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The Long Path to Law

U of I College of Law Boise Program Makes Possible for Student to Complete her Degree, Pursue her Dream Career

Sarah Clemens always dreamed about becoming a lawyer, and at 33, she’ll finally be realizing her dream.

This month, Clemens will graduate from the University of Idaho with her law degree. After the graduation ceremony, she’ll embark on a two-year clerkship with Chief Justice Bevan at the Idaho Supreme Court. Once she’s done, she hopes to focus on appellate work with the office of the attorney general for the state.

While Clemens is excited for graduation, the fulfillment of a childhood dream wasn’t easy. Life presented her with many obstacles that she was able to overcome thanks to her inner strength, support from her family and loved ones, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from U of I’s College of Law.

“Since I was a child, I’ve always been very opinionated and wanted to be right, so entering this field was something that I knew suited me,” she said. “But I had an experience which really solidified my desire to become a lawyer.”

Years ago, Clemens was hit by a drunk driver.

“The experience left me feeling like I had no voice, and it made me realize I wanted to work as a lawyer and give a voice to others,” she said.

Clemens, who grew up in Boise and graduated from Mountain View High, says she began her long path to becoming a lawyer by starting as a legal assistant for the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office and working in similar positions for 10 years, unsure if she had what it took to become a lawyer.

“I took online classes while I worked, and after I graduated with a degree in criminal justice, I took the LSAT but didn’t do very well,” she said. “The results shook my confidence.”

Over the years, her mentors continued to encourage her to fulfill her dream.

She retook the LSATs and was accepted into Concordia University’s Boise law program, which, unbeknownst to her, would close its doors in less than two years.

Sarah Clemens in front of the U of I Boise College of Law building

Murphy’s Law

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, according to Murphy’s Law, something not mentioned in any of Clemens law books. 2020 was just that year for Clemens.

At the start of her second year of law school, Clemens lost her dog and things got worse within a few weeks, when she learned that her mother was diagnosed with cancer. In early 2020, COVID-19 made headlines and classes moved online; and in June, Concordia announced they were closing their Boise law school, leaving 150 students without a plan to finish their education — Clemens among them.

“Those were very emotionally charged times,” Clemens said. “In June, I flew to California, where my mom was living at the time, as she was told she didn’t have much time left. I didn’t know if I could finish law school, after two years of hard work. My mom was so proud that I was doing something that I’ve always wanted to do... It took the breath out of me.”

In what remains the largest student transfer in the Pacific Northwest, U of I, which now offers all three years of law school in Boise and Moscow, offered all Concordia students a place at any of its two locations so they could finish their degree.

“I learned that I was accepted at U of I the day after my mom passed away,” Clemens said. “It was very difficult to not be able to share that with her, but I also believe she knew I would land on my feet.”

Clemens said U of I was “phenomenal” with the transfer.

“I don’t know what I would have done without the offer and the support from the university,” she said. “Because of U of I, I’m able to realize my childhood dream and offer a voice to others.”

To celebrate her accomplishments, she will walk with her peers at the U of I Boise Commencement ceremony in the Idaho Botanical Garden on May 18.

Article by Maria Ortega, University of Idaho Boise.

Published May 2021.

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