There are many paths to law school. Increasingly, people choose to take a year or two off before pursuing their law degree. Many choose to use those years to gain work experience in banking or consulting, others work for non-profits or in public service roles . . . and some spend six years earning a Ph.D. in the humanities.
When my classmates, teachers, and law firm recruiters find out how I spent my time after undergrad, they often quickly ask why I “switched” to law after developing an expertise in Italian Literature. For me, coming to law school was not a sharp left turn. I had always planned on coming to law school. But when offered the opportunity to study literature I jumped at the chance. While in grad school, I ended up writing large portions of my dissertation about legal theory. In law school, I have many classmates with similar trajectories who have made a new intellectual home at HLS, drawing on their previous graduate education to inform how they think about the law.
Whether you see a close connection between your graduate studies and law school or not, don’t forget that the many skills that graduate school education provides are virtues in their own right—not to mention valuable tools that will serve you well in law school and in legal practice. While interviewing at law firms, I was nervous that hiring partners would view my academic trajectory with skepticism. I found, however, that most understood the value of having spent several years learning how to read carefully, write well, and research rigorously. At my position as a summer associate, many of my favorite days of work felt just like my favorite days of my Ph.D. program, working steadily to answer research questions and discussing my progress with my colleagues, all while feeling the pleasure of helping clients solve problems.
Kyle Skinner is a 2L from Jonesboro, GA, and is a first-generation student who graduated from Yale with both his B.A. and Ph.D. in Italian literature. Kyle is a member of the Board of Student Advisers, lead outside article editor for the Harvard Civil-Rights Civil-Liberties Law Review, a student attorney with the Prison Legal Assistance Program, and a policy editor on the Harvard Law & Policy Review. He is a mediocre cellist, has an unhealthy obsession with iced coffee, and has a collection of banned children’s books.