JD Graduate Looks to Family Law for ‘Rewarding’ Career Advocating for Children

May 13, 2022

“I just love to think about a career that would enable me to tell the Court what they want.”

Tate Richardson is happy to be here. When the soon-to-be graduate from University of Arizona Law’s JD program talks about her time in law school, her face lights up with a contagious enthusiasm. Talking with her you can tell she’s eager to put her legal skills to the test in the real world, and in a few short weeks, she’ll finally have her chance as she walks across the stage and on to a career in family law working with children.

“I find it rewarding to work with kids. Their minds aren't all made up on things, they're still figuring out what the world is – the good and the bad – and I think it's really special to be in a position to shape kids positively,” said Richardson. “I just love to think about a career that would enable me to tell the Court what they want.”

A double wildcat alumna, Richardson contemplated going into psychology before leaning into her advocacy instincts and pursuing law school following her undergrad. While at University of Arizona Law, she volunteered with the Justice Advocates Coalition, and was a Juvenile Law Association fellow. For the past 2 years she’s worked under Clinical Professor Paul Bennett in the Child and Family Law Clinic, an experience that helped her to gain confidence in the courtroom.

Richardson is also the first recipient of the Jacqueline Anne Morris Foundation Scholarship, created by the Jacqueline Anne Morris Foundation whose work supports research, service, social policy and advocacy work on behalf of children, adults and families. 

“To the Morris family, I cannot put into words how truly grateful I am to have received this scholarship,” noted Richardson. “It made it possible for me to continue to contribute to family law in different roles and allowed me to encourage other students to go into family law as well which has been fantastic.”

As the Morris Fellow, Richardson developed an informational video resource on supplemental security income for kindship foster care providers. Richardson worked with the Arizona Department of Child Safety to distribute the piece to their kinship placements in Pima and Maricopa Counties, reaching and informing caretakers for nearly 8,000 children.

"Tate has not only been a terrific student lawyer for her clients, her Morris Foundation Project will benefit many, many families throughout Arizona," said Professor Bennett. "Tate produced an excellent educational video explaining children’s eligibility for underutilized federal SSI benefits. The State has agreed to distribute the video and to assist kinship foster families in applying for the federal benefits. That’s quite an accomplishment."

Richardson is no stranger to stepping up and giving back. In the months before starting law school, she joined the U.S. Air Force Reserves as an enlisted paralegal working out of the Davis-Montham Air Force Base in Tucson, AZ. Shortly after completing basic training, she found out she had been accepted into University of Arizona Law, and for the past three years she has continued her service on base while attending law school full time.

“I consider it probably one of my greatest accomplishments because it was so physically and mentally demanding,” says Richardson. “It was good preparation to humble me right before I started law school.”

Looking ahead, Richardson has accepted a post-graduate position with Innovation for Justice, a joint venture between University of Arizona Law and the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business, where she will manage the Licensed Legal Advocate pilot program. After passing the bar, she hopes to represent kids as a guardian ad litem or as a children's attorney.

When asked what her favorite memory was from her time at University of Arizona Law, Richardson had a long list to pull from, but one anecdote stood out among the rest.

“I remember someone from admissions asking me, ‘are you happy to be here?’ and I have said that since day one I’m just happy to be here. Law school was always a dream of mine and everything else has just been the cherry on top.”