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Sarah Sanderson Shares the Challenges—and Benefits—of a Family Law Practice

“The best part of my job is guiding a client through the legal landscape of his or her changing family while addressing the emotional issues that are inevitably involved,” said Sarah Sanderson ’11, associate attorney at Barbara J. Howard Co., L.P.A. “It is extremely rewarding to help a client through a difficult time so that person comes out on the other side of the process confident in their legal situation.”

Sanderson grew up near Toledo, Ohio, in the suburb of Sylvania.  She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Kentucky, majoring in psychology.  “I was interested in child psychology,” she said, “and assisted professors with research on reading comprehension of children with ADHD.”  This interest stayed with Sarah beyond undergrad and into her professional life. 

After graduating from UK, Sanderson saw UC Law as “the most well-rounded option.”  The affordable cost and good ranking were key reasons for choosing UC Law, as well as her interest in the Weaver Fellowship of Law and Psychiatry.  “My favorite part of UC Law was the people though,” shared Sarah.  “I am biased because I met my husband there, but I also made wonderful friends.  I had great experiences with faculty and staff who were always available and willing to help.”

After graduating from law school, Sanderson began working as a law clerk at her current firm. Once she passed the bar she was promoted to associate attorney.  While Sanderson did not begin her law school journey with a narrow interest in family law, she knew she wanted to practice in an area that has a significant impact on people and their lives.  Because her interest in mental health and helping children persisted, she went into law school knowing that family law was an area she wanted to explore.

Currently, her work at the firm includes all aspects of family law.  She explained that one of the challenges, and benefits, of being a good family law attorney is advising a client in a way that brings him or her to a practical, best-possible scenario.  “That involves more than advising a client about the law in order to finish the process or obtain the result they desire.  It also includes considering the big picture and the practical implications of an agreement or argument in court. 

“For example, while my client may want a specific parenting schedule, there may be another creative option that works better for his ex-spouse, but still reaches his goal.  Practically, my client is better off because the alternate arrangement avoided an acrimonious relationship with the person he will have to parent with for years to come.”

Looking for Work?

Sanderson advised that “word of mouth” is the best way to find a job in family law.  “Cincinnati is lucky to have a tight knit group of family law practitioners.  The vast majority of us are happy to help each other and mentor students.  However, because we are close knit and because most family law practitioners work in solo or small firms, job seekers have to seek us out.”

She has found that her career in the area of family law is rewarding and allows her to keep working to help children.  “…While I do not usually meet my clients’ children, my work certainly has an impact on them, since it is part of my job to help my clients litigate or craft parenting arrangements they believe to be in their children’s best interest.”