Opening Statements

Creative Thinking

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Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn., will soon offer the “pen-ultimate” legal education: a joint degree program that pairs a juris doctorate with a master of fine arts degree in creative writing.

The combined degree is the first of its kind in the nation, and it is hoped candidates—the first of whom start classes next August—will become lawyers capable of exploring social and political issues through fiction and creative nonfiction.

One of the main drivers behind the degree was the growth in public policy books aimed at general readers, says dean Jon Garon.

“Increasingly, lawyers have moved to the public arena to affect social policy,” he notes. “There’s tremendous interest in writing books, articles and documents that open up new avenues of public dialogue.”

But, though more legal professionals may be penning such works, he says, there has not been much training in how to combine creative writing skills with legal insight and expertise.

Hamline hopes to attract law students who want to explore a range of creative writing, and Garon says he’s already fielded inquiries from poets, playwrights and many others who find the combination of law and writing to be compelling. “It’s very early in the application cycle,” Garon says, “but based on the interest level, we think this will really take off.”

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