Now the founder and CEO of Rasa Legal, an organization that expunges criminal records, Noella Sudbury has a passion for justice that began with her undergraduate degree at the University of Utah.
"I was a social justice major in college and studied the causes of poverty. I was interested in going into law because I saw it as part of the problem and potentially part of the solution," she recalls. "Law school taught me how to be persuasive and to negotiate with people who don’t agree and have very different views about the world."
Despite this interest, Noella did not intend to pursue a career in criminal justice reform when she graduated from the S.J. Quinney College of Law in 2009. That changed soon after she began her career as a public defender.
"I found myself passionate about fixing the broken justice system," Noella says. "It frustrated me that the system often failed to treat the poverty, substance use, mental health, and trauma that were often the root causes of my clients’ path to the criminal justice system."
It was when then-Mayor Ben McAdams offered her a position as the Director of the Criminal Justice Advisory Council for Salt Lake County in 2016 that Noella felt she could start to make the difference she wanted.
"This was exciting to me, because it was a chance to do policy work and change the system to create scalable change," Noella says. "I am probably most proud of leading the successful effort to pass Utah’s Clean Slate law, which will automatically expunge over a half million criminal cases in Utah. This law will provide thousands of low-income families with an opportunity to obtain better housing and employment opportunities."
Yet it was the limitations of Utah's Clean Slate law — the expensive and complicated process to expunge records — that led Noella to found Rasa Legal in 2022. In about three minutes, clients can find out whether they are eligible for record expungement. Rasa Legal's team then uses software to streamline the expungement process, which in turn makes it more affordable.
"Founding a company is the most rewarding and challenging thing I have done in my career. It has given me an opportunity to learn so many new skills and to build a team of incredible people," Noella says. "I believe that technology and non-lawyers are the future of law, and I’m excited to show how these tools can be used to deliver high-quality legal services to more people and change the access to justice conversation around the world."
Noella's advice for those deciding on a career path after graduation? Stay focused on why you went to law school.
"Never let other people redefine what success looks like. Take advantage of every opportunity to obtain hands-on learning experiences through clinics, internships, and other practical training," she says. "Be aware that technology is rapidly changing the law, and embrace the way it can enable lawyers to provide affordable legal services to those in need."
Alumni: We want to celebrate your success. Share your personal and professional accomplishments, and we’ll share them in the Class Notes section of future Res Gestae issues.