Written by: Nicole Black
A hardcore musician, covered from head to toe in multiple piercings and intricate tattoos—not exactly the stereotypical law firm client that every aspiring lawyer envisions during law school. But for Daliah Saper, the founder of Saper Law Offices, LLC, a Chicago-based law firm, this musician was one of her first clients—and she wasn’t complaining: “My first big client was intimidating. He had tattoos and piercings. I met him at a friend’s party and he told me: ‘I’m a composer so, I can only pay $150/ hour.’ At that time, that was an amazing amount of money to me so I said, ‘Sure, I’ll take it.’”
Starting from scratch
The year was 2005 and Daliah had just set up shop as a solo practice, following a brief eight-month stint working for another solo practitioner. As she explains, at the time, she was broke and scrambling for clients: “When I started, I was 24 years old and had zero capital. At the time, I was really bootstrapping. I lived with roommates I’d met on Craigslist for cheap rent and lived off of coffee and pizza. I had no budget to advertise.”
But, in the age of the Internet, she was able to take advantage of innovative online tools instead of utilizing more costly, traditional methods of advertising. These emerging online platforms offered newfound, inexpensive ways to reach potential clients. According to Daliah, the firm’s blog was instrumental to her success: “From the beginning, technology was integrated into my firm. I was a young lawyer. Back then, it was just me, the blog and talking to as many people as possible. My website is now one of the biggest assets to my law firm. I’ve continually added to it over the years.”
Although online engagement was crucial to her fledging firm’s marketing strategy, offline networking was equally important. What was particularly effective, she found, was networking with those who shared her interests: “I wanted to work with people whose company I enjoyed. So, slowly but surely, I went to every event I could find in the city--not necessarily those related to the law. I attended events that interested me: the arts, general business networking, etc. At those events, I told people what I was doing and they referred me to their friends, even if it was just to handle small matter. I took a lot of pro bono work in the beginning.”
A boutique litigation practice is born
Over time, Daliah’s networking efforts in the business, technology and creative arts communities paid off. The focus of her practice gradually shifted to representing creative entrepreneurs and others in intellectual property and business matters, including trade secret misappropriation, intellectual property infringement, defamation, and commercial litigation.
One of the firm’s most unique and rapidly expanding areas of practice, social media law, grew directly from Daliah’s networking efforts: “The people I work for are media savvy, and because of that, I was thrown into the social media scene. A lot of law firms claim to understand social media, but aren’t using it themselves. Because of my ability to understand and use social media, I’ve attracted some very interesting, novel cases. I represented a mom whose daughter was cyber-bullied. Another client was defamed online through a fake LinkedIn profile. We also have a case pending before the IL Supreme Court that involves an unprecedented case of internet fraud.”
Another benefit of her firm’s social media law expertise: national media exposure. Daliah regularly appears on national television, including CNBC and FOX News, where she is consulted about social media and other Internet-based and mobile technology issues.
Practice what you love
The cases her firm now handles represent the perfect blend of her legal background and personal interests, making every day interesting and worthwhile to her. According to Daliah, that’s one of the keys to her success: “I think you have to enjoy what you practice. My practice gives me the opportunity to associate with interesting people doing creative things. I wouldn't be a lawyer if I had to handle cases in areas of law don’t interest me. In order to excel, you have to enjoy the day-to-day aspects of your practice.”
In other words, follow your interests, enjoy your work and the rest will come—but not immediately. Like anything, it takes time and hard work.
Words of Wisdom
So, what’s her advice to new lawyers? “Patience. I think when you’re just starting out, you want to see a faster return on investment, but it takes time to establish your practice. And, enjoy your work—if you do, interesting cases will find you.”