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Shipman & Goodwin is pleased to announce that Peter J. Maher and Sarah A. Westby have been named New Leaders in the Law by the Connecticut Law Tribune, which honors attorneys under the age of 40 who have made significant contributions to the legal profession.

The New Leaders in the Law were chosen as part of the Connecticut Law Tribune’s 2022 Connecticut Legal Awards following a review of submissions sent in from lawyers and firms from across the state. In all, 80-plus winners from more than 45 different firms and organizations in Connecticut will be recognized in this year’s class of honorees.

Peter Maher is a Hartford, Connecticut-area education and school law lawyer at Shipman and a former special education teacher at Pennsylvania’s Centennial School of Lehigh University. Pete has dedicated his career to education and educators, with inspiration from his parents who made parts of their careers in public education. Pete was promoted to Partner this past January, and plans to “pay it forward” and mentor other attorneys in the school law practice area.

Over the last two years, Pete has worked tirelessly to assist Shipman’s school law clients with the complicated issues that have arisen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With his background as a special needs educator, Pete worked closely with Shipman’s school clientele to develop protocols for maintaining compliance with federal laws such as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA) and constantly evolving COVID-19 restrictions and executive orders. While the IDEA requires schools to provide special needs students with individualized programming designed by a team of parents and educators, COVID made creating and executing these plans a significant challenge. Pete was instrumental in counseling school clients across the state as they implemented creative and innovative strategies to meet the needs of students with disabilities, initially through remote and hybrid learning programs, and then as schools safely welcomed students back to in-person learning. Pete was proud to advise his school clients as they in many cases reinvented educational delivery to successfully meet students’ needs under IDEA while keeping students and teachers safe.

Pete’s many clients and colleagues know him as an empathetic listener who understands the everyday challenges educators face. The complexities of running school districts, schools, and classrooms, are not issues that every attorney understands. Pete relies on his experience as an educator to inform his approach to finding solutions for Shipman’s many school law clients. He also maintains an active labor and employment practice focused on representing boards of education in collective bargaining negotiations for certified and non-certified staff and counseling clients on personnel matters, including employee discipline and issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Pete earned his law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he also served as the Connecticut Law Review’s assistant managing editor. While in law school, he interned with the Center for Children’s Advocacy in Connecticut. Pete came to Shipman & Goodwin in 2013 after clerking with the since-retired Honorable Thomas I. Vanaskie of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He is a former adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education.

Sarah Westby pursued a career in law inspired by her father’s legal practice and a strong sense of justice. She enjoys solving problems for clients who appreciate her responsiveness, diligence, active listening, and drive to achieve results. She approaches every challenge with authenticity.

She started her professional journey at Brooklyn Law School, where she completed civil rights and community service internships, including an internship with the U.S. Department of Justice. Her work at DOJ sparked her interest in litigation and led her to join Shipman’s Products Liability practice. Later, she joined Shipman’s Labor and Employment group and realized that she wanted to focus her practice on one-on-one counseling of individuals and business leaders. Today, Sarah counsels employers of all sizes and represents clients at all phases of legal disputes.

In 2019, Sarah began working with cannabis clients. Recognizing the potential inherent to this practice area, she began building Shipman’s Cannabis practice from the ground up. When Connecticut legalized cannabis for recreational use in July 2021, Shipman was perfectly positioned to offer strong, focused counsel to business owners in this new area of law. Today, Sarah serves as Co-Chair of Shipman’s Cannabis practice.

Connecticut’s decision to add a social justice component to its cannabis law also aligns with Sarah’s interest in social justice, which she expresses in several ways, including representing women in immigration and domestic abuse cases and leadership of a nonprofit benefiting Native children.

Sarah serves as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for Simply Smiles, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that builds villages of foster homes in Native communities. She helped secure a land lease for a new village on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota, where Simply Smiles is building a first-of-its-kind intentional community of foster families for Native children. Significantly, Sarah created an employment structure to professionalize the organization’s foster parenting program by crafting complex, unique job descriptions, employment agreements, and housing agreements, to address the specific needs of Native foster children and the demands of living on the Reservation. Building this operational model was paramount to the creation of the Village but doing so was an undertaking without a road map and with many possible pitfalls. Sarah worked tirelessly for months (including traveling to South Dakota), lending her vision and talents to create an employment structure that complied with state, federal, and tribal law.

Sarah graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 2011, cum laude, and the University of Delaware in 2008, magna cum laude.

Leander A. Dolphin, the firm’s Managing Partner, is one of three finalists for Attorney of the Year, an award given to a lawyer who has had outstanding success or achievement in 2021.

Shipman is one of three finalists for the Diversity Initiative, a new award given for the first time this year to a firm that has made a significant contribution to diversity and inclusion efforts in Connecticut’s legal community.

The winners of this year’s Attorney of the Year and Diversity Initiative will be chosen and announced at the annual Connecticut Legal Awards dinner May 11 at Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. The dinner will also honor all of the winners in each of the categories already announced, including the New Leaders in the Law. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners.