Skip to main content

Legal Career Boosted by Humanities Studies

Posted by on Thursday, February 15, 2024 in Blog, RPW Fellows, Undergraduate.

Matt Brolund is a 2023-24 Humanities in the Real World Fellow. This year’s undergraduate cohort are blogging their interviews with professionals who majored in the humanities.

To Davis Shugrue, a lawyer trained in the humanities, debate is about far more than arguing for the sake of it. From his undergraduate studies to his current position as a clerk for a judge in the Court of International Trade, practicing the humanities has allowed Davis to uncover real solutions to apparent problems that otherwise would remain unanswered. His experience demonstrates the practical value of undergraduate study in the humanities and how well it translates to professional life. 

As early as high school, Davis knew the law would best provide a future career fitting his passions and skillset. This initial interest in that field led Davis to pursue a double major in History and Cognitive Studies at Vanderbilt University. Both majors enabled him to explore subjects that piqued his curiosity and to develop the necessary skills and manner of thinking for application in the real world.  

Some may argue that studying the humanities does not adequately prepare for real-world situations, but the way it teaches one to think is crucial to nearly any field. Approaching humanities coursework requires a systematic inquiry into the varied information given. How best can one turn many different views and facts into a single cohesive argument? The humanities, at their core, pertain to sifting through information, understanding it, selecting the most significant points, then synthesizing it to uncover a solution or new avenues to pursue. Further, such work needs persuasive communication, prompting the development of written and verbal presentation skills. After all, a strong story inspires progress and change, and a good story cannot exist without an effective storyteller.  

These basic building blocks of undergraduate coursework continued past graduation into law school and his law clerkship. Davis noted how the discussion format of his humanities courses considerably impacted him as a testing ground means for the synthesis of ideas and the practice of constructive communication. His undergraduate studies strikingly resembled his work in graduate school and, later, discussions in judicial chambers with other clerks and a judge.  

 What comes next for him remains to be seen, but Davis expressed confidence in his ability to navigate future decisions. He advised me to be willing to embrace any deviation to a set plan and approach every decision with the same inquiry learned from my humanities education. Ultimately, such a holistic problem-solving approach is a powerful guide for practical and beneficial outcomes in the real world. In reflecting further on my conversation with Davis, I’ve come to realize just how important these skills are in everyday instances. There is no navigating novel issues without some sort of information analysis or complex decision-making. 

Matt Brolund is a senior double majoring in Economics and Law, History, and Society from Nashville. He is interested in learning and applying political history to Western politics and a court of law. Matt loves the humanities as a vehicle for facilitating conversation between other areas of study such as science and research.