Saper Lawyer

Daliah Saper arrived from Iran at age 6 and hasn't slowed down

Published in 2009 Illinois Super Lawyers — February 2009

Either life moves fast for Daliah Saper or Daliah Saper moves fast for life.

In 1986, at the age of 6, she emigrated from Iran to Texas with her parents and brother. "I went from wearing hijab to a place where everyone wears cowboy boots," she says.

A few years later, the family moved to northern Illinois, where her mother—half Iranian, half English—worked as an accountant, and her father as a physician. "Once we got to Chicago, I lived the good life," she says. "[Overall] the experience forced me to adapt to new environments."

She speaks Hebrew and Farsi, and she's studied in Shanghai, London and Champaign. Now she's running Saper Law Offices, which she started at the age of 24. Believe it or not, it's her second business.

The first, a fashion production company, diLuce Productions, she created with a friend during her third year at the University of Illinois College of Law. It was no small venture. They put on fashion shows with high-end labels such as Club Monaco and Custo Barcelona. Saper handled the legal, PR and marketing work, her friend covered the choreography and production. By graduation, the business fell apart. "We just had different ideas of how the company should be managed," she says. "The experience gave me an appreciation for the trials and tribulations of starting a small business."

Then there was Playboy.

When Howard Shapiro, the magazine's general counsel, gave a lecture at her law school, Saper told him she wanted to work with him—even though Playboy's legal department wasn't hiring. "I asked three times and he kept saying no," she says with a laugh. "After I kept bugging him, he finally put me in touch with the associate general counsel. And she crafted an internship."

The job wasn't as glamorous as one might imagine, but she did get to play Pictionary with company CEO Christie Hefner, Hugh's daughter, at a holiday party. An added bonus: "I was very popular on campus [with the male law students] when I had that internship," she recalls.

After graduating, Saper spent eight months at a two-person law firm before she asked herself, "What's my boss doing that I can't?" With no student loans—because she both taught and worked during school—she could afford to go solo.

"The firm grew organically," she says. "People trusted me. One client led to another. ... I took IP, media and business cases; licensing agreements; contracts. New media, Web startups."

Her client list now includes such diverse names as menuism.com, Speedit Software, She Beads and Varsity Pictures. She also represents emerging fashion designers. "The best part is," she says, "I get to set the terms for my clients."

Meaning payment sometimes includes high-end apparel. Carrie Bradshaw, eat your heart out.

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