Attorney Sara Turnipseed with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP.
Attorney Sara Turnipseed with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP. (Handout)

Editor’s note: This tribute to Sara Turnipseed, who died last month at age 65, was written by her women colleagues at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.

We at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, along with the Atlanta legal community, are saddened by the loss of Sara S. Turnipseed, who passed away Nov. 29, 2013.

Sara’s legacy remains as a role model for all aspiring women lawyers and women legal professionals. She was an equity partner in our firm’s Atlanta office, where she practiced in complex, multistate product liability, commercial, environmental and toxic tort litigation. She served on Nelson Mullins’ executive committee overseeing business and financial activities for the firm’s 14 offices from Boston through the Carolinas and Georgia to Florida and Washington, D.C.

Throughout her career, Sara served as national counsel for two Fortune 500 clients, directing their defense in jurisdictions throughout the United States. In that capacity, she was responsible for developing their national litigation strategy. Sara also served as regional or local counsel for a number of other clients.

As one of Georgia’s best known and most successful litigators, Sara could have easily sat back and concentrated on her own practice. Instead, due to the obstacles she herself overcame as a female attorney, Sara continued as a consistent and effective advocate for other women lawyers and all female legal professionals, both within Nelson Mullins and the Atlanta legal community.

Providing opportunities for women was a constant theme in Sara’s career, both in-house and in private practice. At Nelson Mullins, she led a team of lawyers (six of whom are women). She pushed for the advancement of her attorneys to not just be partners, but equity partners.

In 1979 at the ripe age of 31, Sara was named chief legal officer over 15 other lawyers at Region IV, U.S. EPA. From that first decision-making role, Sara consistently worked to ensure that women lawyers were hired, promoted and tasked appropriately.

Later in her career, Sara served as associate general counsel of Georgia-Pacific Corporation, where she spearheaded the company’s litigation and environmental practice. Other women attorneys there noted her unique gift of genuine inclusiveness of other women in the legal profession as one of her greatest strengths. Rather than to feel threatened by competition, Sara was the first to bring other women lawyers into the spotlight and “let them shine.”

Despite the extraordinary commitment Sara had to her clients, her family and her firm, she was always willing to interrupt her schedule to mentor women lawyers with career decisions. She was the driving force behind three female project assistants on her team going to law school several years ago. She was not only instrumental in encouraging them to apply and attend law school, but she was also instrumental in navigating and encouraging them through their studies.