Attorney Hanna Martin ’13 makes a case for her Music major and McDaniel education

Photo of McDaniel alumna Hanna Martin
February 09, 2017

Hanna Martin ’13, a brand new attorney with a large Manhattan law firm, came back to campus on a mission: to offer evidence for the value of a liberal arts education and the Music major that prepared her so well for law school and career.

Critical thinking skills. Emotional Intelligence. Writing. Martin’s testimony was clear and emphatic during the two days she met with groups of students with a diversity of majors, classes and interests.

“Critical thinking skills are what a liberal arts education delivers uniquely out of all other educations,” she said, explaining that employers and graduate schools don’t have time to teach people how to rationally and objectively analyze data. “You can learn data, but you need to know how to process it.”

After majoring in both Music and English at McDaniel, Martin entered Cardozo Law School in New York City never having taken a political science course and with only a high school education in law, courts and the Constitution. Instead she walked in the door with one of the most important skills she learned at McDaniel: to think critically and to know what to do with the information she was learning.

“If you build critical thinking skills, it doesn’t matter where you’re going, what you want to do or if you want to change course mid-college or mid-life or mid-career,” said Martin, who passed the New York bar exam on her first try and was sworn in on Dec. 22 in New York with Music professor Robin Armstrong applauding in the audience. “If you have these skills, you have complete control over your own life.”

While she unabashedly admits that music brings her joy and she can’t imagine her life without it, her studies in music added emotional intelligence to the life skills she brings to her new career with the global law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. Her music studies exposed her to a lot of diverse cultures and differences in how people live in other countries. 

“It seems silly to have to say you have to be nice to people who are different from you, yet employers say this is missing from my generation,” she said. “Being able to work with people who have perspectives different from yours makes you a competitive applicant, whether it’s for a job or law school.”

In fact, music coupled with her English major inspired Martin to become an attorney in the first place.

“Being from the small town of New Windsor, I knew different cultures existed but I had never been exposed to them as I was through my studies in music and English,” Martin said, adding that her English major also helped her hone the writing skills she uses every day. “That exposure showed me that different cultures can be treated unfairly, and my desire to do something about that injustice motivated me to go to law school.”     

Once there, her McDaniel education set her apart from her peers.

“I went from a small town to a small liberal arts college to a big city law school where people have had the most expensive private education that money can buy,” she said. “I was better prepared than a vast majority of my peers.”

Still, she says she cares too much about music to think objectively about it and integrate it into her practice of law.

“Music made me an intelligent person in general which prepared me for law school,” she said. “Even if I don’t tie music into my practice of law, music is still what prepared me to think for myself.

“And really, music just makes me happy.”