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What can you do with a history major? History alumni in law

For students interested in law school, studying history provides a solid set of skills to research, present, and contextualize. Many students who have come through our program are interested in law school or working with law. Two examples of these are Carrie Cecil, attorney at Spilman Thomas & Battle, and Jessie Reckart, associate at Bowles Rice LLP.

Carrie Cecil, a finance attorney at Spilman, Thomas & Battle located in Charleston, West Virginia, received a Bachelor of Arts in foreign languages, geography and history from WVU in 2007.

Carrie

Spilman, Thomas & Battle focuses on public and project finance, emphasizing healthcare and economic development projects. Carrie works on a variety of finance cases for government, nonprofit and developer content. “My days are often a combination of strategizing legal structures for financings, drafting financing documents and attending public meetings,” she said.

After graduating WVU, Carrie went north to attend the law program at the University of Pittsburgh, with her first summer of law school spent interning with a large German law firm in Kyiv, Ukraine. 

Carrie believes that her history background provided a solid foundation to enhance her analytical and contextual skills as a finance attorney.

“As a history major, I learned to put events in context with the circumstances surrounding them.  This continues to be valuable to me today.  As an attorney, I often need to be able to understand the legislative process and rulemaking history that has led to the rules governing processes that my clients need to navigate.”

She continued, “In addition, the critical analysis of texts and research that I did as an undergraduate trained me well for the challenges of law school and the research and writing that I do today.”

In addition to the course work she completed as a history student, Carrie also credits experience during an internship she completed with the West Virginia Development Office’s European Office with adding valuable experience. Carrie has seen how the internship, arranged for her by the Department of History, has come “full circle because of the economic development work that I do today.”

Jessie Reckart, who graduated from our program in 2004, is now an associate lawyer practicing with Bowles Rice LLP in Charleston, West Virginia. She works primarily with labor and employment law, often appearing in state and federal court before administrative agencies. She also spends much time reading, analyzing and writing. “There is a lot of paper in the practice of law,” she said.

Jessie

After graduating from WVU with a BA in history, Jessie continued on at WVU for a MA in Public Administration. She worked for a few years in local government before coming back to WVU for her law degree, during which time she was editor of the West Virginia Law Review and a member of WVU Law’s United States Supreme Court Clinic.

Her time in the Department of History prepared her well for the investigative work required as a lawyer, especially her capstone course with Dr. Joe Super

“As lawyers, part of our job is to figure out what happened (in civil litigation or otherwise).  We use documents or live testimony to do that.  Those documents and testimony cannot just be in any form.  They have to be credible and reliable.  Once we figure out the facts and their relative persuasiveness, we present those facts in the context of the relevant legal doctrine.  That may sound horribly dry, but it’s not — it’s historical research in action. “

In a final thought, Jessie added, “I’m very proud of my time at the WVU Department of History.  The department and faculty gave me many opportunities for which I am very grateful.  Go liberal arts!”

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