Since Sara Yousuf, JD ’05, came to Miami in 1998, she has trained countless young attorneys for careers in public service, been instrumental in the creation of a network of progressive businesses and individuals, and co-founded a hybrid music store and activist hangout.
“Issues of social justice have always spoken to me,” said Yousuf. “In undergrad, I actively sought out groups and people that were working on making the world a more equal place. At some point I realized that I needed a bigger toolbox if I wanted to enact meaningful social change.”
That toolbox turned out to be Miami Law.
“Throughout my first year of law school, I kept thinking that everyone should know about the things we are learning,” said Yousuf. “My law degree has made it possible for me to seek justice and dignity for a particularly vulnerable population, the indigent accused.”
During her time at Miami Law, Yousuf worked at Legal Services of Greater Miami, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and the Miami-Dade Office of the Public Defender. After earning her J.D. in 2005, she began her career as an Assistant Public Defender, where she has tried nearly 60 felony cases in front of a jury. She is also a training attorney, making her responsible for overseeing and training newly assigned felony lawyers.
“I became a training attorney because of the enormous impact my training attorney, Amy Weber, had on me,” she said. “While holding herself to impossibly high standards, Amy taught us that excellence is a choice. I strive to impact young lawyers in the way that Amy did.”
Yousuf’s contributions to the community go beyond her work as an attorney. She was a founding member of Emerge Miami, an informal network of progressive activists, and while she was still in school, she co-founded Sweat Records, an independent music store, cafe and event space, with her friend Lauren Reskin whom she met at UM’s radio station when she was a senior.
“Our shared interests in music and entrepreneurship sparked up conversations about the fact that Miami didn’t have a single independent music shop,” said Yousuf. “Our conversations turned into a business plan.”
Sweat Records opened its doors within a year of its conception. In a city suffering from ever-dwindling public space, Sweat serves as a home-base for activists, artists and performers and was the founding location for Emerge.
“We started Sweat because we wanted Miami to have a cultural hub,” she said. “Sweat exemplifies so much of what we want to see in the world: localism, social awareness, culture and of course, music.”
In 2014, Yousuf was recognized by two organizations for her hard work and dedication to service. The first honor, the Greg Wenzel Young Lawyer’s Award, was given to her by the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The second honor was the Alumni Leadership Award from Miami Law’s Society of Bar and Gavel.
“Sara is an incredible advocate for her clients, going above and beyond what many lawyers with such a burdensome caseload would do,” said Leah Weston, J.D. ’14, a former Miami Scholar, who is a friend and colleague of Yousuf. “She is truly passionate about protecting the constitutional rights of the accused.”