Written by Katrina Daniel Wednesday, February 08 2012Snapshot: Attorney Sara Goldsmith Schwartz
Sara Goldsmith Schwartz is known in Northeastern legal circles as somewhat of a wunderkind.
A practicing attorney in Boston, Schwartz was selected as a Massachusetts Super Lawyer and top labor and employment attorney in Massachusetts for six years. She graduated cum laude from Yale and Harvard Law School. After clerking for Federal Judge William Young, Schwartz joined Ropes and Gray, a venerable Boston law firm.
Schwartz is the founding and managing partner of Schwartz Hannum PC, which was named as one of the top 50 women-owned businesses in Massachusetts. Diversity Business, a resource for business connections, also named Schwartz as one of the top entrepreneurs in the country.
Womenetics: You graduated from the country’s most prestigious colleges. How much of a role does your attendance at Yale and Harvard play in your professional success?
Sara Goldsmith Schwartz: My family has a long history of attendance at Harvard, and I received a phenomenal education there. I was in President Obama’s class at law school.
The advantages of a Harvard education are that it gets you in the door, and it gives you amazing credibility. It gets people to look at my resume. They assume I am smart. That’s not a handicap because I can deliver. However, some people look at it as a negative, thinking, “Oh, she must be snobby.” I don’t bend over backwards. I am not snobby, but I am who I am.
Womenetics: You’re the founder and managing partner of Schwartz Hannum. Why did you decide to go that route instead of staying with a large, prestigious law firm?
Schwartz: I was 30 years old, five months pregnant, and I was billing 2500 hours per year. I was working crazy hours, and I knew I needed more balance in my life.
Womenetics: What have you learned about managing people as CEO of your own law firm?
Schwartz: My development as a CEO depended upon my learning from my mistakes, getting it wrong a few times, learning and then getting it right. Listening to your employees is crucial. Treating them with respect is vital.
Womenetics: How important is an attorney’s "bedside manner"?
Schwartz: Very important. Our focus here is really on delivering phenomenal client service. That’s the secret ingredient of our firm. Our goal is to develop long-term relationships with our clients. I instill in our new hires a significant amount of training. We strive first to articulate our client’s goals and then to make the client not just happy, but thrilled with our service. We have good, solid long-term relationships with tremendous clients, Harvard and Tufts University among them.
Womenetics: You belong to a number of professional organizations. How important are those connections?
Schwartz: Those connections are really helpful to me. The Women Presidents’ Organization is one group that offers support. It’s a safe environment where we can discuss issues, get ideas, and there is confidentiality and a lot of trust.
Womenetics: Besides your duties as CEO and managing partner of the law firm, you also have a large family. How are you able to manage both successfully?
Schwartz: I have a blended family -- a husband who is an attorney at the firm, two sons and three stepdaughters, two who live with us and one who is away at college. The mommy/attorney juggling act is incredibly important. I go home every night to cook and create family time. I also don’t want my employees, men or women, to work insane hours. We all need time with our families.
Womenetics: How did you work at creating a successful blended family? Was it difficult?
Schwartz: The challenge is to create a family unit that works. I also think the challenge is figuring out how to create your own family unit while still respecting [the] prior family unit. The goal is to treat my stepchildren as my own and hope that everyone comes around.
Womenetics: What do you do to relax?
Schwartz: I like hanging out with the kids on Nantucket, on family trips and at home. Watching “The Mentalist.” Doing The New York Times crossword puzzles. Working out four to five times a week. I even ran a Red Sox Home Base 9K race.
Womenetics: What is it that makes you smile- broadly?
Schwartz: Watching my boys enjoy each other. Last night, my older boy made a 1-minute video biography of the younger one for his photography class. They had so much fun creating 90 minutes of footage to be edited into one minute!
And a beautiful sunset on Nantucket, or a peaceful snowy morning at home.
And a good cup of tea.
Katrina Daniel is an award-winning journalist and broadcast reporter/anchor. She has worked in Miami, Los Angeles, New York, and as a national correspondent for several networks. She commutes between Miami and the Carolinas, writing for magazines and news organizations. She lives with one horse, four dogs, and a cat.