Sara Taylor L’02 Finds Joy Along a Winding Path to Nonprofit Legal Assistance

From college hoops to horses and affordable housing, Sara Taylor finds her joy along a winding path to nonprofit legal assistance.

The financial crisis of the late 2000s presented a time of hardship for many. Institutional trust worldwide was collapsing, unemployment and defaults on housing loans hit record highs, and the country plummeted into the Great Recession.

Sara Taylor had been working in private practice as an attorney for several years when she found herself among the 8.8 million Americans suddenly without employment. After graduating from Western New England College School of Law, she secured a position as a commercial real estate attorney and capitalized on the opportunity to gain experience in transactional law. In 2009, when many attorneys working in the transactional space could no longer sustain a full caseload, Taylor knew she had to find an alternative solution.

“During that time, I heard this quote,” Taylor recalled. “It’s attributed to Albert Einstein: ‘In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.’ I remember being a little cynical about it, but then letting it sink in. Once I changed my perspective and looked for the opportunity, that’s when I found another job.”

This shift in perspective led Taylor to a position in insurance compliance, where she spent the following seven years broadening her skillset and advancing to the rank of associate director. The role deviated from her anticipated career path, and Taylor reflected on its broader benefits. “It wasn’t where I thought I would end up,” Taylor said, “but I learned a lot there. The biggest thing I learned was not to be afraid to try something new and not be afraid to fail.”

I went to law school to help people. It feels really important to me to give back to the community, and this is the best way that I’ve found to be able to do that. - Sara Taylor L'02

In the winter of 2022, Taylor left the corporate sphere to accept a position as a staff attorney with Pro Bono Partnership, a Hartford-based firm that provides legal assistance to nonprofit organizations. The Partnership has mitigated risk, spotted potential pitfalls, and navigated business transactions for their constituents in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York for 26 years, all on a pro bono basis. Through the generosity of Robinson & Cole, Pro Bono Partnership houses their Hartford office on Trumbull St., just across from Hartford Stage and the XL Center. The view from the 28th floor offers a panorama of Bushnell Park, Travelers Tower, and the State Capitol. On a clear day, Taylor can see all the way to Springfield.

“Everything that I’ve been through along the way has really prepared me for this,” Taylor said, speaking of her present role. Her clients’ legal needs call upon many of the areas in which she has practiced, including construction, real estate, transactional and business law, and compliance.

One of Taylor’s clients is Shepard Meadows Equestrian Center. Based in Bristol, CT, the nonprofit organization provides equine-assisted therapy for individuals struggling with mental and emotional issues. The team at Pro Bono Partnership arranged for a volunteer attorney to assist in negotiating a long-term lease needed to build a new barn and learning center. As her first client when she joined the Partnership, Taylor feels a particular kinship with the program and its director. “The nonprofit arena is really full of people who want to leave the world a better place, and I do, too” Taylor said. “I see myself somewhat as a kindred spirit with those people and want to help them do that.”

In her work with the Partnership, Taylor has also assisted a client that works directly with the housing insecure. The organization, which started as a grassroots nonprofit more than two decades ago, is renovating a facility to build more capacity for residents. “Their legal needs have hit on many areas where I’ve practiced,” Taylor said. “Those clients have a special place in my heart, and I want to try to help them.”

As staff attorney for Pro Bono Partnership, Taylor enjoys a variety of roles. In addition to working directly with clients, she acts as a supervising attorney, matching volunteer attorneys with pro bono work opportunities in their areas of practice. “I get to see our volunteers in action and see how excited they get to help our clients,” she reflects.

Taylor’s commitment to nonprofits exceeds the scope of her job description. Her work in the field has helped her see how integral nonprofit organizations are to everyday life, from social service organizations helping children and the elderly, to animal rescue and rehoming initiatives. She consistently looks for ways to support nonprofits by encouraging them to become clients if they qualify or encouraging others to get involved through financial aid or volunteerism. Taylor truly lives by example, too.

“I went to law school to help people,” Taylor said. “It feels really important to me to give back to the community, and this is the best way that I’ve found to be able to do that.” Taylor looks back on her time at WNE School of Law with both fondness and gratitude. She credits her aptitude for spotting issues and solving problems to her early preparation in law school, and she uses these invaluable skills daily with her clients. Taylor has maintained close ties with the University since graduation, and she praises how the School of Law and the University itself has “evolved over the years, how it’s grown, and how it’s been willing to change in ways to remain strong.”

Outside the office, you’ll find the Springfield native on the golf course or cheering on the local women’s basketball teams. She adds, with a smile, that she once graced the courts with the WNE Law basketball team herself.

To present law school students and young professionals aspiring to make a greater impact on their community, Taylor’s advice is clear: “Find something that you enjoy doing. That could be something where you get involved in volunteering, or it could be something that you just want to do with a group of people that you really enjoy spending time with. It’s that simple.” While she may not have followed the route that she anticipated as a young law school graduate, Sara Taylor has turned her career into a conduit for meaningful impact, proving that the most rewarding paths are often those we least expect.

Web Extra: Sara Taylor Interview