January 19, 2021 at 10:23 am

Alumni News | Sarah Tobin’s Psychology Degree Fostered Problem Solving Skills, Shapes Legal Practice

Sarah Tobin, portrait

Attorney Sarah Tobin

Ohio University alumna, Sarah Tobin ’03, uses her Ohio University psychology degree to pursue her interest in problem solving and peaceful resolutions. She came to the Athens campus during her senior year of high school and immediately knew that Ohio University was the place for her undergraduate degree.

“I still remember the feeling that I got when I visited the Athens campus for the first time during my rounds of college visits in high school. Something just clicked, and I felt like I could belong there more than any other campus I visited. The atmosphere and the people were so welcoming,” she said.

Beyond the connection Tobin felt to the community, she also recalls the sheer beauty that would serve as a backdrop to her education.

“There’s the fact that Ohio University is just about as picture perfect of a college campus as you can get — the buildings themselves are full of history and everything is surrounded by gorgeous landscapes.”

Athens was also the place that fostered her curiosity of law, psychology, and business, even before she knew the exact path she would take.

“I went into college thinking I wanted to be a therapist or a lawyer.  I chose psychology because it was one of my favorite classes in high school.”

Tobin graduated from Ohio University with a B.A in Psychology and a Business minor. She spent her time heavily involved in Phi Alpha Delta, Pre-Law Fraternity and the Ohio University Hearing Board, as well as playing in intramural sports.

She directly credits her participation in Phi Alpha Delta to guiding her to the possibility of attending law school, and then later how to navigate the application process.

“Being a part of Phi Alpha Delta, I was connected to so many other people that had similar goals.  I had no idea what it took to get into law school and it was much easier to figure it out alongside a group of other motivated individuals than on my own.”

Being part of the organization helped guide Tobin to Vanderbilt University’s Law School where she was given an excellent legal education and countless opportunities to try new experiences.

Upon attending law school, she appreciated that Ohio University offered classes that would both challenge and engage her. “The best preparation that I (unknowingly) did was taking classes that I was passionate about, getting used to trying new things and starting to figure out that challenges are where the opportunities lie and failure is just a part of the experience.”

Tobin encourages students interested in law to pursue internships and shadow opportunities involving practicing attorneys.

“I didn’t do a good job of this until I got to law school, but I recommend getting as much ‘real-life’ experience as you can in different areas of law. For me, it was mostly through volunteer work. I volunteered with Nashville’s pro-bono legal program and participated in Vanderbilt’s legal clinics. Being in classes is one thing. Seeing the different ways law can be applied outside the classroom is another,” she says.

She also reminds students to be mindful of the cost of a Juris Doctor degree.

Tobin advises, “A law degree, like any degree, can be a huge investment. Whether it’s a good or bad investment can depend on a lot of factors. Having an understanding of what your debt load is going to look like and how you are going to manage that is something to think about sooner rather than later.”

Tobin’s investment in legal education clearly paid off as she is now deeply passionate about her position as a part of the lead counsel team for Direct Energy. She was drawn to corporate law because of her aptitude towards solving problems amicably for all parties.

“I was always drawn to transactional business law because it seemed more of a ‘win-win’ situation than other areas of law like litigation,” said said. “I’m not a huge fan of conflict. Corporate law is appealing to me because people trying to get to a certain result (i.e. get a deal done) are able to work something out most of the time. And if all goes well, everyone can leave the table having gained something.”

At Direct Energy, Tobin is able to work alongside a team of lawyers and business people. This team atmosphere suits her and is the way she prefers to practice law.

“My favorite part of my position is coaching and developing other lawyers and paralegals on my team. What gets me out of bed in the morning (besides wanting a paycheck) is thinking that I might be able to do something that will make a difference in someone else’s life. That could be helping someone learn how to do something or just making their day a little better by doing something that makes their job easier or more enjoyable.”

When Tobin is not mentoring attorneys on her legal team, she is providing encouragement and advice to Ohio University students. She participated in the Center of Law, Justice & Culture’s 2020 Pre-Law Day and there she answered questions and led conversations with students interested in law.

Among the advice Tobin shared with Pre-Law Day attendees are that everyone should be willing to take risks and sacrifice time to ensure that no meaningful opportunities are wasted. Tobin wishes she would have taken this approach earlier in her life, but that she is attempting to make up for last time by continuing to explore every chance she gets.

“I do believe that it can be the things that you didn’t do that you can regret the most.  For me, I didn’t take a gap year to travel, or participate in Teach for America, or stay an extra year in law school to get an MBA. Those are the kind of experiences that I wonder how they could have changed me for the better. On a positive note, I have been able to explore those passions in other ways by traveling as much as I can, taking business and finance development courses, and volunteering in other public school programs like Lawyers in Public Schools and Girls on the Run.”

Ohio University was the first step in Tobin’s journey to innovatively and compassionately serve her client as an attorney. She remembers the community she built while in Athens and the fun she had. While she was dedicated to her studies and the LSAT, she also found time to enjoy local restaurants and travel alongside friends. She recommends that all Bobcats uncover their joy while in Athens, and continue to do so as they move forward in their careers.

“It’s too hard for me to narrow down my favorite OU memories. Some of my favorite memories were the trips that I took with other Phi Alpha Delta members. Those included trips just for fun to places like Windsor and driving to Chicago and Nashville to visit law schools.  I’ll never forget all of the good food at Ohio University. My favorites included Union Street Cafe, Bagel Street Deli and Svoulaki’s. I also really enjoyed getting to see artists and performers that came through Athens.”




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