Daliah Saper, Principal, Saper Law Offices
How long have you been working for your current company?
I started Saper Law Offices in 2005.
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I received my J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law, where I was a staff member on the Journal of Law Technology and Policy and served as President of the Intellectual Property Law Society. During law school, I used my time to explore a lot of different legal positions. I worked for Brinks Hofer Gilson and Lione, Lawyers for the Creative Arts, the Anti-Defamation League, and Playboy Enterprises, Inc. After law school, I gained experience as a commercial litigator and negotiated settlement agreements on behalf of individuals sued by the Recording Industry Association of America. I started my practice in 2005 so I could focus my practice on helping creative individuals and innovative business organizations. I’m proud to say I have been handling high profile, cutting edge, cases ever since.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
In addition to being recognized by Chambers and Partners, I have repeatedly been named a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers magazine, nominated for the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award, and been featured in several publications and on national news networks. Of course, while I am proud of these honors and awards, there can be no prouder achievement, professionally, than arguing before the Illinois Supreme Court. I just visited Springfield this past March to present a headline grabbing case involving fraud over the internet. You can read more about this unique case here.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
Not only do I run a high-volume firm, but I also spend a great deal of my time teaching, volunteering and networking with businesses and other attorneys. I am on the faculty of the Practising Law Institute, and I am an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. I am also an active member of the Chicago Bar Association, the Chicago Fashion Foundation, the Technology Executives Club, the Decalogue Society, the Standard Club and the Independent Features Project; and I volunteer for Lawyers for the Creative Arts, Ktermquin Films, Chicago Filmmakers, Women in Film, and Wyclef Jean’s Yale Haiti Foundation. With so much going on, time management can be a real challenge. To overcome that challenge, I use technology and web-based calendars to stay organized and rely on my fabulous associates and law clerks to keep me on track.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
For me, work-life balance is not about separating work and life. Instead, it’s about finding ways to enjoy both work life and home life, and sometimes allowing the two to exist simultaneously. Instead of focusing on this phrase “work-life balance,” we should be finding ways to be happy both in the office and out. Although I may have to spend a lot of time doing work-related things, I love what I do. The key is to follow your passions and give yourself the flexibility to do things you enjoy doing. My practice gives me the opportunity to associate with interesting people who do creative things. I wouldn’t be a lawyer if I had to handle cases in areas of law that don’t interest me, and I won’t volunteer or attend events that I don’t enjoy. In addition to that, I allow myself flexibility rather than sticking to a strict 9-to-5 schedule. That gives me the opportunity to get work done, focus on my own interests, or spend time with my family when it’s most convenient for me, rather than trying to arbitrarily fit work into one arbitrary 10-hour block.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law?
Who were they and how did they help you? Both during and after law school, I spent a lot of time networking and reaching out to other attorneys for advice. Two attorney who really helped me and continue to be mentors are Luke DeMarte, a partner at Michael, Best & Friedrich LLP, and Mark Altschul, a partner at McDermott, Will, & Emery. I can call them any time I have an IP or litigation question.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
It is no secret that the best way to make corporate diversity a top priority is by hiring employees with a wide variety of backgrounds. More important, however, is ensuring that each of these individuals has a voice in creating the firm’s corporate culture as opposed to being asked to fit into a pre-existing mold.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
I think any advantages or disadvantages I’ve experienced came more from the fact that I started my own firm as a 24 year old, and not my gender. I feel fortunate to have been able to avoid some of the problems other women may face in more traditional firm settings. In my own firm, I have created an environment that relies heavily on mentoring and collaboration, and I think this setup allows me to encourage both male and female law students and associates to really pave their own way in the legal profession.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
In the past, many corporations did not see women as entrepreneurs and business leaders unless they were willing to give up family life and focus on just their careers. Also “face-time” was very important and logging hours behind a desk at the office was expected. Now, however, many firms allow both men and women flex-time and maternity/paternity leave. Plus, social media and ecommerce have made it much easier to create an international businesses presence from home on a shoestring budget. Firms are willing to allow women to spend more time working remotely. Accordingly, female attorneys can more easily juggle family and career and such flexibility is the new norm.