Q&A: Law Student Yearns to Be a Voice for Children

Lisa Seagears headshot

“After some meaningful experiences working with children in inner-city communities, I knew that was the demographic I wanted to devote my life to helping,” Erin Seagears said. (Photo by Julia Davis)

Erin Seagears, a University of Virginia School law student, put her undergraduate plans for dental school on hold permanently to help children in need of a lawyer.

Inspired by her religious beliefs, a summer internship and her clinical work at the UVA School of Law, Seagears hopes to use her law degree to defend children in court after graduating next spring.

The Gainesville native earned a bachelor’s degree in political and social thought from UVA, and after enrolling in law school, worked with the Legal Aid Justice Center’s JustChildren program as a summer Public Interest Law Association intern in 2018.

In the occasional UVA Law series “Star Witness,” Seagears talked to UVA Law about her legal work with children and being a life coach.   

Q. Tell us something about your life before law school.

A. One thing that has always been a big part of my life is music, specifically singing. My entire family sings – my parents even made a record together, titled “Promise,” in the ’80s for fun – so that’s definitely where it comes from.

One of my favorite experiences in undergrad was being a part of an a cappella group here at UVA. Throughout law school, I haven’t been super-successful in finding a consistent musical outlet, but I did direct a gospel choir during [her first year of law school].

Q. Why law school?

A. Fun fact: I started college 99% sure I was going to be a dentist. About a month in, I was 99% sure I did not want to be a dentist and only knew that I wanted to “help people.”

After some meaningful experiences working with children in inner-city communities, I knew that was the demographic I wanted to devote my life to helping. Still unsure of how to best do that, one night I simply asked God, “What do you want me to do with my life?” and then decided to just read a couple verses before bed. To my surprise, when I opened up my Bible, there was only one verse underlined: “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed,” Psalm 82:3. I thought that was pretty clear!

I’m so grateful that I have been able to live out that calling at UVA Law and with the great public interest community here. I just finished up my [second-year] summer defending low-income (and many fatherless) children in Baltimore and absolutely loved it.

Since that night six years ago, there has never been a doubt in my mind that this is what I am supposed to do.

Q. Describe your most interesting law school experience.

A. My most interesting and favorite law school experience has definitely been the Child Advocacy Clinic. My incredible supervisors [and UVA Law alumni] Amy Walters and Mario Salas taught me so much and are now both beloved mentors. The many friendships I formed in the clinic throughout the year are now some of my most meaningful at the Law School.

And most importantly, it allowed me to do what I came to law school to do: learn how to be the best possible advocate for children in need. I loved it so much, I’m kind of taking it again! Through the advanced clinical topics course, I will be working with the Child Advocacy Clinic to represent a youth in a serious offender review hearing in October.

Q. We’ve heard you’re a life coach in your spare time. Tell us about that.

A. This is one thing I started and loved doing in college, and I have been able to bring into my law school life! I am passionate about mentoring and helping others reach their potential, especially when it comes to helping them develop their faith. It is such a joy to see real transformation in others’ lives, and I always learn from those I coach as well. Those relationships over the years have meant so much to me.

Q. What’s next for you?

A. I will be clerking for a wonderful circuit court judge in Baltimore City after graduation. After the clerkship, I hope to start a career as a juvenile public defender.

“Star Witness” is an occasional Q&A series featuring students at UVA Law.

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