For Leila Nadim Sahar, strategy plays a big role in the business-litigation cases she handles at Kravit, Hovel & Krawczyk.
“I really like thinking strategically about finding creative solutions for my clients,” she said. “I enjoy the academic aspect of cases. It is similar to chess, and I like trying to anticipate what the other side will do and counter that.”
At Kravit, Hovel & Krawczyk, Sahar handles a variety of cases for businesses of all sizes. While the businesses are all different, the cases have this in common – they require her to find the best possible solutions for her clients.
“I need to understand the facts in the dispute while also learning about the business and industry,” she said. “I learn something new every day.”
The daughter of an attorney, Sahar grew up knowing she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. She became involved in mock trials starting in middle school and continued through high school and college.
“I really enjoyed the strategy part of mock trial and getting that courtroom feel,” she said.
Another reason Sahar was drawn to a legal career was the opportunity she knew it would give her to help others. “I was one of those kids that would defend their friends if someone said something bad about them. I have always looked to help others,” she said.
That interest led Sahar to represent domestic-abuse victims and take on other pro bono projects in addition to her busy caseload at Kravit, Hovel & Krawczyk. She first became involved in helping domestic-abuse victims at the Georgetown Domestic Violence Clinic, while she was still attending law school. Before joining her current firm earlier this year, Sahar had worked at Quarles & Brady, where she had participated in the firm’s Domestic Abuse Injunction Lawyer-for-a-Day Project. That project provides free legal representation to domestic-abuse victims. Although she has since left the law firm, she remains involved in the project.
“I really enjoy the time I spend on my pro bono work since these are people who are really in need of help. It is very rewarding,” Sahar said. “I also get to spend some time in court, which helps keep those skills sharp. Despite what people think, most litigation cases are not solved in court.”
Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes your work important to you?
Leila Nadim Sahar: Our clients often come to us during times of significant distress — often the businesses they’ve built or their personal well-being are hanging in limbo. It is incredibly rewarding to help people navigate through those difficult times, and hopefully, achieve a result that will ultimately lift a huge weight off their shoulders. I have always felt a great deal of personal gratification being an advocate for others — even as young kid, I always felt a need to stand up for others.
WLJ: Who is your hero in the legal field?
Sahar: My father, Nadim Sahar. He was a lawyer in the civil litigation unit at the Wisconsin Department of Justice for more than 37 years. He barely talked about his job when we were kids; he was too busy asking my sister and I what we were up to in school and shuttling us around to whatever sports practice was in season. But, once I reached law school, I could see how excited he was to be able to discuss the practice of law with me. And when I visited his office during law school, his colleagues jumped at the chance to tell me what an outstanding lawyer he was, and that he was a great mentor to many of them. I was fortunate to catch a glimpse of my father in court on just one occasion, giving a closing argument – he brought the jury to tears. That’s just like my dad – quietly getting the job done without any expectation of praise or glamour.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention that there have been a number of accomplished women lawyers who have inspired and mentored me during my career. As a young woman in the industry, you can’t help but look up to the female giants in the field, and it is really meaningful when they take the time to take you under their wing.
WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Sahar: I like to stay active. I play in ice hockey and soccer leagues around Milwaukee, which are both great stress relievers. On the weekends, nothing beats a long hike with my dog to find some inner Zen.
WLJ: What’s one thing many people get wrong about what you do?
Sahar: I think by now people understand that what they’ve seen on the typical courtroom TV drama really does not resemble real trial work. Still, people usually assume that as a litigator I am in trial much more often than I am. Frankly, sometimes I wish their assumptions were more aligned with reality! I live for the days I get to stand up in court. But of course, most of my work is done from behind a computer screen in my office.
WLJ: What’s your favorite memory from law school?
Sahar: My favorite memories from law school primarily center around the time I spent working in Georgetown’s Domestic Violence Clinic. The clinic was almost exclusively how I spent my time during my last semester of school and it left a remarkable impact on me. To this day, I still think about how much I grew as a “lawyer in training” because of that clinic and how fulfilling it was to help survivors of abuse turn their lives around.
WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Sahar: Earlier this year, I won my first case on an appeal. It was a huge victory for our client, since we successfully overturned the lower court’s decision and ultimately won summary judgment for the client. I did the lion’s share of the briefing so it was an exciting moment for me. Unfortunately, the celebrating was short-lived, because the Wisconsin Supreme Court accepted review of the decision, so the case is still pending. While I wish I could have walked away with the appellate victory under my belt, it is also really exciting to have gained some experience briefing for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.