I have primarily worked in juvenile court in the child protection division. I am a lead attorney and supervisor. I represent abused and neglected children as well as supervise and manage a courtroom. I began my legal career in the private sector practicing in the areas of insurance defense and workers compensation. My goal however had always been to work in public interest and so when opportunity became available for me to work for the Office of the Public Guardian, I immediately grabbed it and never looked back.
How has your practice evolved in the last few years?
When I started practicing, representation of our clients was primarily limited to juvenile court where we litigated the issues of child safety and permanency. Due to a number of changes in the child welfare system, foster care caseloads have slowed down considerably and now there is more of an emphasis on children reunifying with their family or achieving permanency in their living situations either through adoption or guardianship. We are now able to focus our efforts on the overall well-being of our clients in foster care. We work hard to ensure our clients are provided with safe, stable and nurturing placements that meets their individual needs.
In addition to our work in juvenile court, we also ensure our clients receive appropriate services through the administrative hearing process, advocate for better outcomes for clients in the juvenile justice system and ensure they receive educational support and assistance from their school districts. Child advocacy has now become a well-respected and highly specialized area of the law. Attorneys that represent children are expected to have level of expertise in family and juvenile law issues.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
As a supervisor, I’ve had the pleasure and responsibility of training new attorneys. I have always encouraged them to seek out a mentor. It takes a lot of time and effort to learn the necessary skills to represent clients and it so important for new attorneys to have experienced lawyers provide practical advice and guidance.
What’s one technological device, application or tool you could not function without?
I can’t imagine living without my smartphone. It keeps me organized and on task.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
Civility and professionalism are critical components of good lawyering. When I first started practicing law, one of my mentors stressed the importance of remaining professional and courteous even when others act less than civil. She helped me to understand that although the issues may be adversarial in nature the relationship does not have to be adversarial. That was such an important lesson for me to learn and it is one that I stress when working with young lawyers
What do you do for fun?
I absolutely love cooking, entertaining and spending time with my family and friends. I am also an avid reader.
Learn More about Sarah Hawkins’ Work
Sarah Hawkins is a government lawyer employed by the Cook County Office of Public Guardian. This is the only law office of its kind in the country that combines the legal representation of abused and neglected children, children in custody-divorce cases, and people with disabilities under guardianship.