2L Sarah Barr started thinking about the rights of young people while in middle school in Short Hills, New Jersey.
In addition to her own parents, so many of her peers’ parents were also divorcing that the school guidance counselor declared “a state of emergency” and founded a peer support circle for the estimated 65% of Barr’s classmates. Amidst the chaos, Barr felt powerless while she watched her own and her friends’ lives dramatically change. None of them had any influence on their parents’ custody arrangements in court. Many were infuriated and felt blindsided by the imposed changes, yet none seemed to have a voice the adults thought worth hearing.
Despite this early experience, and despite growing up with a lawyer mother, it was not until her post-college job at the Children’s Law Center (CLC) in Washington, D.C. that Barr realized she was passionate about pursuing a career in law. At CLC, which represents foster care youth, Barr was involved in cases that allowed families to be reunited, or placed kids in safe situations after suffering harm. Connecting personally with many of her clients reinforced for Barr how the law can be a powerful tool to improve people’s lives.
After her first year at UC Hastings, during which she competed on the Negotiations Team, Barr landed an internship in the Appeals, Writs & Trials section of the Criminal Division at the California Attorney General’s Office in San Francisco. This division responds to and prosecutes criminal appeals, including death penalty cases. Throughout the 10-week internship, Barr responded to appeals, handled four cases on her own, and earned the praise of her supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Dorian C. Jung, who said that Barr handled “more cases, of greater complexity, than I could have expected of any law student.”
In addition to the cases she handled through written appeals, Barr was able to argue an appeal in court during the internship because she became certified with the California State Bar by taking Professor Roger Park’s Evidence class. Barr believes it was her experience arguing before three judges in Moot Court with Professor Alexius Markwalder that allowed her to stay calm during the experience. “I felt I had the skills and I definitely had the tools [to argue],” Barr said, “I just had to use them.”
Since Barr has a clear vision for how she wants to give back to the community as an attorney—she wants to use her time at UC Hastings to focus on getting the most thorough law education possible. With that said, in addition to working on the Hastings Law Journal, she can’t resist the urge to start volunteering with The Justice & Diversity Center's (JDC) Legal Advice and Referral Clinic this year, which responds to legal concerns of the general public. As for next summer? Barr has already gotten an offer to work at a law firm, though she is not ready to disclose where.