Meet a Real Lawyer
Name: Walter E. Carson
Education: Bachelor of Arts in history from Columbia Union College, Takoma Park, Maryland; law degree from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
Location: Office of General Counsel, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
The Job: After law school graduation Walter went home to Cleveland, Ohio, to work as an assistant law director for the city of Cleveland. A couple years later he moved to Columbus and was an assistant attorney general for the state.His next job took him back to Washington, D.C. He became a congressional liaison (a lobbyist) for the U.S. Postal Service. He worked with members of Congress to help pass, block, or modify bills affecting the Postal Service.Then he moved to the General Conference–where he’s been for 25 years! As an attorney for the General Counsel, he deals with intellectual property law, which has to do with copyrights and trademarks. He has also represented individual Adventists in religious freedom matters (even in front of the Supreme Court)–and won!From meeting with clients to writing legal briefs to participating in trials, Walter lives a busy varied life that he finds satisfying.
Words to Live by "The legal profession protects individuals and helps protect our liberties. Christianity performs a similar role. It makes us whole, gives us hope, and protects us from the emotional slings and arrows that we are exposed to."
Law for you?
Consider Law as a college major if you're crazy about:
• Research (the nitty-gritty details will become you
• Writing (college papers, documents for court--it’s
• Critical thinking
Avoid Law as a college major if you get nauseated by:
• Reading (more than your average major)
• Public speaking (fainting lawyers aren’t convincin
• Competition (from earning top test scores to entry into law school to getting into a top law firm, the competition doesn't stop)
|From Tom Cruise's intense showdown with Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men to Ally McBeal's courtroom shenanigans, lawyers have gotten plenty of stage time on the big and small screen. They're witty and smart, and possess dramatic flair. They save society while wearing designer suits.
For most of us this vicarious impression is as close as we've gotten to the world of law. And sadly, it's not really an accurate picture.
The truth is that being a lawyer is hard work. And this isn't because it's hard to perform Shakespearean monologues in court. Most of the time lawyers sit at their desks and do paperwork and research on their various cases. The hours are long, and weekends are booked with work. (Of course, this lifestyle doesn't make for very exciting television.)
On the other hand, law can be exciting and dramatic, without the antics displayed in show business. Provided we disregard the sue-happy creeps out for a quick buck, lawyers have had a positive impact on our country. Many important changes in government could not have occurred without the help of lawyers.
But the road to becoming a lawyer is a long and arduous one. It's similar to the path medical students must take, although some say it's more competitive.
As with medicine, you can't major in law. You must choose a major and then also follow the prelaw track. This means that besides taking your core classes for your chosen major, you must also take additional classes that pertain specifically to law.
Scott Loughlin is a senior history major at Columbia Union College. He's also prelaw. He's been interested in Supreme Court cases (for fun!) since high school. In this interview he shares why he chose history as his major and what you can expect if you do.
On Course: Why is it that most prelaw students choose history as their major?
Scott: Law schools don't require a specific major for acceptance, so you can study a wide variety of things. But when I spoke with people in law school, they told me that I should be proficient in reading and writing. I wanted to build up those skills, so I chose history.
OC: Why not English? There's plenty of reading and writing in English.
Scott: There are a lot of prelaw students who take English or philosophy, but there's an advantage to studying history. It helps us better understand our current society, because we study historical context.
Law is just a series of historical events, and each one triggered some kind of law to be established. Studying history gives you an understanding of how the world works.
OC: The two history classes I took were based on lectures. Are yours?
Scott: A lot of the intro classes are based on lectures. But once you get into the upper-division classes, the professors don't focus too much on lecturing.
Many of my classes require me to write papers, present them, then discuss the topic. Most teachers try to incorporate audiovisual materials, such as well-made documentaries. But mostly there's a lot of discussion.
OC: How about debates?
Scott: That depends on what we're talking about. I'm taking a class right now called Recent American History. We spend a lot of time talking about the civil rights movement. It can be very controversial when you have a bunch of people from different backgrounds talking about the ideologies that developed from the movement. The class atmosphere can get very hot at times.
OC: What are some other areas of study?
Scott: I've tried to focus more on American and recent history than classical. I'm also into political science. Some classes I've taken are Civil War and Reconstruction, Modern Europe, World Civilization, American Social Movements, and Politics of the Twentieth Century.
OC: So you do a lot of reading?
Scott: There's a tremendous amount of reading. Depending on the class, you may have to read about 20-30 pages for one evening's assignment. Some of the upper-division classes require us to read a full-length 400-page biography or historical account in one week. The work can pile up on you very quickly.
OC: Let's talk about the writing. How much is there?
Scott: Many of my classes depend on writing. Once a week we have to read a medium-length book, then write a four-page paper on it.
I also have a senior thesis I have to complete before graduation. I'm tracking the history and the beginnings of a Supreme Court case that was decided in the early 1990s.
What's challenging about the senior thesis is that it needs to be written using entirely primary sources--sources that come straight from the period, such as someone's memoirs or diary. Basically I can use only firsthand accounts.
OC: Didn't you intern with Congress?
Scott: From May until August 2000 I worked for the Republican side of the House of Representatives Resources Committee. Out of that committee I worked for the subcommittee on water and power. I wrote a lot for bill reports, which are summaries that each representative receives.
I had to describe the different aspects of the bill and its historical and political implications. The things I wrote went into congressional records. It was exciting.
I also worked at a law firm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays doing different clerical activities.
OC: Other than law and teaching, what are other options for four-year history graduates?
Scott: There aren't a lot of options. You can do government work. You can research. You can write and become an author of historical biographies, but you'd probably have to go to graduate school first.
OC: How competitive is the field of history? law?
Scott: It depends on your focus. The writing aspect of history can be very competitive. You're all competing for the same book deals and grants. When a major event happens, it becomes a race to be the first to publish a book on it. For example, the Clinton scandals. The first book probably sold the best.
Getting into a good graduate school is also incredibly competitive. The reputation of the school you end up going to determines a lot of the job opportunities you'll have. The best schools receive thousands of applications, with only a couple hundred open slots.
OC: What's the worst thing about history?
Scott: It's frustrating, because it doesn't teach you a particular skill, such as what you'd gain from, say, majoring in accounting.
By studying history, you develop transferable skills. The skills you learn aren't exclusive to history. They're skills you need in every job--analytical and critical thinking, writing, and reading comprehension. You have to keep telling yourself that you're doing this in preparation. You may not see immediate rewards.
OC: And the flip side? The best?
Scott: It's rarely boring. If you enjoy reading as I do, history is reading a lot of different stories.
OC: Is Christianity relevant to your major?
Scott: Yes. By studying history, you learn how religion and Christianity have evolved over time. Religion has been such an important part of world history. So no matter what history you're studying, religion is always in the mix.