Sydney Montgomery

I knew going into Princeton that I wanted to be a lawyer. And since middle school, I knew I wanted to work with vulnerable children, either through custody and divorce cases, or through foster care system reform. Despite having a clear vision of my post-college endeavors, I did not have such a clear vision of my Princeton academics. I did not know, coming into Princeton, that I would be an English major. It wasn’t until second semester freshman year, when I got into the coveted Children’s Literature (“Kiddie Lit”) class taught by Professor William Gleason, that I began to view English as my potential path. Through Children’s Literature I recognized a way to combine my passion for children with my academic literary research. Junior year I wrote my junior papers on my favorite young adult literature by Sarah Desson and Lois Lowry. Senior year I produced a thesis called Kiddie Killers: Using Murder to Teach Morality in Young Adult Literature, which explored the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games series, and The Outsiders through the combined techniques of literary and film analysis.

When it came time to apply to law schools, Lyon Zabsky, Princeton’s former law school career counselor, walked me through the entire application process. I learned quickly that my essays were the key to law school admittance. While there are no prerequisite majors or courses of study necessary to apply to law school, strong writing skills are crucial, not just for getting into law school but for staying in as well. I found that my English major background gave me a competitive edge in terms of reading and writing during the first-year curriculum at Harvard Law. The first year of law school is arguably the most important year since most post-graduation jobs are based off of 1L grades. We had roughly 200 pages of reading a week for the first year, if not more. Many of my classmates were unaccustomed to this level of work or to the level of literary analysis necessary to dissect complex cases. I credit my preparedness to the rigorous training I received in the Princeton English Department, which required me to read, process, and often write about copious amounts of pages in a short amount of time.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to maintain my child advocacy roots throughout my time at law school. Not only have I taken courses in family law and education law, I have also had the opportunity to work at Maryland Legal Aid doing custody, divorce, and child abuse and neglect cases during my 1L summer. Harvard’s Clinical and Pro Bono programs offer several channels for engaging in child advocacy policy work (school to prison pipeline, foster care, education reform) and provide direct services to clients.

After graduation, I plan to clerk for Judge Ryon, a family law judge in the Montgomery County Circuit Court in Maryland. My success in law school, as well as my success in acquiring legal jobs, stems from the strong writing and analytical skills honed and refined at Princeton.