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Sarah Welch to clerk for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh

Published: July 9, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University alumna Sarah Welch ’16 is headed to Washington, D.C., where she'll clerk for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The court ended its 2020-21 term on July 2 by announcing the new slate of law clerks that will be working with them in the next term.

“I’m honored and excited to have the chance to learn from Justice Kavanaugh and to work at the Supreme Court. And I’m so grateful to everyone who has nurtured my interest in the law and helped teach and guide me along the way,” Welch said.

At OHIO, Welch was an Honors Tutorial College student torn between piano and physics. And when she began to think about law school, she found a home in the Center for Law, Justice & Culture.

"I majored in music through the Honors Tutorial College, and I also 'majored' in the minors: I started with a minor in physics, then discovered I loved the math classes I was taking and added a math minor. When I decided in my third year that I wanted to go to law school, I added the Law, Justice & Culture Certificate and thought I’d add on a fourth certificate in Italian Studies while I was at it. It was a weird path through undergrad, but I’m glad I took the chance to study things I was (and remain) interested in," she said in a 2018 story, Happy Beginnings | CLJC Certificate, Mock Trial Prepared Welch For Law School.

“A United States Supreme Court clerkship is one of the most prestigious and highly sought after positions that a recent law school graduate can attain. I have very much enjoyed working with Sarah over the years, first as a CLJC and Mock Trial student, and later as a valued alumni contributor to our programs. I congratulate her on this amazing accomplishment and look forward to her future successes,” said Larry Hayman, Esq, pre-law advisor in the Center for Law, Justice & Culture.
 

From left to right: Noah Allen, Sarah Welch, and Hannah Caldwell smile and pose, holding up their awards
From left to right: Noah Allen, Sarah Welch, and Hannah Caldwell with their awards from the Pittsburgh Regional Mock Trial Competition in 2016.

Mock Trial Piqued Her Interest in Law School

"I doubt I would have even considered law if I hadn’t done mock trial in high school. I loved thinking about the law, crafting the most persuasive arguments I could, anticipating what my opponents would argue, and presenting my arguments before a judge. It seemed to me like a natural and delightful way of thinking about problems. Of course, it was far from the only thing I loved and was interested in, but gradually came to the forefront the longer I spent studying other things in undergrad," she said in 2018 during law school at the University of Chicago – consistently ranked among the best law schools in the United States.

Welch competed on the OHIO Mock Trial team, winning Best Attorney Awards for her job as the defense closing attorney in 2016 at regionals and in the Opening Round Championship Series. (See OHIO Mock Trial Team Advances; Students Recognized at Regionals.)

After graduating from Ohio University in 2016, Welch would keep close ties with Hayman and the Center for Law, Justice & Culture. Most recently she participated in Pre-Law Day last fall, and she has helped judge virtual mock trials.

Internships and Lots of Hands-on Experience

In addition to the Mock Trial Team, Welch was one of the first OHIO students to intern with the Ohio Innocence Project, which now provides OHIO students with leadership opportunities working on wrongful conviction cases and running a student chapter.

Welch took every opportunity to get hands-on experience. In addition to Ohio Innocence Project and Mock Trial Team, she interned with Mollica Gall Sloan & Sillery Co. LPA in Athens. 

As a law student, she spent her summers with two law firms and three government entities, including the Ohio Attorney General's Office in Columbus and the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington. She did two stints at the Justice Department, once as a Phillips Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General and once as an intern in the Office of Legal Policy. 

She also was very active throughout law school, in Law Review (where she was an articles editor and published a student note about appellate jurisdiction over sentencing appeals), the Federalist Society, the Vincent Gambini Society, and the Christian Legal Society. She participated in a research trip to The Hague and in the Hinton moot court competition, where she won the Llewelyn Cup. 

She was a research assistant for University of Chicago Law School professors Will Baude, Justin Driver, and Richard Epstein, and was named a Kirkland & Ellis Scholar and elected to the Order of the Coif.

After law school, Welch served as a law clerk to the Honorable Jeffrey Sutton on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Columbus, Ohio, and she just completed clerking for the Honorable William H. Pryor on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Birmingham, Alabama.
 

Sarah Welch on a rock in a pond
Sarah Welch in 2018.

The following advice for students interested in law is excerpted from Happy Beginnings | CLJC Certificate, Mock Trial Prepared Welch For Law School.

Q: What do you think were the most important things you did as an undergrad to prepare you for law school?

A: My courses through the Center for Law, Justice & Culture certificate coursework were especially helpful. Professor Patricia Gunn's constitutional law course was taught like a real law school course and was great preparation. Getting a grounding in legal realism through Professor Jennifer Fredette’s Politics of Law course has proved extremely relevant. Professor Kevin Uhalde’s Roman Law course inspired me to take another course in Roman Law in law school. And Professor Paul Jones’ Law and Literature course was one of the most enjoyable classes I took in undergrad—and, incidentally, left me prepared to nail a cold call just a couple of weeks ago about what Antigone teaches us about modern privacy law.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the OHIO Mock Trial team, which started just in time for my last year at OHIO. Every law-interested OHIO student should participate, no exceptions. It’s an invaluable chance to learn about the law, hone legal reasoning and public speaking skills, participate in a rewarding team environment, and learn from the team’s absolutely terrific coaches.

Q: Do you have any advice for students interested in law?

A: I have three pieces of advice. First, take advantage of opportunities to learn how to work hard, do difficult things, and do excellent work in undergrad. I’m grateful every day for the experiences I had and the broad knowledge base OHIO gave me. The school is incredibly rich in opportunities; take advantage of them. Hard work pays off, and I’ve never regretted doing my best at something.

Second, develop knowledge about what it means to be a lawyer. Talk to as many lawyers and law students as you can. Work in a law firm or public interest organization. Take classes about law. Pay attention to legal news from resources like SCOTUSBlog and Howard Bashman’s excellent “How Appealing” blog. I started law school embarrassingly ignorant about the legal profession, practice areas, and what it takes to be successful in law school and professional life. I’ve been very grateful for all the pre-law school knowledge I gained, and wish I’d done more. (For what it’s worth, I’m happy to talk to students who are thinking about law school. Feel free to reach out.)

Third, a life tip: figure out how to be content now. Applying to law school is hard. Law school is hard. Being a lawyer is hard. It’s easy to write off day-to-day discontent as situational and tell yourself you’ll be happier and more relaxed when you turn in this paper or finish this term. Not to be too real, but the staggeringly high levels of substance abuse, mental health struggles, and suicide in the legal profession suggest that it doesn’t get better, and that depending on your external circumstances for your happiness is a losing strategy. So figure out how to be content now, and take care of yourself now.

What is your favorite Ohio University memory?

Countless late-night runs to Union Street Diner for Oreo milkshakes, fried pickles, and hilarity with precious friends. OHIO is a magical place.