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Baltimore family law attorney Sheila Sachs dies at 78

Sheila Sachs, xxxxx. (Photo courtesy of Gordon Feinblatt LLC)

Sheila K. Sachs, a pioneer in the field of family law, practiced at Gordon Feinblatt LLC since 1977.  (Photo courtesy of Gordon Feinblatt)

Sheila K. Sachs, a pioneering family law practitioner and a prominent member of the legal community, died of cancer Sunday. The Baltimore resident was 78.

Sachs, a partner at Gordon Feinblatt LLC, had a law practice that included litigating and negotiating marital settlement agreements; addressing the equitable distribution of marital property; and handling alimony, custody, child support and related proceedings, as well as drafting and negotiating marital agreements, according to the law firm. Sachs was also a mediator and an arbitrator in family law cases.

“Sheila was a pioneer in the field of Family Law, and a pioneer for women lawyers. We are deeply saddened by the news of her passing, and our thoughts are with her husband, children, grandchildren and family,” the firm said in a statement Monday.

Sachs joined Gordon Feinblatt in 1977 and became a partner in 1981, making her the second woman partner at the firm. She worked until last month, the firm said.

“Sheila was terrific, she really was a force to behold. She was the divorce lawyer of choice in Baltimore and her personality was winning and amazingly strong,” the firm’s chairman and CEO, Barry F. Rosen, said in an interview Monday.

When asked to share an anecdote about Sachs, Rosen said he has struggled to pinpoint a specific memory.

“I think it goes back to the force of her personality,” he said. “Even today, one doesn’t believe that she’s not here.”

A graduate of Goucher College and the University of Maryland School of Law, Sachs was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1965. She became a lawyer at a time when few women were in the profession.

“In my era, I did not have a woman as a mentor,” Sachs said at Gordon Feinblatt’s women’s history month celebration last month. Instead, Sachs said, her role models were the founding partners at Gordon Feinblatt, Gene Feinblatt and Donald Rothman. The two gave her responsibility, she said, and were “models of leaders in the legal, cultural, civic and political communities in Baltimore.”

Sachs went on to become involved in the legal community, serving as chair of the Family and Juvenile Law Committee of the Maryland State Bar Association and president of the Baltimore City Bar Association. She was also a past chair of the Appellate Courts Nominating Commission for the State of Maryland and served on various boards, including the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, the Judicial Nominating Commission for Baltimore City, the Board of Trustees of Goucher College and the Board of Managers of Haverford College.

“Sheila never rested on her laurels, she was always continuing to learn, and continuing to serve. She was quite simply the best divorce lawyer in town, and everyone knew it. Her opponents respected her, and her clients loved her,” Rosen said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Baltimore magazine asked Sachs to define “love,” Rosen said.

“Love is caring about somebody just as much as you care about yourself, and they are the first person in your thoughts,” Sachs responded.

“Today, Sheila is the first person in all of our thoughts,” Rosen said.

Sachs is survived by her husband, former Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs; a daughter, Elisabeth Sachs; a son, Leon Sachs II; a brother, Theodore Kleinman; and three grandchildren.

Funeral services are private. Friends may call at 5 Roland Mews (Cross Keys), Baltimore, MD 21210, from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23. A memorial celebration will be held at Westminster Hall, 519 W. Fayette St., Baltimore, MD 21201, from 4 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Sachs’ memory may be sent to Death with Dignity, 520 SW 6th Ave., Suite 1220, Portland, OR 97204 or Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, c/o Dr. Deborah Armstrong, P.O. Box 17029, Baltimore, MD 21297-1029.

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