The Department of English celebrates and highlights the achievements of alumni as they find careers with their degrees. This week, Courtney Peck, attorney at Perkins Coie in Portland, Oregon, discusses how her degree in Literature has prepared her for her job.
What is your current job? What does that job entail?
I am a corporate litigation attorney at Perkins Coie LLP’s office in Portland, Oregon. We’re a Pacific Northwest-based firm with an international reach. I’m responsible for working on lawsuits from start to finish, which includes drafting complaints and motions, taking depositions, participating in alternative dispute resolution, and going to trial. Before I began practicing at Perkins, I was a judicial law clerk to Justice Virginia Linder on the Oregon Supreme Court. There, I helped the Court determine which cases to hear and assisted Justice Linder with drafting legal opinions.
How has your degree helped in your current position?
My degree in English Literature at MSU gave me a leg up in several of the fundamental skills of lawyering. For example, the “close reading” approach that I learned from Dr. Lamouria and Dr. Calihman has proven invaluable in statutory and contract interpretation—i.e., analyzing (often archaic) statutes or contractual provisions in the context of a whole Act or contract, respectively. And, of course, writing papers that were graded by literature and grammar experts definitely prepared me to write legal briefs for judges.
What advice do you have for current English majors or minors who are looking to do something similar to what you do?
My advice is to take as many cross-disciplinary classes you can take, because those will prepare you to think critically about the law, as well as the policy underlying it. More importantly, take close reading exercises seriously and seek opportunities to receive feedback on your written assignments.