Philosophy Alumni Turned Lawyers
Thomas Boyd, ISU class of '76
Attended John Marshall Law School in Chicago, IL. "My philosophy education at ISU helped me a great deal by developing my critical thinking and reasoning abilities."
Denise Vowell, ISU class of '74
"I attended the University of Texas School of Law, graduating with honors in 1981. While at ISU, I had plans to attend law school, and actually took the LSAT while an undergraduate, but joined the Army instead because I was broke.
After completing my degree at ISU while on active duty, I was commissioned in the Women's Army Corps and detailed as a Military Police officer. Several years later, the Army sent me to law school, and I have remained an Army lawyer ever since.
I never intended to become a philosophy major. I took one class for general studies credit, liked it, and took others. Eventually I had 18 hours of philosophy and one of the professors suggested I consider majoring in it. I remember coming out of my LSAT being very grateful for having taken that suggestion. While, like many pre-law students, I majored in political science, too, philosophy, with its mental gymnastics, was of much more assistance in preparing for that test.
Most law schools use the same "Socratic method" used by philosophy professors – asking questions and forcing students to find the answers and defend their positions. Thus, philosophy was also of considerable help in learning to think like a lawyer.
Most of my career has been in the courtroom, as a prosecutor, defense counselor, or judge. The ability to read caselaw, analyze it, and apply it to the facts of my cases are skills I learned in philosophy classes at ISU. I could argue both (or several) sides of the issue before I got to law school, because I learned how by arguing with philosophy professors and classmates.
Frequently, undergraduate students interested in attending law school ask what they should major in while in undergraduate school. I echo what law schools suggest--classes that emphasize writing and analytic skills, as well as history, sociology, psychology, and the political science process are exceedingly important. However, I strongly recommend philosophy classes as the best place to learn and apply advocacy, writing, and analysis."
Denise has been the Chief Trial Judge of the Army since July 2001. This is a return to the trial bench from the appellate bench, but she says she looks forward to it. She will supervise all Army trial judges, active and reserve, around the world.
Jack Daugherty, ISU class of '91
"I attended the St. Louis University School of Law. I am now a trial lawyer. My emphasis is criminal defense and civil rights litigation. The value of an undergraduate degree does not necessarily lie in the substance of the courses of study. Whether you are going to law school or continuing to graduate school, the real value of an undergraduate degree in philosophy is that it teaches 'thinking.' By the time of graduation, a philosophy major has been given certain analytical abilities which can not be developed in any other field of study.
It has been my experience that philosophy majors have a much easier time adjusting to law school. We are also smarter, better looking, and generally more charming than others in the field of law. In addition, philosophy majors by and large are better lawyers, better judges and better dancers."
Andy Reisman, ISU class of '91
"I majored in philosophy and speech communication, and in part attribute my success in law school to the philosophy courses I took at ISU. I was the valedictorian of the University of Illinois College of Law, Class of 1993, and also served as editor-in-chief of the University of Illinois Law Review.
ISU's philosophy curriculum helped me to refine my critical thinking skills, which are instrumental in succeeding in law school and as an attorney. Debates in philosophy courses require students to examine and critique arguments, provide reasoned support for previously unanalyzed opinions, and understand that reasonable minds can differ about what had seemed to be clear-cut issues. Despite the very different curriculum, law school emphasizes developing identical skills (in fact, claiming a proprietary interest in them -- "thinking like a lawyer"). I highly recommend aspiring lawyers to major, or perhaps simply dabble, in philosophy while at ISU."
Vikki Wulf, ISU class of '86
"I graduated Harvard Law School with honors in 1993 as a member of the Law Review. I then clerked for United States Court of Appeals Judge David Ebel, 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. I am now with Greenberg Traurig, LLP, which is a national law firm of more than 700 attorneys across the country.
Philosophy helped me to think critically and to write thoughtfully and persuasively. I learned to tie all aspects of an argument together so that all holes in it would be discovered and (hopefully) closed in the writing. I also learned how to argue both sides of the argument and to apply specific facts to given scenarios. In law school exams, it is vitally important to apply the facts given to the law learned and to present argument and counter-argument on each point. Philosophy provides many opportunities to learn this type of thinking and writing so that it is ingrained when you arrive at law school. So many other students had to learn this way of thinking during their first year of law school and seemed to always be trying to catch up to those who already knew how to do this."