Coming to Cornell Law, Sarah Hewitt '82 expected to become a litigator like her father, who ran a full-service practice in Niagara Falls, New York. But all that changed during the summer of her second year, when she spent ten weeks doing corporate transactions and discovered a new path.
"I loved it, and it opened my eyes to different possibilities," says Hewitt. "I didn't really know what transactional work was until I experienced it as a summer associate and saw all the research, preparation, and negotiation that went into it. In some ways, it was similar to litigation, but with a lot more give and take. There was a collegial environment, where opposing sides worked together to reach an agreement, and I realized that was much better suited to my personality."
In the years since, Hewitt has built her practice around corporate transactions, and as a lawyer who "thrives on change," she's set her sights on the continually evolving worlds of biotechnology, cellular communications, and energy technology. As a partner at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis in New York City, where she arrived in December 2010, she currently advises clients in clean tech, green tech, and alternative energy, including a startup in LED lighting, an oil services company based in the Gulf of Mexico, and an investment group funding one of the largest solar developers in the nation.
"Cornell taught me that life is about continuing to learn new things," says Hewitt, whose father, mother, and grandfather all graduated from Cornell Law. "It was an incredible place to go to school, and it gave me a fabulous education in case law. Plus, it's always been big in our family's hearts--there's a photo of me as a little kid wearing a goofy sweatshirt and hat at a Cornell reunion. Cornell was my first choice for law school, and I was absolutely thrilled when I got in."
Hewitt's fondest Cornell memories are of the summer after graduation, when she stayed in Ithaca with a group of friends to study together for the bar exam. That July, she left for work and life in New York City, where, in addition to her practice, she's kept busy with a steady stream of volunteering for City Harvest, which distributes excess restaurant food to homeless shelters; Children's Friends for Life, which provides social support to children living with AIDS; the Junior League of New York City, where she was named an Outstanding Volunteer of 2005; the Cosmopolitan Club, where she chairs the Leisure Arts Committee; and her Upper East Side co-op, where she currently serves on the board of directors.
"It's all about giving back, whether I'm working inside or outside the office," says Hewitt. "As a practitioner, I've always been committed to finding positive solutions to my clients' problems. In my mind, there's always a way to accomplish their goals and move their business to the next step. The best part of my job is working with people, and the reward is seeing them progress toward everything they're trying to accomplish."