Alumna Sarah Howard Jenkins Followed in Her Father’s Footsteps to Become Nationally Recognized Legal Scholar
Sarah Howard Jenkins (’82) serves as the Charles C. Baum Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. In 2017, the University of Kentucky College of Law, now the UK J. David Rosenberg College of Law, inducted Jenkins into its Alumni Hall of Fame.
As an academic-legal professional, Jenkins has devoted her time and energy to challenging her students to develop a commitment to diligence and competence in the study and practice of the law. But Jenkins wasn’t always certain that she would become an attorney.
In 2014, Jenkins was featured in Law Notes, UK Rosenberg Law’s annual magazine. In the article, Jenkins described her motivation for becoming a lawyer. Growing up with a father who was a prominent Civil Rights attorney around the 1960s in Arkansas, Jenkins came of age understanding the power – and importance – of the law.
“I knew when I was seven years old that I wanted to be a lawyer,” Jenkins said. “After dinner on Sundays, my dad would read portions of his briefs to us, so I grew up hearing legal arguments and understanding the power of legal recourse to redress the deprivation of constitutional rights.”
However, Jenkins majored in speech and drama when she attended Hanover College. In 1970, she earned a master’s degree in English and theater arts from UK. Jenkins then performed and taught drama at Kentucky State University for some years before enrolling in law school at UK.
Jenkins said she was hesitant about becoming an attorney because she didn’t know if she would be as good as her father.
“I am really glad I decided to go to law school. I still have an opportunity to have a little dram in my life – as a professor,” said Jenkins in 2014, likening the challenge of engaging a classroom of students to her former years as a performer. “It’s been the best mixture of both worlds.”
Now, Jenkins is a nationally recognized scholar in the field of contracts and commercial law and an expert on the Uniform Commercial Code, the fundamental U.S. law governing commercial transactions.
Through her scholarship and participation in the quasi-legislative legal reform processes of the American Bar Association, Jenkins sought to ensure parity among the diverse interests in commercial law. Her work has made a difference for people who otherwise would not have been represented in the reform of commercial law in the late 1980s and 1990s. Jenkins’ involvement with an ABA Task Force on Suretyship, and one of her articles, was motivated in part by the large number of elderly women in predominantly African American churches who generously guaranteed the debts of family and congregational members. Without her involvement, these members of our community would have been unrepresented in the reform processes.
Jenkins is a member of the prestigious American Law Institute and she has served as chair of the ABA UCC Subcommittee on Article 1, during the revision of UCC Article 1, and the Subcommittee on Payment Systems, 2007 through 2010. Twice, she has served as chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Commercial and Related Consumer Law and as member of the AALS Standing Committee on Recruitment and Retention of Minority Faculty and Students. She has published extensively on Commercial Law issues, organized several symposia of distinguished domestic scholars, and is the author of Volume 13 of the Revised Corbin on Contracts.
By Shawntaye Hopkins
Feb. 26, 2021