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Legal Careers

English teaches essential skills like evidence-based argumentation, analysis, and creative thinking.

Law schools and law firms have long recognized that English majors are some of the most successful and best prepared people in the legal profession. Our alumni can tell you why they agree. They find in every story a body of evidence, a network of characters, and a range of possible arguments about the text itself. Specialized classes like Law and Literature (398) work with the breadth of offerings in American Literature (331, 332, 333, 436, and more) as well as courses like Shakespeare (404 and 405) or Restoration and Eighteenth-Century (411) are rich with historical and literary materials that serve future law students. Rhetoric, Writing, and Linguistics is also a popular concentration, where classes like 355, 455, and 494 help students dig deep into the dialectic of arguments and audiences.   

Interviews with Alumni in the Field

UTK English Roundtable on Careers in Law, Video Now Available

Director of Career Development, Dr. Erin Elizabeth Smith, spoke with two alumni about how majoring in English helped them in their future law careers.

Christopher A. Hall

A Matter of Character Analysis

English classes, Hall believes, “teach you how to think” rather than “what to think.”

Houston Holdren

From Rhetoric to the Halls of Power: Houston Holdren’s Career Path

From Capitol Hill to the skies, English helped Houston Holdren soar.

Jasmine Johnson

English Major to Corporate Lawyer: Jasmine Johnson’s Career Path

Jasmine Johnson was advised by practicing attorneys to become an English major, and it was perfect for her.

Jason Smith

Law Professor Jason Smith’s Beginnings as a UT English Major

“Attorneys are storytellers”: Smith shares four ways English is an advantageous precursor to law and education


“No matter what I’m doing, every single day, I’m reading and writing all day, always, always, always. My English degree has definitely come in handy for that…in your class, I was reading, writing, analyzing, and making arguments. And that’s basically what I do now. I read and negotiate different contracts for clients, and if I’m negotiating with the opposing counsel, I have to justify the changes I suggested. I feel the skills that I learned as an English major have directly transferred to what I do now, which is great. And now I can see why the attorneys I met when I was in college recommended majoring in English—the skills go hand in hand with practicing law.“

—from an interview highlighting English Major Jasmine Johnson’s (’16) career path