Scott Brophy ’78 is a professor of philosophy and pre-law adviser at the Colleges. And he has a definite philosophy about helping students prepare for law school.
“Law schools don’t want students who have experienced a cookie-cutter pre-law program of study and they don’t want their classrooms filled with dilettantes. They want you to learn something in depth as well as have breadth,” says Brophy. “The schools want to see that you can distinguish cogent from spurious arguments, muster a body of evidence toward a conclusion and find patterns and meanings in things. Those skills can be acquired through the in-depth study of almost any discipline at HWS and our curriculum ensures that you’ll acquire breadth of knowledge in a coherent way.”
Over the years, Brophy has advised hundreds of students preparing for law school and he says, “Nearly 100 percent of our graduates get accepted to one of their top three choices—and those schools have included Harvard, Columbia, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell and the University of Chicago, to name a few.”
Brophy works closely with the Salisbury Center for Career Services to help students develop a four-year plan combining rigorous academics, educationally meaningful internships, mentorships and networking opportunities with successful alumni and alumnae in various legal fields. In addition, students are encouraged to participate in activities such as the debate team, student government or serve on faculty committees as well as take part in off-campus study programs both in the U.S. and abroad.
Patricia Foster ’06 from Needham, Mass., a writing and rhetoric major with minors in media and society and law and society, wasn’t sure until her sophomore year that she wanted to pursue a legal profession. Internships with media organizations including Golf Digest, Golf for Women and a Boston newspaper gave her valuable experience in the field of publishing while showing her a different side of corporate law.
“Through meetings with corporate lawyers, I could see firsthand what they did while I was learning about the media business. It was very interesting,” she says.
Her legal leanings were further cemented through an encounter with Karin Richards Moore, ’89, an attorney with the Washington, D.C., firm of O’Melveny & Myers. Through a mentorship arranged through the HWS Career Services office, the two discussed preparing for the LSAT and specific areas of the law Patricia might pursue.
“The LSAT review book she recommended to me was the most helpful one I’ve read,” says Foster. “Karin also works in a firm that is involved in every type of law, so she could speak in detail about a variety of areas to help me identify my interests. Right now it looks like corporate or real estate law is of most interest to me, and I’m working to narrow down the law schools I’ll apply to.”
Brian Thompson ’04, from Burke, Virginia, completed Vermont Law School’s Masters of Environmental Law after graduation from Hobart. He’s now in his first year of law school at Vermont Law School, nationally ranked first in the country for environmental law. “I’ve known for a long time that in my professional life I wanted to be involved with protecting the environment. That’s why I attended the ESSYI program at HWS when I was in high school. I fell in love with Hobart and William Smith that summer, but most of all I really enjoyed the interdisciplinary teaching of Professor Brophy and the other professors involved in the program. I knew from that experience that Hobart was the right college for me.”
A biology major with a minor in environmental studies, Thompson came to spend a lot of time with Scott Brophy during his HWS years – as a participant, and later captain, of the Mock Trial team mentored by Brophy and by serving as a student mentor and later as associate director of the ESSYI program.
“It was through Scott and his mentoring me that I found my love for the law and discovered that I could still pursue my passion for protecting the environment by practicing environmental law. A lot of the work with Mock Trial—especially learning to think on your feet—and ESSYI helped me prepare for law school in ways outside of what the books can teach you.”
Maryland native John Armiger’s ’00 path was completely different. He did not plan to go to law school while at HWS and never met Scott Brophy. “After graduation, I wanted to travel, get a more global sense of myself and gain experiences beyond my state and country before I pursued an advanced degree,” he says.
He joined the Peace Corps and taught English in West Africa. Upon his return to the U.S., he found a position as a legislative aide in the Capitol Hill office of Sen. Paul Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat. Five years after graduating from Hobart with a degree in psychology, Armiger decided to pursue law school – and got in touch with Scott Brophy.
One of the most significant ways Brophy helped Armiger was in preparing the personal statement for his application. “He helped me hone it from a professor’s standpoint because it would be law professors who would read it and ultimately decide to admit me.” Armiger is currently attending the Georgetown University Law Center evening division while continuing his work with Senator Sarbanes and will likely pursue a career in human rights law.
“We assist our former students well beyond graduation,” Brophy says, noting that the average entering age of a law school student is 27.
Earlier this year, Elisa Nethercott ’02 from Fulton, N.Y., graduated from William and Mary Law School, passed the bar exam and now works with the firm of Foley Hoag in Boston. During her years at HWS, she majored in philosophy with a minor in law and society; played rugby and piano; served as a tour guide with the Office of Admissions; was involved with College Democrats; studied in Bath, England and pursued her interest in U.S. law and litigation while in Washington, D.C. for a semester. She followed in the footsteps of her friend Nicole DeSario ’00 and did an internship at the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Hobart and William Smith, and Scott Brophy as the pre-law adviser, bring such a balanced perspective to preparation for law. A lot of my law school colleagues were so singularly focused in undergrad that they missed out on a lot that college has to offer academically,” she says. “Professor Brophy always told us that law schools will teach you the law. You need to branch out and get the experience now that will define how you practice law later.”
He’s a Hobart alum, Class of ’78.
He’s a professor of philosophy and has taught first-year seminars on Plato.
He’s been the Director of the HWS Environmental Studies Summer Youth Institute.
He’s drunken fermented mare’s milk in Kyrgyzstan while working on a school improvement project with the Open Society Institute there.
He’s led the BRIDGE project, connecting Geneva-area school students with those living half a world away.
He’s the father of three children.
And these are only a few interesting things about Scott Brophy, professor of philosophy and pre-law adviser at HWS.
Most of all, Scott Brophy is a wonderful teacher, mentor, adviser and friend to numerous students past and present.
While his academic interests are many and varied, he specializes in practical applications of philosophy.
As the pre-law adviser, he encourages students to find something academic that they truly love – be it physics, philosophy or literature or anything else – and then pursue it with passion and energy. That, he says, will give them a solid foundation for the intense study of law they will encounter later on.
You’ll see him around campus, often smoking his pipe – a professorial image of yesteryear that doesn’t truly befit this teacher of today.
Frequently he’ll be engaged in philosophical debate – his arguments quite intimidating, his demeanor anything but.
And it is his demeanor that makes him a great adviser for students who want to pursue a career in law. He’s accessible, easy to talk to and fun to be around.
According to former student Elisa Nethercott ’02 (Fulton, N.Y.), “Broph is charismatic, enthusiastic and he likes to argue.”
But his relationships with students are a two-way street. Not only do they like and respect him, he likes and respects them.
About the time Nethercott was graduating from William Smith, Brophy said: “I’m thinking about how much fun it has been to have worked with this irreverent and spunky kid who, in four short years, has grown into such a capable, sophisticated young woman.”
She is but one of Scott Brophy’s prized students, advisees and friends.