Sarah Weddington – of 'Roe v Wade' fame

5 minutes with... Sarah Weddington

Sarah WeddingtonStarting out, what did you expect from a career in law?

As a college senior I planned to be an English & speech secondary education teacher. As a practice teacher I tried to make 8th graders love Beowulf. That was when I decided to go to law school. I expected law to be interesting, to expose me to bright students who would sometimes become lifelong friends, to allow me to support myself, and to give me the ability to have an impact in the world.

What do you consider to have been your big break?

In 1969 a group of female graduate science students, with a male student, asked me whether they could legally tell women about contraception and abortion or whether they could be prosecuted for doing that. I told them that I didn't know but that I would go to the law library and look up the answer. They had no money, so I agreed to work for them for free. That led me to the US Supreme Court and being the youngest person to argue and win a case (Roe v Wade) there.

What differences do you see in today's legal market compared to when you started?

For women, there are many more opportunities than when I started. I'm so delighted to see that change!

What achievement are you most proud of?  

Changing the world for US women so that now they have far wider options, especially about reproductive choices.

"For women, there are many more opportunities than when I started. I'm so delighted to see that change!"

What do you consider your greatest failure or regret?

I regret that we are still having to defend Roe v Wade, but it is certainly important to do that. It will be wonderful when it is assured and we can move on to work for other legal issues.

What law would you want to change, abolish or create?

(I'm going to pass over.)

Who is your legal hero?  

My legal heroes are those who have widened the opportunities available to women and people of diversity.

What advice would you give to women starting out in their law careers today?

First, be open to risks. My biggest risks have led to my biggest victories. Second, enjoy your path. In difficult times I relish the memories of travels, friends, the fun of learning and wins.

What career would you have in your second life?

Speaking and writing. I love it when people who have heard me speak or who have read my book A Question of Choice tell me how much they appreciated it or about the positive impact it has had for them.

How would you like to be remembered?  

I believe that leadership is the willingness and the ability to make a difference. I would like to be remembered as someone who used law as the path to make a difference for millions of people.