Student Profile: Lincoln J. Schneider
Lincoln J. Schneider (2L) was settling out-of-court disputes as early as the third grade, when the elementary-age litigator successfully petitioned the school administration after being forbidden to enter a section of the library reserved for older students.
“I got to read my ‘Hardy Boys’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ even though they were in the secondary school area,” Schneider said. “I guess some people are destined to go to law school.”
Schneider would go on to study English literature at Tulane University and then enlist in the navy, where he continued to travel with some of his favorite books. For Schneider, law was a natural extension of his educational background.
“To me the law is literature,” he said. “Ultimately, both disciplines are functions of and reflective of society.”
Schneider finds a strong literary quality in the legal opinions of justices Brandeis, Holmes and Cardozo. Eighteenth century jurist William Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England” reads much like Shakespeare, Schneider said.
“It’s amazing seeing this literature, true literature that is now part of the legal canon, part of where we derive our system of jurisprudence.”
Literary devices, such as simile and metaphor, are frequently used in legal reasoning and legal argument. In one of Schneider’s classes, Professor Jeffrey L. Harrison explained judges’ use of foreshadowing to prepare the reader and make the subtle distinctions that determine the outcome of a case.
“He would often point out, ‘Does anybody see anything in this opinion that kind of tipped it off before you even got past the first paragraph of the first page?’” Schneider said.
Schneider, an avid writer, draws inspiration from his experiences studying law. In one of his poems, he mentions “the smell and feel of a freshly shaven pencil,” and “books touched by the oils of many hands.” He has shared some of his poems with professors, who have responded well.
The law has left its mark on literature. For example, the protagonist of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” asks, “What is justice?” Shakespeare also explored legal issues in “Othello” and “The Merchant of Venice,” Schneider said.
The law has affected and formed the personalities and characters in a large variety of literary works.
“One of my favorite novels is ‘A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway’,” Schneider said. “This is a person who is genuinely affected by the military law of the times in World War I.”
Schneider is drawn to both law and literature because of both disciplines’ profound influence on society.
“There really is a subset of law that represents really every function of human experience and I think that literature does the same thing,” he said.
One of Schneider’s favorite quotes is a statement by the writer Marianne Moore that “poetry is real frogs in fake gardens.” The concept can be applied to legal professionals’ task of balancing the law (the garden) with the rights of the individual, Schneider said.
“We know that this ‘garden’ isn’t always real, but we’re always dealing with real issues that touch lives. We’re dealing with real pain and real interests and real people.”