Sarah Shalf ’01 To Join Faculty as New Clinics Director
Sarah Shalf, a 2001 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, will take the reins as the Law School’s new director of clinical programs, starting in November.
Shalf is wrapping up her duties as a professor of practice at Emory University Law School. There, she directs Emory’s Externship Program, co-directs its Professionalism Program and advises the Supreme Court Advocacy Program.
As director of the externship program, she has placed more than 165 students each semester in positions where students learn under the supervision of attorneys. She has overseen adjunct faculty who taught the companion seminars for students, and has taught civil litigation and small firm externship seminars as well.
As faculty adviser for the school’s student-run Supreme Court advocacy clinic, she was counsel for 15 cert petitions and 30 amicus briefs. Separately, Shalf and a fellow faculty member also helped students win an Eleventh Circuit appeal and ultimately a trial on behalf of a prisoner seeking to grow an untrimmed beard in accordance with his faith.
In addition, she advises Emory Law’s Civil Rights and Liberties Moot Court Competition.
“Sarah has a wealth of experience teaching, running programs, and in the bar and in national organizations,” Dean Risa Goluboff said. “I’m so excited to have her as part of our community and to see the new heights to which she will take clinics in partnership with our stellar clinical faculty.”
Initially, Shalf’s job at Emory wasn’t supposed to be as broad as it became. But previous Supreme Court Advocacy Program advisor David Bederman died in 2011, the year she began, just after the fall semester ended. Shalf was the only other person on the faculty admitted to practice at the court and willing to take on the role.
“You step up when you have skills that are relevant to what needs to be done,” she said.
Shalf spent nine years prior to academia as an associate at Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore in Atlanta. She practiced commercial litigation with a focus on cases involving technology and intellectual property, business torts and unfair competition, and racketeering and fraud. She engaged in appellate litigation at all levels of the Georgia and federal court systems.
She said she enjoyed the mix of experiences that she gained at the firm, which valued and encouraged pro bono work.
“We did a lot of really cool stuff,” Shalf said. “I did a couple of First Amendment cases. I did an Americans with Disabilities Act case on behalf of a prisoner. I did some habeas work, a direct criminal appeal and an immigration appeal. That kind of work built my skills that we could use on behalf of our paying clients.”
Shalf is active in the Atlanta and Georgia Bar associations, and she is the past chair of the technology law section of the Georgia Bar. She was founding chair of the Georgia chapter of the American Constitution Society, and advises the student chapter at Emory.
She clerked for Judge Frank M. Hull at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which has jurisdiction over cases originating in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
Shalf also holds bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and music from UVA, and a master’s in mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“I was going to be a math professor, but I didn’t enjoy [the academic work] enough to get a Ph.D.,” she said. So when she started law school, “A lot of people asked me if I planned on teaching. I said, ‘No, I want to do something that impacts the world.’ And so here I am teaching now, but doing something where I can impact the world.”
Shalf replaces Stephen Braga, who simultaneously led the Appellate Litigation Clinic, before returning to private practice this past summer
Teaching will also be among Shalf’s duties, likely in the area of civil litigation skills, “building up to a clinic,” she said. In the meantime, she’s looking forward to finding out how she can help fellow clinical faculty reach their goals.
She said she is happy to be returning to the state of Virginia, where her parents live, and to be back among so many familiar faces at Virginia Law. Her 2001 classmates currently working at UVA Law include Associate Professor Cale Jaffe, director of the Environmental and Regulatory Law Clinic, and administrators Polly Lawson, Cordel Faulk and Jason Dugas.
Professor Toby Heytens — a member of the Class of 2000 — encouraged Shalf to try out for the Virginia Law Review during law school. She went on to become executive editor. She also was elected to Order of the Coif, was a justice on the William Minor Lile Moot Court Board, performed in the Libel Show and received the Margaret Hyde Award, which is awarded by the faculty to an outstanding member of the graduating class.
Regarding the Libel Show, Shalf said she hopes there’s room to join next year’s faculty rebuttal, perhaps as the pianist accompanying the response.
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.