Another use of an English degree (HT JoVE)

JoVe likes to send me articles every now and then. They are always wonderful! Today she slipped the following one into my in-box related to another use of an English degree. This one shows how one academic found a career teaching writing in a big law firm. I got a special kick out of it because my dad is a lawyer and I’ve long argued (ha!) that my bent toward academic writing was fostered and nurtured through his rigorous approach to any debatable topic at the dinner table. I grew up, essentially, learning how to create an argument from my earliest memories. Not only that, lawyers do a tremendous amount of writing. The care with which trial lawyers must prepare opening and closing statements is every bit as conscientious as any academic preparing a thesis or scholarly journal article (if not moreso since justice and money are always on the line!). Think how many lawyers-turned-best-selling novelists there are, too. 🙂 I remember my dad writing a novel into his dictaphone when I was in high school. (He never did get it published though.)

With all that personal background out of the way, check out this article: From Global Lit(erature) to Global Lit(igation).

A big litigation firm like ours is filled with nothing but writers. One lawyer here, in fact, tells people that he is a writer when they ask his occupation (insert joke about lawyers’ public perception here). My main duties are twofold. I travel to our offices around the world twice a year and conduct seminars on all aspects of the writing process, from punctuation to Aristotelian argumentation. I also work with associates and partners individually on their writing (what the corporate world calls “coaching” and academe calls “tutoring”), either in person or over the phone. They contact me at any point during the writing process. I sometimes answer questions on the spot, but it’s much more common for lawyers to send me a draft, which we meet to discuss.

My job is endlessly rewarding. I work in a five-member office of professional development. Three of us have Ph.D.’s, all in different fields. I teach an enthusiastic population: Professionals, especially those who write for a living, are eager participants in the learning process. Some of the intellectual-property and antitrust cases are fascinating; unfortunately, I am not permitted to tell you about them.


6 Responses to “Another use of an English degree (HT JoVE)”

  1. Hey, Julie!

    I am debating this too. I love writing so much but excepting your classes, I’ve had a lot of issues with writing teachers… I’m too opinionated. If I go into publishing, the English major is kind of required; but I’m also interested in international relations and activism. Thank God that regardless of major or profession, I can always write.

    Can you believe I’m applying to college? Where has my youth gone? I’m very interested in a bunch of women’s colleges near Boston. The only reason the major question would become moot is if I like Princeton and Princeton likes me… Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison teach at their creative writing program!!!

  2. Pema says:

    🙂 I’m glad to see there’s one more job for writing. It seems really hard these days to make a decent living off it (especially if you’re trying to get out that million-dollar, seemingly unachievable novel).

    Right now though, I’m trying to start small and get my poems and short stories published. Maybe after there’s been a few credits under my belt, I’ll give the novel a shot. Until then, I think it’s best to start small.

  3. Pema says:

    P.S. Julie, I had a question.

    In my writing, I try to stay with only the common language words – words that nearly everyone knows. Do you think I really should expand into scholarly vocabulary with my writing, or should I stick with the common phrases?

    From my personal experience, I know that no one (well, not many people) want to look up words in a dictionary, and with too many big words, the reader totally loses interest. What is your opinion on this? Thank you!

  4. Julie Bogart says:

    Pema, write in your natural voice. Don’t worry about vocabulary or you will edit yourself. Your audience will match what you write and you can be comfortable knowing that it’s your natural voice that will find them.

    The only time vocabulary is an issue is when you have a predetermined audience (like you are an expert knitter but your audience is all beginners). In that case, you would define your terms as you go. Or if you are writing a children’s story, you might double check words that are too sophisticated. (However, a caution there. What adults see as over kids’ heads is often not accurate to them. Writing “down” to children is the most frequent mistake new writers make.)

    Big words aren’t an issue.

    Natural writing voice that uses a variety of surprising, insightful, relevant terms is what you’re after.

  5. Julie Bogart says:

    Gabrielle! So great to hear from you. Please let me know what college you pick. I can’t wait to hear you interviewed on Oprah some year when she picks the best selling novel you will inevitably write for her book club! 🙂


  6. Pema says:

    Thank you so much, Julie. 🙂 The advice really helped.