By Lanier Laney
A native of Clinton, S.C., Nancy Sadler didn’t know it at the time, but a chance summer job working at her local YMCA as a teenager was the start of a life-long career for her — defending the best interests of children.
After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a major in Sociology and a minor in Psychology, she starting working for the Department of Social Services (DSS) as a social worker investigating child abuse and neglect cases. As part of that job, she would have to go to court and testify on behalf of abused or neglected children which became a very frustrating experience for her as she observed legal maneuverings that did not result in the best interest of the children.
Says Nancy, “I had a sexual abuse case which resulted in a father being arrested for repeatedly abusing his child. I attended one of the initial hearings and watched a lawyer cross examining a distraught 11-year-old about the abuse. It was very difficult to watch and I just figured if I were a lawyer rather than a social worker, I could be of more help. My mother was aware of that, so when I went home for Thanksgiving in my fourth year of DSS employment, she had an application for the LSAT (law school entrance exam) on the dining room table.”
Nancy was glad she listened to her mother. After getting her law degree from USC, she was able to fulfill her desire to better help children. Nancy said, “I worked as a prosecutor in child abuse and neglect cases presenting the cases for DSS and helping social workers get their cases ready for court. I also worked for many years as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem in child abuse and neglect cases. A guardian ad litem attempts to protect the best interests of the child in court proceedings and one is appointed by the Family Court in child abuse and neglect proceedings. I have also worked for pay as a private guardian in child custody matters and continue to do that now. I generally have one or two cases in which I participate for free that involve child custody or child related matters.”
Nancy found that her background in social work gave her a deeper and better perspective in pursuing the best legal outcomes for the child. She said, “During my years as a social worker, I was able to be a part of the worlds of many kinds of people from all walks of life — those who were raised by abusive parents, those raised in abject poverty, those raised in families with problems of mental illness and emotional distress, and those who were addicted to alcohol and drugs. It is difficult to understand the situations of families different from your own if you have never been involved in their lives. The complexity of these problems is more clear if you have actually spent a day in the life of their families.”
Nancy’s expertise as a lawyer and pragmatic approach to legal solutions was quickly recognized by her peers. She was elected the first woman President of the Beaufort County Bar Association and was invited to join the Charleston Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, which at the time had very few women members. She was later invited to be a fellow in the prestigious Litigation Counsel of America, a trial lawyer honorary society that recognizes both accomplishment in litigation and superior ethical reputation. In 2004, Former Governor Mark Sanford appointed Nancy as a Beaufort County Magistrate, where she’s brought her informed, balanced approach to legal issues to the judge’s bench.
Nancy originally moved to Beaufort because her then-future husband, Mac Mitchell, lived here. She met Mac at a wedding in Beaufort while in college and fell in love. They’ve been married for 31 years. Mac is a partner in his family’s successful construction business — Mitchell Brothers Inc. Nancy credits Mac’s long standing support as a major factor in her career. Says Nancy with a laugh, “He put up with me and let me pursue what I needed to pursue without complaint. He has always supported me at home and in my work. He simply makes my life better.”
She also says he was a great father to their three children — Julia, 30, Evelyn, 28, and Charlie, 26. One of her daughters followed in her mother’s legal footsteps and is a public defender in Greenville. Nancy said, “My first job as a lawyer was public defending in Beaufort County. That position gave me a world of trial experience that has been valuable over the course of my career, so I am particularly please that Evelyn is doing the same thing.”
In 1992, Nancy got together with fellow lawyer Mitchell Griffith and founded their firm. “Mitch and I went to law school together and were friends,” Nancy explained. “We were like-minded about what kind of firm we wanted. We wanted to focus on providing good service at a reasonable price and it paid off for us. I think we hired Mary Sharp within a year or two of starting because we had enough work for a third lawyer and it went on from there. Worth Liipfert was next, then Michael Freeman, Kelly Dennis, Dean Marshall Waldron and Matthew Cavender.
None of us actually specialize, but we are trial lawyers who do mostly defense work. We are usually hired when someone has been sued to defend the lawsuit that someone has filed against them. That someone may be an individual, a company or a government entity. We occasionally bring lawsuits on behalf of people. Several of us are certified mediators for civil court cases and I am certified for both civil cases and domestic relations cases. Some of us do domestic relations work and we do some appellate work. So we are a ‘general practice’ but the majority of what we do is trial work on the defense side.”
Nancy continues, “From personal injury and workers’ compensation defense to commercial litigation for businesses, we have the depth and diversity to provide large firm performance, at a small firm cost. Our law firm is committed to doing quality work for our clients in an efficient manner, avoiding unnecessary delay and costs for our clients. Most people who have legal troubles are distraught anyway and we want to resolve their dilemmas as quickly and cost effectively as possible while doing an exemplary job for them. The lawyers and staff in my office are exceptional, each performing responsibilities well. We are really proud of the work we do and the quality that we give our clients.”
Nancy Sadler and her firm are located at 600 Monson Street, Beaufort, S.C. Call 843-521-4242.