Erica Sollazzo

Since I exited through FitzGerald Gate three years ago, I have been pursuing my law degree at Stanford Law School. As my graduation swiftly approaches, I am grateful for this opportunity to reflect on my pathway so far and how my Princeton English degree has influenced it.

At Stanford, my background in English has served me well. The defining experience of my third year here was serving as Managing Editor of the Stanford Law Review, a job that required me to edit more than 1,800 pages of legal scholarship. One piece in our volume was penned by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and I found myself tasked with editing Justice Ginsburg’s prose. With the strong foundation afforded by my time in the English Department, along with my work as Chief Copy Editor for the Daily Princetonian, I was equipped to tackle this intimidating assignment.

I’ve also found ways to combine my passions for law and literature. After taking a cross-disciplinary seminar, I spent over a year working on a research paper about modern post-apocalyptic novels. Before I began to write, I immediately sought advice from Professor Diana Fuss (my thesis advisor and the teacher of Princeton’s wonderful American Cinema course). The finished paper will soon be published in an academic journal, perfectly named Law & Literature.

With four years of undergraduate study and three years of legal education under my belt, I am firmly convinced that law and literature are vitally interconnected. Much of what attracted me to English as a major also attracted me to law as a profession. Like novelists, playwrights, and poets, lawyers must understand multiple perspectives and anticipate the reactions of others. Lawyers also depend on language to do their work: sensitivity to context, description, storytelling, and audience—concepts we discussed in each of my English precepts—is necessary to practice law effectively. A skilled advocate is always an adept rhetorician, and a firm grasp of language is crucial on both sides of the bench.

I will soon head back to my hometown, New York City, where I will clerk for a federal circuit judge. As a clerk, I will draft judicial opinions, write bench memoranda, and prepare other documents to help my judge reach the correct result in each case he hears. I am humbled by the responsibilities and challenges this job will surely entail, but I am confident that the study of English has accorded me the analytical ability, skepticism, and curiosity necessary to meet them.