After working for one of the world’s top talent agencies, rising 3L Gracie Wright decided to change her career path from the entertainment industry to public service. This summer, the UC Hastings student is sharpening her skills in legal advocacy for children with a summer internship at the Adoption Authority of Ireland.
Below, Gracie answers some questions about her experience in law school, her fun opportunities in Ireland this summer, and her plans for the future as a practicing attorney.
Where are you from?
I’m from Los Angeles, CA.
What did you want to do when you grew up?
To go to the University of Southern California’s film school and be a studio head or network executive.
Why did you go to law school?
I started in the mailroom at William Morris Endeavor (WME-IMG), an international talent agency, and by pure chance, was hired as an assistant to the head of the in-house legal team. He was a great mentor and encouraged me to consider leaving the entertainment business to pursue a law degree.
What piqued your interest in advocacy for children?
While pursuing a career in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, I volunteered with several children’s organizations in my spare time. And though I loved the intellectual rigor of the legal work I was doing at the agency, I wanted to direct that effort toward public service. Child welfare law seemed like the perfect marriage of what I loved about my job and my volunteer work.
Why did you decide to come to UC Hastings?
UC Hastings has such a strong network for public interest lawyers. There are many opportunities in my field between the Lawyering for Children clinic with Legal Services for Children here in San Francisco and the catalog of courses in youth law.
What have been some of your highlights at UC Hastings?
Through the Public Interest/Public Service Career Day in my 1L year, I got my summer clerkship at the Children’s Law Center of California in Los Angeles. CLC attorneys represent children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned that come under the protection of the Los Angeles Juvenile Dependency Court system. I had two amazing supervising attorneys (one of whom is a UC Hastings alumna!) and I still can’t believe how much I learned in 10 weeks.
What are you doing this summer?
I’m living in Dublin and interning at the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI).
What’s the absolute best part of your summer gig?
At the AAI, I’ve been learning a lot about inter-country adoptions, since American kids sometimes find placements with Irish families. I don’t think most Americans are aware that while we adopt children from other countries, we are also a “sending” nation, meaning American children are adopted by foreign parents abroad.
How are you working #ForJustice?
The AAI set up the National Adoption Contact Preference Register in 2005 as a way for people affected by adoption to make their wishes known about having contact with their birth family members. There is significant history around adoption in Ireland, and I’ve been doing legal research about a mother and baby home, a term people may recognize from the film “Philomena.” Being allowed to review these files has been such a privilege. From a historical standpoint, it’s been an incredible opportunity to study the evolution of adoption law in Ireland, and America, over the last century. From a legal perspective, I’m learning so much about balancing the emotional aspect of people searching for their family, and those individuals’ fundamental right to information about their origins, with the significant data privacy concerns that tracing presents.
Do you miss San Francisco and UC Hastings?
The weather in Dublin is pretty close to a typical San Francisco summer – it almost feels like being home!
What do you love about Dublin?
The people! Irish people are so unbelievably friendly, and from my office to the pubs, I’ve felt very welcome everywhere I go. It’s also relatively easy and affordable to travel from Dublin to elsewhere in Ireland and around Europe, so I’ve been trying to make the most of my weekends. Two weeks ago I went up to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, last weekend I went sailing around Malta, and next weekend I’m headed to Edinburgh, Scotland.
What’s less desirable?
Understandably, everyone’s first question after they hear my American accent is, “What do you think about Trump?”
What are your goals for after law school?
I’m open to anything under the umbrella of legal advocacy for children. Whether that means working as a guardian ad litem or for a county counsel/city attorney, or working on policy initiatives. I’ll be happy with any kind of work that presents an intellectual challenge and allows me to take care of kids.
Any advice for aspiring dependency lawyers?
Get as much experience and exposure as you can! The first thing everyone says when I tell them what kind of law I’m focused on is “I could never do that” or “that would be too emotionally draining for me.” But it’s extraordinarily rewarding work if you can focus on the good – the families who triumph and reunify, adoptive parents who finally have a child, foster kids who find their forever homes.
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