Alumna empowers others — one class at a time

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Sarah Spear Sands (center). – Photo by Jack Conroy

For evidence on the versatility of a jurisdoctor degree, look no further than Sarah Spear Sands. A former legislative affairs senior director for the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting (AALU) on Capitol Hill, Sands now focuses her talents on what many may consider an unlikely venue – fitness.

Sands, a Coastal Law Class of 2006 alumna, is the owner of Dance Trance DC, a franchise of the dance fitness program that mashes aerobics and choreography to Top 40 hits. A near-instant success, Sands said that in only one year she outgrew her first studio and now manages two full-time employees and six instructors.

“It has really been an incredible experience and even though I was nervous and maybe even embarrassed to try something new, my education and experience ultimately gave me the confidence to try,” she said.

“Trust me. Studying for the bar is definitely a confidence booster.”

Though a success today and poised for growth, Sands said her decision to leave behind what was once her dream job was both difficult and deeply personal.

“So many people on the Hill work themselves to death trying to reach unattainable goals and, for a while, I was no different,” she said. “Then I got married and my priorities shifted. I realized I wasn’t being honest with myself and I needed to make a change.”

Sands said her husband Ben was instrumental in helping her arrive at that conclusion. Three months before their wedding he left his consulting job to start Regret Free Life, a company that empowers professionals to form and achieve goals.

“He let me know it was ok to admit that I wasn’t doing what I loved and that I needed to look for other opportunities,” Sands said. “I was his first client, actually.”

Dance Trance isn’t new to Sands. She began taking classes her first year at Coastal Law and stayed with it all along. She said it was not just a way to “turn off and not think about work,” it also allowed her to develop a healthier lifestyle.

“That’s one of the things that I enjoy passing on to others,” she said. “I empower people, including my former colleagues to live better lives. At first I didn’t know how people would react when they found out what I’m doing now, but it’s completely the opposite. They say, ‘I admire your strength. You left the desk behind to do what you love.’

“I really do.”

How does a former Capitol Hill attorney use her law degree to transition from one successful career to another on the opposite end of the spectrum? Here’s how:

  1. In the beginning: “What I learned in my business law classes was incredibly helpful – things like incorporating an S Corp and an LLC. It helped having the background I have.”
  2. When negotiating: “As a business owner I have a lot of difficult decisions to make – how I price, who I work with. I decide all of that.”
  3. When it comes to confidentiality: “When I work with clients, I exercise the same discretion I did in my past jobs. Often, I work with people who are going through life transitions of their own – divorce, emotional issues, etc. It’s really important to keep all of that in confidence.”
  4. In public speaking: “In law school you learn a lot about communicating clearly and about logic and rationale. That kind of training continues to serve me well.”
  5. When it comes to being diplomatic: “In this job, I come across people from all different backgrounds. As it is in the law, it’s important to treat everyone fairly and with respect. I’m reminded of that every day.”