Legal Development Through a Historical Lens

Lindsey Scannell '07

Image courtesy of Lindsey Scannell '07

Lindsey Scannell '07, Attorney-Advisor

Major: History

Awards: Wilma J. Pugh Grant

Advanced Degrees: Georgetown Law J.D., 2013

Employer: US Department of Commerce, Commercial Law Development Program

My family likes to say History is in our blood; most of my mom's family received their undergraduate degrees in History. My mother even received her degree in History from MHC in 1970. I knew I wanted to study History because I was fascinated by the political structures of older civilizations. At Mount Holyoke, it was the research opportunities and faculty that affirmed my initial decision. Ultimately, those opportunities and the quality teaching imparted key research and analytical skills, which shaped my career.

Being an attorney requires research and analytical skills, particularly when you work for the US government. During my time at Mt Holyoke, the History Department faculty encouraged me to dig deeper, to find the complexities and nuances in every historical moment. The faculty at Mount Holyoke is world class and their commitment to student research and learning is incredible. While writing my senior thesis, I was encouraged and assisted by a department scholarship to conduct primary source research at France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archives in Paris—something not many of my peers at other schools were doing!

Working for the US Department of Commerce, I use many of the analytical and research skills I learned in college. When I begin researching a country's legal framework, I am often reminded of the time I spent in the MFA Archives reading diplomatic dispatches. Commercial policies set by foreign governments are based on the history of the country and its diplomatic engagements. International best practices in law have evolved over time as well, and it is important to understand why best practices came into use. Understanding the evolution of laws around the world helps me develop approaches to engaging other countries that are mutually satisfactory.

The best thing about having a History degree from Mt Holyoke is meeting other History majors at alum events and reminiscing about classes, the faculty and Skinner Hall. Being a History major definitely helped shape my career and was a great way to spend my time at Mt Holyoke.