Throughout her career as a successful civil litigator, University of Colorado Law School alumna Sarah Wallace has used her legal expertise to give back to the community.
Wallace is a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP, where she focuses on representing businesses in litigation and appeals, including trade secret litigation, breach of contract litigation, and more. In her spare time, she volunteers as a trustee for the Colorado Legal Aid Foundation and works with the Center for Legal Inclusiveness on their diversity initiatives.
“I had every intention of going into some sort of public interest law, and I spent a summer working in legal aid, which I loved,” Wallace said. “But I decided that I would be more intellectually challenged in a different environment and that I would give back to the community in other ways.”
Wallace’s passion for public interest law informed her decision to start her legal education at American University in Washington, D.C., which had one of the top public interest programs in the nation. Wallace did not come from a family of lawyers and earned an undergraduate degree in English literature. Nevertheless, she always had a sense that she might be good at being a lawyer.
“I had a sense that unless you have a life’s passion, like being an artist or a musician, then maybe the way to be successful or to like your job is to be good at it,” Wallace said.
However, living in D.C. was not quite the right fit for Wallace.
“I had been in Crested Butte the two years before law school, and so I kind of desperately wanted to get back to Colorado because I had decided that that’s where I wanted to live,” Wallace said.
After her first year at American University, Wallace transferred to Colorado Law where she thought the professors were “fabulous.” Wallace enjoyed the Socratic method of teaching and particularly enjoyed her First Amendment class with Professor Robert Nagel. She later worked as a research assistant for Nagel.
“[Professor Nagel] was really fabulous at being kind of a devil’s advocate and trying to show us how policy affects how people view the First Amendment,” Wallace said.
Wallace graduated from law school in 1999 and started her legal career as a clerk for Chief Justice Pamela Minzner of the New Mexico Supreme Court. She remains involved with Colorado Law students and recent graduates as a recruiter and mentor. Wallace manages Ballard Spahr’s Summer Associate Program and said one of her most prized achievements has been getting to work with new attorneys at the beginning of their careers.
“I’ve gotten to see them really turn into great attorneys and just being able to be part of that whole process has been so rewarding,” Wallace said.
In addition to her role as a mentor, Wallace shares her expertise with the community by providing legal representation to those in need. She has enjoyed serving on the board of trustees for the Colorado Legal Aid Foundation, where she gets to spend time with people who are equally as committed to the community.
Over the course of her career, Wallace has found that business litigation challenges and inspires her. She always knew she would do litigation of some sort but did not have a clear concept of what she would do.
“What really excited me about commercial litigation is just the complexity of the cases and the law because intellectual stimulation is definitely something that drives me,” Wallace said.
Wallace clearly excels at her work. She was named among Colorado’s Super Lawyers in 2010, 2015, and 2016, and was also named among Colorado’s Top 50 Women Super Lawyers of 2016.
When she is not shining in the courtroom, Wallace loves to go skiing and biking with her family. She is married to a fellow Colorado Law alumnus, Chad Wallace (’98), whom she met in law school. They have two sons, ages 10 and 12.
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
Finishing exams in May and knowing I would not have to sit for exams again until December.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
How hard it is to get stand up time when practicing law; I wish I had taken more advantage of the opportunities in law school.
What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?
It's all about time management.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
The late New Mexico Chief Justice Pamela Minzner. She taught me what a privilege it is to serve as part of the judiciary.
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
Managing a busy legal practice while raising two awesome boys.