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Zylstra advocates in and outside her firm

By: Justin Kern//June 25, 2013//

Zylstra advocates in and outside her firm

By: Justin Kern//June 25, 2013//

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zylstraIn front of a Dane County jury, Sarah Zylstra advocated for an ethical and respected teacher, offering a profile of the man different from the inconsistent stories provided by two students on the other side of a civil suit.

To Zylstra, a partner in the commercial litigation practice at Madison’s Boardman & Clark LLP, the threat to her client’s livelihood and good name heightened the need to present a supportive and accurate narrative of a man of integrity. Whatever the nerve-rattling consequences were to that point, the acquittal that followed made the case all the more satisfying, she said.

“The process of spending time gathering facts from litigation point of view, all of the law, and pulling it together to tell a story to a jury on a personal level, there’s no greater challenge and there’s no greater reward,” Zylstra said.

Originally from Massachusetts, Zylstra, a Mount Holyoke grad, worked for a time in a policy role at the Department of Public Health in Boston. When a manager there suggested she try law school, Zylstra went for it and got her degree at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

After a 1998 stint as a summer associate at what was then Boardman, Suhr, Curry & Field, Zylstra came on full time, with a one-year sabbatical as a federal clerk. During her clerkship, she observed litigation practices that shaped how she tries cases today.

“The best ones,” she said, “were the ones who made an argument without taking shots at the other side, without demeaning the other side.”

Though she’s a “hard-nosed worker,” colleague Jennifer Mirus said, Zylstra never lets personal politics or differences put a wedge in the firm’s efforts, and “supports people in all circumstances.”

Zylstra recently earned the support of Dane County Bar Association members, who in May voted her the group’s new president-elect.

There’s a less conspicuous side of Zylstra, as well, such as when she’s working behind the scenes at the YWCA on Girls Inc., a project to boost teen girls’ confidence. She also spends time in the field counting cranes in conservation efforts and organizing Christmas gifts annually for some of Dane County’s less fortunate families.

“She’s about putting forth their best effort and pushing our firm and the community forward even if you can’t match her efforts,” said Mirus, an employment law partner at Boardman & Clark. “Sarah’s someone who’s such an advocate, not just for women, but for people in all stages of life.”


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