A steadfast interest in law and the desire to make a difference in someone’s life have guided Sophie Robart ’13 from Middlesex to her current post as an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. As the 2022 Bigelow Lecturer on April 12, Sophie talked about her career path, the challenges she has encountered in striving for justice – whether as a defender or prosecutor – and the satisfaction she finds in public service.
The Bigelow Lecture is Middlesex’s oldest speaker series, created in 1946 to honor the life and aspirations of Roger Clayland Bigelow ’44, who was killed in the battle of Iwo Jima in March 1945. In establishing this memorial lecture, his family intended both to celebrate public service, which Roger had intended to pursue, and encourage other Middlesex students to consider careers in this worthy field.
“For me,” Sophie reflected, “public service has been synonymous with my chosen profession.” After graduating with a B.A. in political science from Middlebury College, she explored different aspects of the legal system while earning her J.D. at Wake Forest University School of Law. Working in the Law School’s Innocence and Justice Clinic, a post-conviction defense organization, Sophie drafted motions for new trials and stood on cases in active litigation. During summer breaks, she focused on prosecutorial work in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and in the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section in Washington, DC.
She is now employed on the prosecuting side of the legal equation, yet Sophie stresses, “Every part of my career thus far has been in furtherance of the same goal: justice.” And as she focuses today on misdemeanor and felony domestic assault and sexual violence cases, her defined role is always to represent the people of the State of New York. “I can’t simply follow the victim’s wishes; I have to deliver justice as it pertains to the law or laws in question, not what I might feel is morally correct,” she explained. “To be honest, this often is the most challenging part of my job.”
So, when the facts of a case are not enough to convince a jury of a defendant’s guilt, Sophie must accept that outcome, learn from it, and take those lessons into her next case. “That may sound defeatist, but let me be clear,” she said. “For me, there is no greater professional joy than to be an active participant in the pursuit of justice….I love the law, I love public service, and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to speak with you this morning.”