The National Bar Association (NBA) has awarded NLSLA Staff Attorney Sarah O. Clifton a 2023 40 Under 40 Nation’s Best Advocates Award. The annual award “recognizes the nation’s top lawyers under 40 who exemplify a broad range of high achievement, including in innovation, vision, leadership and legal and community involvement.”
Sarah will be honored at the 40 Under 40 Awards Gala on August 2, 2023, which is part of the NBA’s 98th Annual Convention in Minneapolis, MN.
In Sarah’s role at NLSLA, she tirelessly advocates for domestic violence survivors. Throughout her career, Sarah has fought to give her clients a voice, overcome stereotypes, and battle systemic inequities.
While earning her J.D. from the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law, Sarah was active in the Public Interest Law Foundation and clerked for the Los Angeles County Public Defender. She earned her LL.M. in trial advocacy, before thriving as a public defender in Massachusetts. She then accepted the challenge of becoming a Coleman monitor, where she protected the rights of Californians struggling with mental health while incarcerated.
From there, Sarah zealously represented parents in keeping their families together in a damaged foster care system built on racism, classism, and gendered stereotypes. She later represented older foster youth aging out of this same broken system, including participating in a panel before the Probation Oversight Commission that resulted in one of the largest mass dismissals in the state’s history and the closure of a program that created barriers for youth since its inception. As a member of the Reimagine Child Safety Coalition, Sarah pushes for systemic changes alongside Black Lives Matter.
During her time as an ACLU attorney, Sarah engaged in policy advocacy, including regularly appearing before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Civilian Oversight Commission, and the Gender Responsive Advisory Committee regarding issues of over policing and incarceration. In early 2019, she helped to prevent the construction of a new jail.
Sarah dedicates time to the legal profession, mentoring students and chairing the Education Committee for Black Women Lawyers of Los Angeles, which among other initiatives, collaborates with community conscious bar tutorial organizations to prepare Black law students to conquer the bar exam.