I just finished my first long paper of the semester. It’s 12 pages on the history of the trading fairs that took place in the French province of Champagne in the 12th and 13th centuries. The class I wrote it for is European Economic History, taught by Dr. McIntyre, one of two writing classes I’m taking this semester. The other is Writing for Law and Policy with Dr. Dobson. Interestingly, even though the assignment for European Econ was much longer, the Law and Policy writing assignments have been much more challenging for me.
When we learn to write in elementary, middle, and high school, we are taught to write in a certain way, and to a certain audience. What is difficult about the law class is that we have to write in a completely different style. The audience for a lawyer’s brief is other lawyers, for a client letter, clients. Lawyers have to be able to write in diverse styles so that they can be understood by people who have PhD’s and by people who never graduated high school. Lawyers also need to be able to write in a sympathetic manner, in an angry tone, or in a deferential way.
I do NOT want to be a lawyer. I don’t think I’d be great at it and I don’t think I’d enjoy it very much. But that doesn’t mean the law class is a waste of time. Learning to write like a lawyer has helped me understand how to better frame my writing depending on the audience. This skill can help me when I’m asking my dad for money, when I’m writing a letter of intent to study abroad, or a thank you letter to my grandparents. I guess what I’m trying to say is, not every class in college will be directly related to your career, but you can put all of them to good use.