Sara Compher-Rice:

This week’s Member in the Spotlight is Sara Compher-Rice of Knoxville, Tennessee. She is our newest Regent, newly assigned to the NCDD Awards/Recognition committee. It is quite fitting she receive a long overdue spotlight, as she will soon be writing Member in the Spotlight segments. Sara has been practicing DWI/DUI defense since 2002, alongside NCDD fellow Steve Oberman, straight out the gate. She was born and raised in Chillicothe, Ohio, a very small town in southern Ohio, with few professionals. She was an only child. Her mom had her young, sacrificing everything for her. When she was young, her mom worked part time serving Meals on Wheels in order to be able to meet and greet Sara on and off the school bus. She later retired as a CVS pharmacy technician. Her father worked management at the Dupont plant. He retired from a trim/carpentry business shared with Sara’s husband. Sadly, he passed this March.

As Sara describes it, she has always held some sort of job her whole life starting with cleaning neighbors’ houses as a kid, moving up to babysitting. Other jobs include being a server, cashier for a family business, a research assistant and administrative assistant at Denison University, and one of her favorites-a white-water rafting guide. Sara is a first-generation college student. She earned her B.A. from Denison University and her law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law, where she graduated in the top ten percent of her class. She decided to become a lawyer as she describes it, “I think the combination of the leadership I was able to develop in Ohio 4-H along with the world that opened up when I read To Kill a Mockingbird really sealed my fate to become a lawyer. If I’m being honest, Claire Huxtable had a part in my dream as well.” She has had one job her entire legal career. Fellow Steve Oberman hired her right out of law school, and now more than twenty years later she is a partner at Oberman & Rice.

Sara gives meaning to the word involvement. Like a magnet, she is attracted to the service of others in leadership. She is past President of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She has served the Phil Delta Phi Legal Fraternity since law school, working with students in her region promoting a high standard of ethics. In 2011, she was appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to serve as a hearing committee member of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility. On a personal level, she can always be found volunteering with organizations related to her boys. She is very active with the middle school PTSO, serving as President for two years and most recently as Membership Director. She currently chaperones with the Bearden High School Marching Band (where her son Jake is a mellophone player) and volunteers her time with the Appalachian Ballet Company (where her son Henry is a ballet dancer).

Sara describes her approach to law as learning as much as she can about her clients with a hard work ethic. “Win or lose, most of our clients want to be heard and understood and if I don’t know anything about my client other than the basic facts of the case, I’m only setting myself and our defense up for failure. Likewise, whether I’m negotiating with the prosecutor or trying the case to a judge or jury, that personal touch only helps to enhance the credibility of my arguments.” She describes her favorite win as a multiple offense client who ended up with a DUI conviction, but spared months of jail time after successfully completing treatment during the course of representation. Several years after the conclusion of the case, she was the den leader for her son’s cub scout group and the den visited a homeless shelter. As soon as she parked, the security guard with the shelter locked eyes with her, rushed over and swept her up off the ground into a huge, embracing bear hug exclaiming to the group of eight-year-old boys she helped save his life. He proclaimed her as the greatest lawyer! Sara’s awards include being selected at the Knoxville Business Journal’s 2016 class of 40 under 40. She was named a Mid-South Super Lawyers Rising Star from 2011-2020 and has been named a Mid-South Super Lawyer every year since. She also received the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer’s “Workhorse Award.”

When Sara is not working, she enjoys nature hikes and summer camping and rafting with her family. She met her husband at 4-H camp over thirty years ago. They have been married for twenty four years and have two incredible sons- Jake (16) and Henry (13). Their “home away from home” when not enjoying the east Tennessee Appalachian Mountains is the New River Gorge in West Virginia.

Sara joins the NCDD Board of Regents in 2023, but she has been a member since 2003, attending her first summer session that summer. She states, “Our members are brilliant, creative, curious and their bravery and generosity serves me every single day. I hope that one day I’ll be able to give back just a small portion of what the National College has given me.” Sara, you are the paragon of stability and loyalty in both your personal and professional life. You undertake all your obligations with gusto and steady adherence to excellence. We, the National College of DUI Defense, are grateful to you as you lead us into “new waters” (to use a reference to your favorite white water rafting). No doubt, you will bring a new, fresh perspective to the nation’s oldest and most prestigious DUI/DWI lawyer organization focused on quality and character. Robert Green said, “There is no coincidence that stability brings success and success brings stability.” Thank you for everything you do and are Sara.

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