While you are not the first GSV to go on to law school, it is not a common path for our alums to pursue. What motivated your career choice?
Law students are constantly asked how they ended up in law school, and the truth is that I am not entirely sure how I landed here. It seems like no answer I can give is adequate to justify three years of intense education followed by a lifetime of being at a higher risk for depression and alcoholism than the general population. However, I can definitively say that I have always felt called to work in some sort of helping profession, and lawyers are in a unique and special position to help people from all walks of life.
I began college as an education major, and somewhere along the way I started thinking about law school instead. It was the product of a lot of small decisions, and by the time I moved to New York City to begin my year with GSV I knew that law school was likely where I would be headed. However, I also used the year to consider other alternatives, such as graduate school, marrying a multi-millionaire, or continuing on at FBH as a social worker. When the end of the year finally arrived, law school was a “now or never” decision for me—the timing felt right, and I am not sure that I ever would have gotten here if I did not jump in right away after GSV.
What kind of law will you be practicing?
I hope to be involved in some sort of public interest work, such as an organization like Legal Aid, or working with youth in some capacity, which could involve juvenile defense work or acting as a Guardian Ad Litem for youth who are in the system. I could also phrase this in negative terms by stating that while I still harbor some uncertainty about what type of work I’ll be doing when I graduate, I do not want to be working for The Man.
What does a day in the life of Sarah Jane Simons look like? Any particular highlights to law school you can share?
A day in the life of SJS revolves almost exclusively around the law school. I usually get to the library an hour or so before my first class to catch up on reading, have my morning tea, and chat with some of my classmates. When I am not in class during the day I am either studying at my desk in the library or working at the Iowa Capitol, where I have been interning with a legislator from the House of Representatives.
A major highlight of law school thus far has been being able to immerse myself back into a collegiate atmosphere. My classmates are simultaneously ridiculous, hilarious, and maddening, but they always make life a little more interesting. Another highlight is that now that I am a second year student, I am able to explore more areas of interest than is possible as a first year student—I have been able to take classes that in many ways connect me back to social work, seen local politics in action through my internship at the Capitol, and I am currently looking forward to participating in the legal clinic at the law school for the duration of my 3L year.
Has your GSV experience continued to have an effect on your personal or professional decisions? If so, how?
In general, being a part of GSV solidified my desire to make social justice work a part of my career. And more specifically, working with young people and their families in the Bronx led to my interest in juvenile law. Next year I will be representing youth through Drake’s Children’s Rights Clinic, which is an area of law I may not have felt so strongly about without my experience with GSV. I am confident that much of the work I did at FBH will translate directly to my career as an attorney through the effects of simple exposure to issues and concerns that are unique to vulnerable populations.
What’s next for you?
I have a little over a year left of school, which will be followed by a summer spent furiously studying for the bar exam. After school is finished I hope to shock the recession, the economy, and myself by finding the perfect job right away. In the meantime, I will be here in Iowa, cherishing being located in close proximity to my family and enjoying the time I have left as a law student.