Alumni Spotlight: Chelsea Vollrath, On PWR Preparing Her for Law School

Guest Blogger Rachel Fishman, ENG-PWR ’15, interviewed Chelsea Vollrath, Class of 2013, about how her Chelsea’s PWR major prepared her for her time at Wake Forest University of Law.

Chelsea Vollrath

What types of courses are you taking & what type of law do you want to go into?

Chelsea is currently taking a variety of law courses, including a writing class on business drafting, a course which she attributes her appreciation for to her PWR major. Other courses include Legislation and Administrative Law, Evidence, Business Drafting, Trademarks, and Employment Law.

She is interested in working for a corporation and focusing on intellectual property, specifically on trademarks. The program in which she is enrolled is a dual-degree JD/MBA program which extends what is usually a 3-year law program to 4 years.

What influence has your PWR major had on your experience in law school?

Aware of the connection between rhetoric and law, Chelsea expected to see PWR concepts applied in law school and found that her prediction was right. She mentioned how the contextual perspective she gained from PWR equipped her for the analytical mindset that is required for practicing law. The circumstances of the cases lawyers deal with determine the application of the law, a practice which she notes is heavily rhetorical.

Because case law and legal writing are highly contextual, she finds herself referencing the rhetorical triangle often. Especially with her focus on trademarks, the rhetorical situation is a primary part of Chelsea’s work. She said that after she began learning about trademarks, she immediately realized that they are a clear example of visual rhetoric. She can understand how important it is for them to be protected because of their highly persuasive, highly intentional appeal.

In the legal writing that she does, Chelsea finds that having a rhetorical perspective gives her the necessary foundation from which to grow. Having an understanding of discourse communities is what really comes in handy, even more so than her specific pieces of knowledge. For instance, she described how she noticed a learning curve in her legal writing class after she realized that writing well isn’t necessarily enough to be good at legal writing. Instead, Chelsea attempted to focus more on the context and found this to be more effective.

Chelsea’s rhetorical knowledge comes into play even when she’s not being as intentional. She mentioned how it’s impossible to separate decisions based on rhetoric from those which are not, “but that’s just the nature of rhetoric. You can’t avoid it, and you shouldn’t want to!”

The type of writing she usually does is more technical, but she does find some room for creativity. The drafting of a provision “can be more of an art than a science” because slight alterations in the ways it is written can benefit one party more than another. Chelsea described how, in her Legal Writing and Research course, she wrote many types of documents (i.e. client e-mails, client memoranda, case briefs) which ranged in their level of formality and use of legal principles and case law. For instance, the client-facing documents required the use of simple legal principles and less of a formal tone, while court-facing documents needed more specific legal principles and a formal tone. Completely rhetorical!

Chelsea shared that writing for each of these audiences gave her, as a first-year law student, plenty of challenges, but she also included that her background in rhetoric helped her a great deal.

How has your PWR major influenced your experience in other areas?

In addition to the applications in school, Chelsea said that her PWR major helped prepare her to handle the variety of projects she’s been assigned in her internships. Even when she doesn’t know a lot about a particular subject area, she still has to be able to rhetorically analyze legal exigencies and address situations accordingly. Chelsea mentioned that her PWR background gave her the confidence she needed to successfully complete projects for her summer internship in areas with which she was not particularly familiar.

The ability to communicate professionally, which she attributed to her PWR major, has helped her in areas such as being interviewed, sending emails to internship supervisors, and conversing with the general counsel at a multi-billion dollar corporation. It also helped her make a better first impression and be more confident in the level of respect she gained.

Thanks to Chelsea for giving us some insight into the impact of a PWR major in the field of law!


Also– many law schools specifically offer courses in rhetoric and mention the need for students to have rhetorical knowledge. There’s many examples, but check some of them out below!


This entry was posted in Alumni News. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

One Comment

  1. Posted October 17, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    So glad you wrote this Rachel! I know I – and other PWR students – have been toying around with the idea of law school. This definitely makes me feel better about the idea of applying one day,: PWR could definitely set me up well.