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Sara Stout Ashcraft

Partner, Ashcraft & Franklin, LLP

Years in current role: 20

What are your expectations for the next 6-12 months?

What I would like to see is live appearances in matrimonial cases. I know that this is occurring in at least some courts downstate, and I think that live appearances with the clients present are helpful in getting a divorce case settled or at least cutting down the number of issues for trial. From what I and other matrimonial lawyers have observed, clients seem to be less heedful and respectful of judges they only see on a video. There is a value to parties having to make the effort to travel to the courthouse and going into the courtroom with all the trappings of the power of the court.

What advice would you give someone starting out in family law right now?

My advice would be to find a mentor. Ideally, a new lawyer should work for a firm that gives the lawyer hands-on training on all aspects of family law. Experience in actually seeing how cases are conducted by the court and becoming acquainted with the judge/magistrate/referee and how they conduct their court is critical. If a newly minted lawyer cannot find a firm to help in that way, the lawyer should at least observe as many Family Court cases as possible, because you can pick up a lot of information just by watching.

What do you enjoy most about the Rochester legal community?

What I enjoy most about our legal community is something that is, unfortunately, fading away. I always enjoyed the sense of camaraderie that came from running into lawyers I knew in the courthouse, restaurants, or even on the streets. COVID seems to have destroyed a lot of that, and I’m not sure we’ll ever get it back. While there are advantages of virtual courtrooms, I don’t think they have done much to continue the hundreds of years of belongingness that members of the bar shared.