Before becoming a lawyer, Gretchen Sween worked as a freelance writer, theater director, actor, and adjunct professor at several colleges. She made her return to academia initially through the backdoor, coaching winning interscholastic moot court teams for UT Law's advocacy program for a couple of years before joining the legal-writing program full-time in 2010.
While in law school, Professor Sween served as an Associate Editor for the Texas Law Review, from which she received the "Best Published Note" award for Rituals, Riots, Rules, and Rights: The Astor Place Theater Riot of 1849 and the Evolving Limits of Free Speech, an article inspired in part by seminars with UT Law Professors Sanford Levinson and David Rabban. And after winning the Thad T. Hutcheson Moot Court competition and The Review of Litigation's "Best Brief" award in her 1L year, she became active in the law school's advocacy program. Professor Sween participated in the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition, the National Moot Court Competition, and the ATLA Mock Trial Competition and was ultimately honored with the Niemann Cup (UT Law's "best advocate" award). More importantly, she spent time in one of UT's premier clinical programs, the Capital Punishment Clinic, directed by Professors Jordan Steiker and Rob Owen, where she saw up close how lawyers can make a difference, quite literally, in matters of life and death. She is now an "affiliated faculty member" with the clinic.
Immediately after law school, Professor Sween served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Sim Lake of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (UT Law '69). She then commenced private practice, first in the Dallas office of Susman Godfrey, LLP, followed by several years in the Austin office of the multi-national law firm, Dechert LLP, where she played a leading role in several social-justice-oriented pro bono matters. Her practice has focused primarily on complex commercial litigation and appellate matters, and she has been named a "Rising Star" in the profession by Texas Monthly Magazine each year since 2006. She has published several articles in trade and academic journals, including The National Law Journal, Texas Lawyer, News for the Bar, and Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property.