UCL Alumni


Alumni stories: Justice for all with Sarah Clover

How supporting UCL helps top lawyer Sarah Clover reconnect with her legal roots.

UCL Alum and Supporter Sarah Clover

12 May 2021

Forty years into a stellar legal career, UCL alumna Sarah Clover (UCL Law 1980) is renowned as a leader in her field. A partner at top firm Clyde & Co, she is the lawyer other lawyers turn to when their professional conduct is challenged. The Legal 500 directory described her as “the doyenne of professional negligence”. 

But despite her success, Sarah had long felt that there was an element missing from her professional life, and it wasn’t until she returned to her alma mater to support UCL’s Centre for Access to Justice that she found that fulfilment.

Broadening horizons

Surprisingly, while Sarah was very much focussed on building a career for herself, she didn’t originally intend to study law. “I had applied to study history at Oxford,” she explains. “But in the end I accepted the offer to do law at UCL. It had an extremely good reputation and having been to school in the countryside I was very keen to get to London. I’m happy I did go to UCL.”

Enrolling in 1977, Sarah was laser-focussed on her studies. She felt most inspired by the parts of the course dealing with grassroots, practical topics such as family law and employment law. “As a young person with little experience in the outside world, these were areas where one could readily understand the impact the law has.”

But Sarah’s career path would deviate from her initial interests. After graduating and taking her professional exams, she found herself specialising in commercial property litigation. Then she decided to broaden her horizons, spending a year in Hong Kong, working as a litigator in a firm set up by fellow UCL alum Victor Chu CBE – who is now Chair of the UCL Council. “It was a great opportunity,” she says.

Returning to England, Sarah briefly worked on a long piece of litigation involving reinsurance law, then in 1988 began her climb to the very top of the tree in the field of lawyer’s professional liability – an ascent which would lead to her current position at Clyde & Co. “I defend law firms and barristers in claims of professional malpractice,” she explains. “I am part of a large team, with a lot of wonderful junior lawyers working with me. We also advise clients on ethical and regulatory obligations and represent them when they are being investigated by our regulator. No two cases are the same.”

The missing piece

In 2017, having considered philanthropic involvement with UCL for some time, Sarah found the perfect way to reconnect – supporting the UCL Centre for Access to Justice. Established in 2013, the Centre combines legal education and research with vital pro bono services for vulnerable communities in east London. 

Sarah says: 

“It was something that really sparked my interest because I have always, since the early days of my practice in the law, been concerned that the law is only for people who can afford it. And that there are so many people who are cut out of the justice system because they don’t have enough money.”

She continues: “Two things fire me up about the centre. Firstly there’s the academic work which is behind it. That is the inspiring research carried out by Professor Dame Hazel Genn connecting lack of access to justice and physical and mental health problems. And secondly, perhaps most importantly, the centre is doing hugely needed work in a deprived area of London.”

As well as finding the centre’s work admirable and interesting, Sarah felt her own work had moved away from some of the things she was once so passionate about, and UCL represented an opportunity to connect the dots. She says: “The Centre was a missing piece in my world. It gave me the opportunity to do something I think I had been subconsciously searching for for some time.”

While Sarah’s support of the centre is currently financial, she hopes that when she will one day have the time to engage in more hands-on activities with the team there. She says that if it had existed when she was a student, it might even have taken her down a different legal path: “I would have jumped at the chance to get involved, without a doubt.”

Mutual benefits

A few years into her philanthropic journey, Sarah says it has been an enriching experience. “In many ways I have a desire to do more, but I am glad that I have been able to do something of really practical use to help continue the work of the centre.”

“Also, being in touch with the fabulous people at UCL – those running the centre, and those dealing with philanthropic giving in general – has been a truly happy experience. They really have made me feel very welcome as part of the alumni community. They've offered me opportunities to go and visit the centre on a regular basis, which I've taken them up on, and they’ve included me in the work of the centre.”

Asked if she would recommend that other alumni pursue opportunities to become involved with UCL, she is unequivocal. “Most certainly,” she says. “And it doesn’t have to be the law department you support, it might be any number of amazing things that UCL does. The array of opportunities for pursuing an interest of yours is endless.”

To find out more about supporting the UCL Centre for Access to Justice, visit their website