humanities during your undergraduate career will prepare you for the kind of focus and discipline it takes to sit down and go through that much reading.
But can’t you get that elsewhere? Perhaps, although there is no subject where that level of interpretation and reading is as a core part of the curriculum. And the Humanities don’t just teach you to think critically, they teach you to feel greater empathy. Don’t forget that the real focus, ultimately, of the Humanities, is Humanity. So what?
So plenty. When you’re working in law, but especially if you become a trial lawyer, your ability to empathize will be crucial. The ability to read people, to get into their shoes and begin to understand how they think, only then will you be able to really understand your cases. This is useful for your clients as well as your opponents. It is by empathizing that you can understand motives and actions better, and be able to better predict how people will react on the stand. Law, ultimately, is about people after all. The Humanities, more than any other discipline, will prepare you for these things that law school can’t quite satisfy.