Tyler Roberts '12 Makes a Case for Program in Law

Tyler Roberts '12
Tyler Roberts '12
Hamilton has no formal pre-law program, but that doesn’t stop a large number of graduates, many of whom have degrees in economics or government, from pursuing a law degree after Hamilton. With so many students choosing law school, a question that has arisen among faculty members has been “How do we better prepare students with interests in becoming lawyers?” The possible solution? A new major that would draw on classes from multiple disciplines and would, hopefully, be attractive for students who anticipate a future in law.

This summer, Emerson Fellow Tyler Roberts ’12 is working on a project with Maynard-Knox Professor of Government and Law Frank Anechiarico that will be used in the development of a new, law-based major that may be offered to Hamilton students in the future.

Right now, Roberts is working closely with Anechiarico, studying how similar law programs at other colleges operate. Roberts, Anechiarico and several other faculty members attended a conference at the offices of the American Bar Foundation in Chicago in May. The conference was the annual meeting of the Consortium for Undergraduate Law and Justice Programs, an organization of 42 colleges and universities around the country that have interdisciplinary law programs for undergraduates. At the conference, Anechiarico and Associate Professor of English Doran Larson, who teaches a class on prison writing at Hamilton, participated in panel discussions on law and justice in undergraduate education.

Roberts’ research is primarily a historical analysis of legal education. From the 1850s to 1887 Hamilton offered a course of instruction intended to prepare students for admission to the Bar. Hamilton’s Law Department, named in 1881 the Maynard-Knox Law School, ceased to exist in 1887, but a total of 261 LL.Bs were conferred over a period of 30 years. Roberts notes that law is an ever-evolving academic field, and Hamilton’s proposed new program must be appropriately grounded in modern times. He is also studying similar programs at schools like Amherst and Northwestern in order to get a handle on which strategies in legal education have worked well, and which have failed.

Although the final model for the new major has not been completely decided on, it is likely to be similar in structure to the environmental studies major, which consists of courses in a wide variety of academic disciplines. There is a solid interest level among the faculty as several professors, including Associate Professor of Sociology Yvonne Zylan and Professors Anechiarico and Larson, have expressed interest in teaching courses in the new discipline. Though optimistic, Roberts emphasized that, at this point, everything is just theoretical. His research will conclude at the end of the summer with a written proposal that will be reviewed by the administration.

Roberts, a double major in government and economics, is especially excited about his research topic because of the potential real-world implications. This is not a research project that is going to sit, unread, in a desk drawer; rather, Roberts knows that his research has the potential to make a big splash at Hamilton, knowledge that is both novel and exciting.

Tyler Roberts '12 is a graduate of Eastside Catholic School (Sammamish, Wash.)
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