Scott Whitted ’74
Deputy Chief, District Court Litigation Division, Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
United States Government, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Major: Political Science
What type of law do you practice and how did you choose that?
I’ve practiced civil law for my entire career, including private practice, with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office and now at one of the agencies in the Department of Homeland Security. I’ve never been a full-time litigator, but before I started my federal job I spent some time in court, especially when I was in the Attorney General’s office. Although criminal law and criminal procedure were interesting classes in law school, I never wanted to practice criminal law. Civil law held more appeal for me.
What surprised you about law school and/or the practice of law?
One big surprise was how poorly many lawyers write. The textbooks for most law school courses are compilations of judges’ decisions that often are not well written. They tend to be too long and full of obscure language. Law students copy the style, which perpetuates bad writing. In addition, practicing law can be a real grind, with much tedium and little glamour. There are rarely quick resolutions to legal problems.
What changes have you seen in the legal job market?
With the current economy, the competition for jobs is heightened. It’s a buyer’s market right now. My office recently advertised for four openings and we received dozens of applications.
What advice would you have for students interested in a career in law? What should they be doing now?
Take college classes that encourage you to think critically and analytically. Those skills will help you to identify problems (“issue spotting”) and develop realistic solutions, which are important aspects of a lawyer’s job. Also, learn to write clearly and concisely. Lawyers do a lot of writing, and unfortunately many lawyers do not write well.
In addition, don’t be afraid to work for a few years before you go to law school. Not only may you be able to save some money toward law school, but you’ll have the benefit of experience in the “real world” before you return to academia. Admittedly, I may be partial to this approach because I worked for five years between UVM and law school.