Alumnae Spotlight: Sarah Novak Nesbitt, Class of 2000
Service work has always been a part of Sarah Novak Nesbitt’s life and ultimately led her to co-founding a law firm, the Family Legal Advocacy Group. Her dedication to volunteerism started at Holy Child in 8th grade, continued with her through graduation from the University of Notre Dame and even kickstarted her career after college.
The Class of 2000 graduate said she knew she wanted to work with children, though she hadn’t decided exactly how. In her journey to figure out how she would serve kids in the community, she took a full-time volunteer teaching position at a full scholarship, low income school for boys in Baltimore. Her hope was to ensure other kids had the same educational opportunities she had been afforded throughout her life.
Sarah ended up loving teaching and her students, but she was exhausted by the end of her two years at the front of the classroom. She knew her future involved being a mother, and she couldn’t see herself working all day long with kids and then being there for her own kids, too. It was time for a change.
“I decided to go a different route with a career where I worked FOR children but not with them every day. I had seen all of the legal challenges that my students and their families faced, and so I decided to attend law school.”
After graduating from the University of Maryland School of Law in 2009, Sarah launched right into her family law career. She has since been named on the Maryland Super Lawyers: Rising Stars list multiple times. She will also be featured in Bethesda Magazine’s December edition under the Best Attorneys list for Alternative Dispute Resolution and School Law.
Sarah started the Family Legal Advocacy Group (FLAG) with one of her partners in 2014 where she is currently the Managing Attorney of Family Law. With a focus on adoption, divorce, custody, guardianships and special education, the families Sarah is working with through FLAG are often in a state of crisis.
“My favorite moments are when clients can leave a meeting with me and say that they feel a little bit better. I can’t change their situation, but I can help them manage their emotions and expectations about their situation.”
Read more about Sarah’s Holy Child experience and career below! Be sure to check out her best piece of advice for alumnae and how networking within our community has been part of her hiring process.
What is your favorite Holy Child memory?
“I have always loved Christmas, and my favorite memory is the Christmas Carol Sing-Along on the morning before winter break started. We had “Advent Angels” the entire previous week where we did something special each day, and then ended the week with a huge sing along, including each grade singing the numerically appropriate verse of the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was a day that I remember each year being full of joy and the magic of Christmas.”
Does one teacher or class stand out to you?
“I had so many great teachers who I remember fondly, but one of the best takeaways was learning to meditate in Ms. Plummer’s senior year religion class. I always put a lot of pressure on myself (and was diagnosed with anxiety when in law school). But, learning to meditate helped me to step out of my anxiety and stress for a period of time. I forgot about it for a long time, and recently returned to short meditations to clear my head when I am particularly stressed or cannot sleep at night. It is such a great tool in our over stimulated world, and I am so thankful that Ms. Plummer introduced us to meditation back in 1999!”
Is there anything about your Holy Child experience that continues to guide you today?
“The emphasis on service work. I started at Holy Child in 8th grade and had not been exposed to much service work before that. Over the next 5 years, and then continuing for 4 years at Notre Dame, service became “normal” for me. I continue to carry that with me today, taking cases on a pro bono or low bono basis, serving on the board of a local non-profit, volunteering at the courthouse to give legal advice, and being involved in my children’s schools and activities. Plus, the early emphasis on service led me to St. Ignatius [where I met] my husband!”
What is your best piece of advice to a Holy Child student or alumna who is pursuing her career/dream?
“Network as much as possible and use your connections. Katie Frieder Thomas (Class of 2001) and I connected at Mayfield Market in 2014. She was looking for a job as an attorney, and I was looking for an associate. We grabbed lunch a few weeks later, and she started working with me in 2015. In a very “it’s a small world” moment, we discovered (months after working together) that our husbands actually went to school together and were also one year apart at St. Paul’s School in Baltimore. Reach out to fellow alumnae who are in your field and ask to take them to coffee to have a call or shadow them for a day. I’ve only been practicing for 10 years, but I’m always happy to talk to new and aspiring lawyers to help them find their path.”
Spotlight written by Liz Palka Minukas '04
Do you know of a Holy Child alumna with an interesting career, service project, or hobby that we should spotlight? Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org!