From Philosophy to Law School

Judge's gavel on table in office
Philosophy provides students with a pathway to a career in the legal field.

Studying philosophy at SUNY Brockport has proven to be a tried-and-true path for students who want to go to law school.

“The philosophy major teaches students to think and write like lawyers,” said Joe Long, chair of the Department of Philosophy. “It’s designed to help students to develop precisely the skills necessary for succeeding in law school. Skills like analyzing complex textual material, analyzing and critiquing arguments, using logical reasoning to support a view, seeing how facts bear upon a claim, and presenting arguments thoughtfully and persuasively.”

Connie O. Walker credits philosophy for nurturing her desire to find answers.

After multiple degrees from Brockport, Walker went to Syracuse University College of Law where her undergraduate study, master’s degree, and professional history gave her a different perspective on law classes. It provided a different footing with her law professors, as her unique perspective allowed fresh outlooks on various topics.

Three Reasons to Consider Majoring in Philosophy as a Path to Law School

1. Successful Track Record

“The average acceptance rate into law school is about 45 percent nationally. But at Brockport over 90% of our majors who apply to law school are accepted,” said Long.

In addition to Brockport philosophy students nearly doubling the national acceptance rate, the American Philosophical Association found that students who studied philosophy outperform nearly every other major on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).

2. Classwork That Prepares You for Course Work

Students are required to take two courses in reasoning and argumentation. These classes teach critical thinking that allows them to apply reasoning skills to a variety of contexts.

Additionally, to be eligible to graduate each student must complete a capstone project. The project requires each student to take a deep dive into the writings of a particular philosopher or set of philosophical problems.

“This hones in on their critical thinking skills even further,” Long said.

Critical thinking is a crucial component of careers in law.

“I think what it (philosophy) really lends itself well to is it being able to and feeling free to ask questions,” said Walker, “to try to learn as much as possible when you recognize what we know is immense, but what we don’t know is as large and larger.”

Walker utilized her philosophy background as a law clerk to thoroughly analyze cases to help better inform judges. Her career included positions within the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office, Monroe County Law Department, and Rochester City Court. Walker also served as the Principal and Career Law Clerk for the Hon. Frank P. Geraci, Jr. in Monroe County, Western District of New York, and Supreme Courts.

“I think it (law clerking) is a real important part of the legal system because there aren’t enough hours in the day for a judge to do all the research, all the writing, and handle all the cases on the bench all day long,” explained Walker. “You serve a very important role. What you know gets translated into what someone else knows and gets utilized on a daily basis in resolving conflicts and cases that come before the courts.”

3. Passionate Faculty Leads to Passionate Students

“Here at Brockport, our philosophy professors are simply fantastic. They’re not only passionate about doing philosophy, but we are passionate about teaching philosophy,” said Long. “As a result, we’ve found that our philosophy majors and double-majors become passionate too.”

Walker pleasantly recalled several faculty members that made an incredible impact on her thirst for knowledge and inevitably her path to law school.

“And when you’re passionate, you study more and get better grades,” shared Long.

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Author: Kevin Stiner

Posted: September 30, 2022