Fulfilling a Legacy
Sara Phipps’ graduation as a member of the Class of 2020 is about more than obtaining a J.D. at the University of Virginia School of Law.
Phipps is fulfilling a legacy as a member of the first multigenerational black family with both parents to have attended UVA Law.
Phipps’ parents, Errol and Kim Phipps of the Class of 1991, met at UVA Law and married before their final year of law school. Errol is now vice president and associate general counsel at AT&T, a top-10 company in the Fortune 500. Kim provides counsel for insurance giant Liberty Mutual, serving as a litigator. Their daughter Sydney is also a first-year student at the Law School.
“Our parents are our biggest role models, so it has been really special for Sydney and me to both be able to walk exactly in their footsteps by coming to UVA,” Sara Phipps said.
In our occasional series “Star Witness,” Phipps, currently at home with her family in Dallas, answered a few questions about her experiences at the Law School.
How did you decide to go to law school, and why did you choose UVA?
While studying business at the University of Michigan, I took a few electives that focused on the legal side of business, and those ended up being my favorite classes in undergrad. Coming to law school seemed like the best way to build a career that combined my interests in business and law. When it came to picking a law school, UVA was a no-brainer for me. I knew if I could do well enough to get in, this was absolutely where I wanted to be.
Where are you headed after law school?
I am so excited to be heading back home to Dallas and working at Kirkland & Ellis.
What stands out about your law school experience?
I could write a book about what stands out about my UVA Law experience; we’d be here all day, but if I had to pick one thing, it would 100% be the people here. I know that is the most cliché answer to this question, but I truly can’t think of anything else that had a bigger impact on my law school experience. Three of my best friends to this day are girls I met at orientation before classes even began. And although I may be biased, I’d argue that my section was the best section, and I can’t imagine surviving 1L without them (shoutout to Section J ’20). The people I’ve met over the past three years are what I’ll remember and cherish the most forever.
What kinds of extracurricular activities were you involved in?
I was on the Student Bar Association Programming Committee my 2L and 3L years. We hosted biweekly socials at the Law School for the entire student body, where students could come take a break with classmates and grab food and drinks. We also organized various other events throughout the school year, including a Law School tailgate in the fall before a football game and a picnic in both the fall and spring semesters.
I also participated in the annual iTrek trip to Israel during my 2L winter break. It was a weeklong trip led by four UVA Law students and a native guide. We spent time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv learning about the history, culture and political climate in that region of the world. It was easily the most unique and amazing trip I’ve ever been on, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to any UVA student who has the opportunity to participate.
What were your summer jobs/experiences?
The summer after 1L, I worked at Baker Botts in Dallas. The summer after 2L, I worked at Kirkland & Ellis in Dallas, where I will be returning full-time in the fall. My summer experiences definitely allowed me to explore a variety of transactional practice groups and get a better idea of what I am interested in. As a first-year associate in the K&E Dallas office, I will go in as a general transactional associate, so I still have a little more time to try out different practice areas and solidify which direction I want my career to go.
Did you have any important mentors?
Brittney Williams ’18 was an invaluable mentor to me throughout law school. She was, and still is, a friend, first and foremost. She was a 3L when I was a 1L, and we became friends very early on when I got to UVA. Her mentorship was very informal and really just consisted of me listening to her and observing how she got through law school. She gave me advice on classes to take and professors I should try to get. She brought me a care package before my first law school exams. Most importantly, she was always a calm voice of reason throughout the hectic year that is 1L. Even two years after she graduated, she is still looking out for me — just last week, she sent me a link for some extra bar prep materials that she found to be helpful when she was preparing for the bar.
What experiences in law school shaped your interests in transactional law?
I studied business in college, so I kind of came into law school with the idea that I’d be interested in going into a transactional practice area. With that in mind, I used my time at law school to explore other areas of the law that I find very interesting. After completing a couple core transactional classes (Corporations, Federal Income Tax, etc.), I took classes like Criminology, Wrongful Convictions and Criminal Investigations. I’d like to think that the second act of my law career will involve doing my part to reform the criminal justice system.
Your sister, Sydney Phipps ’22, also goes to UVA Law. What has that been like?
It has been really fun! We have always been told we look like twins — even though neither of us sees it — so I’m sure we’ve confused some people who don’t realize there are two of us in the Law School. We lived together this past year and adopted a kitten from the local shelter. It was crazy to see her go through all of the challenges and fun experiences of 1L, because it truly feels like just yesterday that I was a 1L going through the same exact things.
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.