An Interview with Sarah Schuh '07

Q. Why did you decide to go to law school?
As a third grader, I wrote a letter to the first President Bush asking him to save the trees and protect animals. He replied with a letter and picture of himself with Barbara. I have grown in many ways since that letter, but one thing has remained the same: I believe a law degree creates opportunities to work as an agent for positive change.

How did you choose Wisconsin for law school?
I wanted to attend a law school in a place where I ultimately might practice law. A Wisconsin network was important to me as a lifelong Wisconsin resident. Secondarily, I wanted a law school with a stellar reputation. The opportunities in a capital city, career prospects nationwide, clinical opportunities, diverse student population, and in-state tuition were all a piece of this stellar reputation at Wisconsin that affected my decision.

How did you become interested in a public service career?
A family member’s low-income life experiences focused my career motivations. This low-income status created issues of housing, consumer law, taxes, child support, medical insurance, and criminal accusations. I was affected by these struggles, and the struggles continue to drive my passion for serving low-income communities and supporting organizations that do the same.

What did you do during the summers of your first and second years of law school?
I began concentrating on sentencing and corrections issues after assisting federal inmates on sentencing, family law, and community re-entry concerns in a UW Law School clinical. The following summer, as an intern at the Bureau of Prisons’ Office of General Counsel, I envisioned communicating my clients’ experiences in national corrections policy formation. To my surprise and delight I also developed skills in employment litigation, labor negotiations, agency relations, and environmental law.

What was your favorite law school class or professor?
Favorite class: Community Economic Development with Lisa Alexander. The class has expanded and inspired my ideas for future possible career moves. First in the class we learned about business, nonprofit and government legal structures for affecting the lives of low-income people. Then we applied our new knowledge in a community project.

How did Wisconsin’s law-in-action philosophy influence your legal education?
The same Community Economic Development class illustrates how Wisconsin’s approach creates opportunities to apply classroom work in real life situations. In this class I worked with fellow students, local attorneys, and a non profit to answer a federal housing tax subsidy concern for a local retirement community.

There are so many student groups and activities. What advice would you have for a 1L in terms of choosing law school activities?
Organizations offer inspiration and relief from stress. Join an organization where you can meet friends, expand your interests and explore career possibilities. Volunteer in the community, meet attorneys to learn their experiences, and most of all, have some fun!

Why were you so interested in working to establish a loan repayment program?
A cornerstone of my undergraduate experience was advocating to create financial access to higher education for all economic statuses. It came naturally then in law school to focus efforts on the loan repayment program (LRAP). LRAP creates the opportunity for law students to pursue careers representing low-income people in jobs with salaries that cannot support law student size loans. This lifts at least a small financial burden so students can follow dreams, not loans.

What did you like most about living in Madison?
Madison’s balance of small and big city was perfect. The legal experience is rich with internships found in a capital city, and the personal day-to-day living is bar none. You could find me exploring the many local coffee shops with my homework, enjoying the music concert scene, or jogging on lakeside paths or through the woods to Picnic Point.

What advice do you have for someone considering law school?
Do it!

Any career service advice about preparing for the job market or looking for jobs?
Talk to professors who have worked in your legal area of interest; talk to them early and often. Professors can provide advice for internships, people to call for informational interviews, and ways to build toward applications in even the third year. If you think you are too late to apply for something, apply anyway (by the deadline though!). Your neighbor may be a procrastinator, too. Your colleagues are a talented bunch, but so are you.

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