Asking the Important Questions: Attorney Applies Philosophy Teachings to Law Practice


Francesco DeLuca, RWU Class of 2011

Majors:  Political Science + Philosophy

Francesco DeLuca '11 applies the critical thinking he learned as a philosophy major to his work as an attorney, every single day. Through his courses at RWU, DeLuca learned to ask the important questions and think through all possible solutions when working with clients. Check out his Q&A to see how a philosophy major landed a fulfilling career in law. 

Why did you choose to major in philosophy?

I began thinking about majoring in Philosophy after I took Professor Mike Wright's Core Literature & Philosophy course during my first semester at RWU. Throughout the course, Professor Wright pushed us to re-examine some of our most deeply held assumptions about what we knew, how we came to know what we knew, and how we should act. This introduction to the three fundamental questions of philosophy began to change not only what I thought about the world, but also how I thought about the world. It awoke me from an intellectual slumber, and it left me curious about what else philosophy had to offer.

I continued exploring the field of philosophy by taking Professor Bob Blackburn's Logic course the following semester. Professor Blackburn showed us that we confront arguments everyday without knowing that they're arguments or whether they're logical arguments. After only a few classes, I began to see arguments everywhere –– and I realized that a lot of them may have sounded persuasive but actually weren't any good. I began to wonder how many times I had believed something when I probably shouldn't have. I determined to become as critical of a thinker as possible, and roughly midway through the spring semester of my freshman year, I decided to major in Philosophy. 

What are you doing now? 

I am an attorney at an international law firm that specializes in assisting companies in dealing with labor and employment matters, including representing them in litigation with current and former employees, advising them on day-to-day issues that affect their workforce, and conducting internal investigations into workplace misconduct. 

What do you like about your job? 

I find fulfillment in all areas of my practice because they require me to solve problems for clients by applying what I learned as, and what I loved about being, a philosophy major at RWU. 

For example, when I defend cases that an employee has brought against an employer, the first step is to analyze the other side's argument: Is it logical? What assumptions does it rely on? Do those assumptions apply here? I then have to examine the facts of the case: How are they different from the facts in cases in which employees have prevailed? How are they similar to the facts in cases that employers have won? Next, I need to figure out what facts I can prove: How do I know the incident happened? Did someone see the incident? Is it possible that the witnesses did not see what they think they saw (e.g., were they too far away? was it too dark to see what happened clearly? were their senses impaired?) Finally, presenting arguments to a judge or jury often involves a moral component: Do we want to live in a society where the conduct that is the focal point of the case is rewarded? Or does society need to deter its members from doing what happened here by punishing them for it? 

These questions remind me of being an undergraduate philosophy major asking myself the three principal questions that philosophy aims to answer: What do I know? How do I know it? What should I do? I feel lucky that my career allows me to apply what I learned at RWU to complex legal problems and come up with thoughtful solutions for clients. 

How did the skills and experiences you gained in the philosophy program at RWU help you find success?

We're all thinkers. But the Philosophy program at RWU made me a critical thinker. In my law practice, being a critical thinker means, at its core, to realize that just because a particular argument or strategy worked in an earlier case doesn't mean that it'll work this time around, and it doesn't mean that there wasn't another argument or strategy that would have produced an even better result in that earlier case. Approaching every problem with a critical eye and identifying all the potential solutions is something that I learned through my studies at RWU and is something that helps me on a daily basis in my career.