When asked how she got into family law, Linda Ostovitz said: “It found me, instead of me finding it.”
After serving as the first victim witness coordinator in Howard County’s State’s Attorney’s Office from 1979–81, she became a senior assistant state’s attorney upon her graduation from the University of Baltimore law school.
In 1988 she left the State’s Attorney’s Office and went into private practice, handling criminal defense and other civil matters. Soon, she found she was developing a caseload that involved a lot of family law work, and in 1999, her firm made the decision to do family law exclusively. “That’s been the case [for me] ever since,” said Ostovitz, now a principal at Offit Kurman, in its Maple Lawn office, which she joined in 2015.
Ostovitz, who has a reputation for being direct, is also the kind of person people turn to for help, both professionally and personally. “I advocate for things being done the right way,” she said. “I advocate for the resources in Howard County to get to those who need them.”
She can readily name the characteristics — in herself and others — that mean a lot to her: “I have high standards. I put my family and my friends first, and also [value] loyalty and responsible ownership of what you do.”
She tries to work efficiently because, especially in family law, she said, “Cost is not just money; it’s emotional as well.”
As a Baby Prosecutor
Ostovitz enjoys being a mentor, defining it as sharing her experience with those who aren’t as experienced.
She had a mentor to whom she gives a lot of credit and a lot of thanks: noted criminal defense lawyer Alan Goldstein, who died in 1991 from cancer at age 48.
“I was a baby prosecutor, and I was in district court one day when it seemed like the Red Sea parted, and this man walked up with a big pile of papers and said, ‘Hi, I’m Alan Goldstein, and I’m filing these motions today.’”
They agreed to postpone the case so Ostovitz could do her research and respond to the issues. “He taught me that this is not personal. It does not need to be personal, nor should it be between attorneys. He also taught me how to think at a very high academic level.”
Ostovitz remains thankful that, at a young age, she learned those important lessons: Be professional, and remember that it’s not personal. “I’ve been doing this for 36 years, and you can be the strongest advocate for your client without losing objectivity by making it personal with the other side.”
Life at Offit Kurman
After leading her own firm for so many years, has Ostovitz adjusted to life in a larger firm? “I love not being the owner anymore,” she confessed, adding that her partners at Offit Kurman, collectively, have a tremendous amount of depth.
The firm has grown to 140 attorneys, from New York City to Virginia, with plans to have 200 attorneys by 2020.
“We have practice areas that are so expansive. No matter why my client is here, if they have a need, I can direct them. The family law cases we do are complex, and they involve a lot of issues that require the expertise that we have here.”
What’s the most important observation Ostovitz makes when she’s helping someone file for divorce? “The individual parties are in different places at different times,” she said. “One may be ready to move on and resolve things, but the other party may be hurt, angry, mourning or in denial.”
While mediation is a good tool, someone who’s reeling emotionally may not be ready for that. In reality, divorce is a hard process, whether you mediate or litigate. In Ostovitz’s words: “We can do it the hard way or we can do it the harder way.”
The Most Important Advice
If Linda Ostovitz can help someone live a happier, fuller life, she will. She keeps moving, with the mantra of helping people be their best, and sometimes that means helping them go their separate ways.
Several months ago, instead of saying, “Have a good day,” a friend said to Ostovitz: “Go save somebody today.”
She hadn’t thought of it that way before. “He said that I’m saving people from whatever bad situation they’re in.”
Ostovitz is, by all measures, an accomplished businessperson and community leader. She’s co-president of the Business Women’s Network of Howard County (after serving as president for two years previously). She’s on the board of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, vice president of the Columbia Patuxent Rotary Club and a graduate of Leadership Howard County, for which she co-chairs its Business Day.
When asked about her work as a volunteer for Gilchrist Hospice, she delivers her most important advice yet. “I was fortunate enough to have the kind of marriage people dream about,” she said. “I had a wonderful and fabulous life — and I lost him four years ago.”
Jim Ostovitz died from cancer in July 2013. “We were not officially in hospice,” Linda Ostovitz said, “but Gilchrist Hospice took care of me after I lost him.”
She said she’d had a full and wonderful life with her husband. But they didn’t get to retire together.
“My mantra to people: You don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. Don’t put your life off until some day in the future.”
As time goes by, coping with the loss doesn’t get easier, but it changes, she said. “It’s shades of bad: the permanence of it.”
But Ostovitz, with signature directness, has turned the grieving process on its head. “My life was so good with Jim that I would love to go home at the end of the day and be with him. Now, I’m out in the evenings, at events for my community.”
She’s out giving hope to other people, and perhaps herself, as well. “I do know there’s a lot of good that can be done out there.”