Niloufar Park talks business, food and connections
The Seattle attorney has a special place in her heart for her hospitality clients
Published in 2022 Washington Super Lawyers magazine
By RJ Smith on July 14, 2022
Here’s the secret behind Seattle-based firm Opsera’s name: It’s made-up. Niloufar Park and her co-founder (now at the ACLU) brainstormed for hours in 2019, searching for a moniker that conveyed why they wanted to practice law. Ops was shorthand for what kind of attorneys they wanted to be: operational forces. And era refers to this moment in history. “It’s time for powerful women,” Park says.
She’s found others who agree. “Many clients reached out to me because they wanted to work with a woman attorney—someone who they can connect with on a personal level,” she says. “Collaboration to build a long-lasting relationship is important to these clients, as well as emotional support during difficult decisions and resolving disputes.”
Many of her clients are entrepreneurs in the worlds of hospitality, restaurants, wineries and distilleries. “They know they are going to work hard and might not make much money, but they have a passion to do it that drives them,” she says.
Her beverage clientele dramatically increased after Washington closed its state liquor stores in 2012 and allowed craft distillery operations to sell directly to consumers.
“It was uncharted territory, and I connected with a number of craft distilleries and wineries and distributors,” Park says.
She counsels clients on everything from starting up to permitting to selling off a business. “I do what I enjoy; it’s the marriage of law and business,” she says. “Solving problems that are not my problems. It’s like a puzzle. I like helping startups and being there from day one. When I look back, I can see all of those seeds that were set down.”
Park shares her hospitality clients’ passion for food and travel. She grew up in Tehran, where her childhood home was filled with the smells of kebabs and stews. “Where food is, discussions happened,” she says. “In Persian culture, we love to host and feed people.”
Outside the house, though, the Iranian Revolution was turning life upside down, and Park’s family fled when she was 14. She arrived in Seattle in 1984, unable to speak English. “We literally left in the middle of night; we had nothing,” Park recalls. “We were a pretty prosperous family back in Iran, and [we] had to start over.”
She ended up studying business at the University of Washington, then worked for seven years as a corporate business adviser for GE and Boeing. “I was content in my jobs in the business world, but not satisfied,” she says, “because I didn’t make a direct difference in people’s lives.”
So Park headed for Seattle University School of Law and, in 2006, earned her J.D. “I knew that if I didn’t pursue law, I would regret it for the rest of my life,” she says. “I believed that law gave me the tools I needed to advocate for those who couldn’t.”
After law school, Park clerked at King County Superior Court for Justice Mary I. Yu, now on the state Supreme Court. She also volunteered with the King County Bar Association Neighborhood’s Legal Clinic. “The clinic reminded me that I have a privilege to practice law and have resources to help individuals,” Park says.
She continues to carve out time for travel. Her destinations have included France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Vietnam, Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Peru. And during a 2017 trip to Thailand and Cambodia, she found out that apsaras—pronounced similarly to her firm name—were female deities who came out of the mists to protect people. “The name,” she says, “was fated.”
At home, Park and her husband, Jae, love to cook both the Persian cuisine of her heritage and the Korean meals of his—as well as recipes from their travels. Would she consider opening a restaurant herself? “It’s tough work,” she says. “It’s enough to run a law firm.”
One of Park’s Favorite Recipes
Thai green papaya salad—som tom—is a simple, fresh, and very popular dish in Thailand, served everywhere from small food stalls to restaurants. This salad is spicy, tangy, sweet, salty and crunchy, to satisfy any palate. Serve it with rice and any grilled meats.
Tips: Use a mortar and pestle if you have it; otherwise mince or chop ingredients. Adjust the spiciness to your preference by adding or reducing chilies. Other components of sweet and sour can also be adjusted to taste. Serve on a platter.
- ½ pound green papaya—shredded or julienne
- 2 cloves of garlic—peeled
- 1to 4 green or red Thai chilies (to desired spice level)
- 2 tbsp. roasted peanuts
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- ½ – 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 to 2 limes (adjust to your liking)
- 1 Roma tomato (or any variety)
- 5-6 fresh green beans (optional for garnish)
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