When Ellen Clarke decided to go to law school, her decision to attend UGA was an easy one, she says. Now entering her final year, her experience has provided a clear path for her future.
Chamblee Charter High School, Chamblee, Ga.
B.S.F.S., Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service (2009)
University highlights, achievements and awards:
I am the editor-in-chief of the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law for the 2013-2014 school year. This past year, I served on the journal’s editorial board. Last spring I competed in the Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, where our team won an award for our brief and I won an individual oralist award. I will compete at the Emory University Civil Rights and Liberties Moot Court Tournament in the fall and will coach the Jessup International Law Moot Court team on its brief in the spring.
Additionally, this past year I served as the chairperson for public relations for Law Democrats and was involved with the Women Law Students Association. Some of my most rewarding experiences have come from mentoring through the Women Law Students Association and working as a teaching assistant for first-year students. I also am honored to be the recipient of a Law School Association Scholarship and the Grace Barnes Scholarship.
This summer, I’m working at the United States Attorney’s Office in Atlanta. Last spring I had the opportunity to intern with Judge Richard Story in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. During the past academic year, I worked as a teaching assistant for first-year Civil Procedure, a research assistant for professor Bo Rutledge and a German tutor for middle school students.
Family Ties to UGA:
My brother, John, is a rising senior in the Terry College of Business. A few of my uncles are UGA alums. My mother has fond memories of visiting her brothers and attending Georgia football games!
I chose to attend UGA because...
UGA Law appealed to me for a number of reasons. First, I want to practice in Atlanta, and the UGA alumni network there is unmatched. Second, the school provides an unbeatable value. Third, UGA has an outstanding program in international law and a great reputation for its advocacy opportunities. The combination of these factors made it easy for me to make the decision to attend UGA.
My favorite things to do on campus are...
… to take a study break and walk downtown through North Campus to get a coffee. North Campus is so beautiful in every season. I also enjoy taking advantage of the great performances at the Performing Arts Center.
When I have free time, I like...
… trying new restaurants, listening to live music, taking yoga classes and reading books for fun.
The craziest thing I've done is...
… to continue living in Atlanta, commuting to Athens every day for law school. Ordinarily, it doesn’t occur to me that it’s crazy to drive three hours round trip daily, but the way other people occasionally react reminds me that commuting is, in fact, unusual. However, commuting really works for me. I value the time I spend with my spouse, family and friends in Atlanta. I’m also able to focus solely on law school while I’m in Athens.
My favorite place to study is...
… my desk at home. On campus, my favorite place to study is the main floor of the law library, where natural light streams in through those fantastic windows and passing classmates provide welcome distractions.
My favorite professor is...
… Bo Rutledge and Elizabeth Burch. Each taught a semester of the yearlong first-year Civil Procedure course. This year, I have had both for upper-level classes in their respective specialties: International Civil Litigation with professor Rutledge and Mass Torts with professor Burch. Both are well-respected scholars in their fields and always encourage their students to think about how their lessons will translate to the real-life practice of law. But their excellence as teachers extends beyond the classroom. Professor Rutledge gave me the opportunities to work as his research assistant and his teaching assistant. Both positions required me to develop new skills, but particularly the work I did in English and German as his research assistant. Professor Burch is an inspiring example of a young female lawyer, as she has accomplished quite a lot in just a few years of practice. I benefit immensely from her mentorship; she is just as willing to sit down and have a long chat about my ultimate career goals as she is to answer a last-minute email about interview prep.
But to pick just one (or two!) professors is nearly an impossible task. So many members of the Georgia Law faculty—Sally Weaver, Dan Coenen, Erica Hashimoto and Thomas Burch, to name a few—have extended a hand to me and answered my questions both academic and professional.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...
… Michelle Obama. A successful lawyer in her own right, Mrs. Obama has had a career with many different phases—I admire this boldness and flexibility. I also admire her humility in pressing “pause” on her own career to serve as first lady beside President Obama. It would be illuminating to hear from her how she balanced a two-career relationship, parenting and public service. I am inspired by her grace and poise, and the ease and humor with which she conducts herself in the public eye.
If I knew I could not fail, I would...
… reconstruct legal institutions in transitioning states. One of my professors at Georgetown helped the Russian government restructure its institutions after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and a family friend helped rewrite the Iraqi constitution in the early 2000s. Their work opened my eyes to how effective civil society can be in helping a country through a crisis. Strong institutions provide the framework for societies and countries in transition, and the importance of this work is matched only by its challenges. I would want to use my inability to fail to do the most good and make the most lasting impact; working on a team dedicated to helping countries emerge stronger from war or revolution would be the best use of this superpower.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to...
… travel! Law school limits my ability to travel, but I’ve had fun visiting friends across the country from Los Angeles to Little Rock to New York. If money was no object, I would want to go everywhere, starting with Croatia, Turkey, Patagonia and Brazil.
After graduation, I plan to...
… litigate. Before law school, I worked as a translator and case assistant at a large litigation law firm. The experience inspired me to apply to law school, because even at the bottom of the totem pole, I liked how challenging the work was on a daily basis. The factual variations among cases and the moving parts of litigation practice itself convince me that the practice of law will be engaging in both the short and long term.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...
… helping my little brother move into his freshman residence hall. It was so wonderful to be there at the very beginning of his college experience. And, of course, as his older sister, it was my job to be as embarrassing as possible. We have pictures of every moment of the day: packing the car, getting his dorm key, meeting his roommate, posing with Hairy Dawg … he’ll thank me one day, I just know it.