Alumni of the Month Dec '12
Sarah Clark knew at a young age that she wanted to be involved in government and politics someday. A native of Littleton, Colorado, Clark attended college at Harvard University, where she majored in social studies with a focus on the democratization of Latin America. Her interest in leadership studies led Clark to do coursework and extracurricular activities at the Kennedy School of Government, and she completed an undergraduate thesis in which she travelled to Mexico for a leadership case study of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, mayor of Mexico City. Clark graduated from Harvard in 2004 and returned to her home state to attend Colorado Law. During law school, she was editor in chief of the University of Colorado Law Review, and participated in the Natural Resources Law Clinic. Clark earned her JD from Colorado Law in 2007, and went to clerk at the Colorado Supreme Court for then-Justice Michael Bender.
Following the completion of her judicial clerkship in 2008, Clark joined the Denver energy firm of Wellborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley, where her litigation practice focused on disputes between oil and gas developers involving matters of real property. In addition to her litigation work, Clark handled permitting issues for renewable energy projects, one of the firm's growing practice areas. She has authored a book chapter on "Conflicts Between Natural Resources and Surface Development" in Environmental Regulation of Colorado Real Property.
Clark began to get more involved in local government, and she was elected to the Edgewater City Council in 2009. As councilperson, Clark was instrumental in launching the city's first curbside recycling program, which had been a controversial issue for a number of years. She was also involved in developing and passing Edgewater's medical marijuana ordinance. Clark was fascinated with policymaking at a municipal level, and her legal training was invaluable as she worked to build consensus and help members of the community make compromises. Clark also served as the council's liaison to the Edgewater Redevelopment Authority. In 2010, Governor Bill Ritter appointed Clark to Colorado's Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, which oversees the training, certification, and decertification of all police officers in the state and is chaired by the Colorado attorney general.
Clark left private practice in 2011 to work as Counsel to Chief Justice Michael Bender, a position she currently holds. In addition to serving as a strategist and advisor, Clark is responsible for facilitating the chief justice's vision among the legal profession as a whole, and to that end she works closely with state and local bar associations, law schools, the Colorado Access to Justice Commission, the Chief Justice Commission, and other organizations. "Sarah is the complete lawyer," says Chief Justice Bender. "She's extremely talented, intelligent, creative, and hardworking. She puts all her talents to work contributing as a leader to our profession and our legal community."
Clark remains active in the community as well. She and her husband Seth are members of the National Ski Patrol, and are volunteer ski patrollers at Ski Cooper, the mountain where Clark grew up skiing and where she coordinates National Ski Patrol Day, an annual event that draws patrollers from around the nation. Clark is also an accomplished athlete: in 2008, she competed at the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, HI, and for the past three years she has raced in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
Five Questions for Sarah Clark
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
I would definitely have to say working on law review, because it deepened my relationships with my classmates, who are now colleagues. Also, the role-playing aspect of Professor Scott Peppet's negotiation class really helped me start to develop a sense of my professional identity – I realized, "I'm going to be a lawyer."
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
I wish I had known how much working in the clinics kick-starts your ability to learn the practical skills necessary to be a lawyer.
What advice would you give to current students as they're preparing to graduate?
I realize this may sounds repetitive, but develop your practical skills and personal identity as a lawyer. It puts you on the right path to have a sustained career in law.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
Chief Justice Bender has been a wonderful mentor. He has helped shape my perspective on the important place that the rule of law holds in our society. He has made me proud to be a lawyer.
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
Without a doubt, giving back to the community as a city council person/member.