Meet Fatimeh, letting interesting and impactful work guide her to happiness

Name: Fatimeh Pahlavan

Location:  Chicago, IL

What do you do:  I founded LITE, a transactional law firm for social impact entrepreneurs.

LITE is a unique name.  How did you come up with it?

LITE is an acronym for Legal Intelligence to Entrepreneurs. I wanted the firm to have an identity that was separate and distinct from my own, so I decided not to include my name in the firm’s title. I settled on Legal Intelligence to Entrepreneurs through a sort of magnetic poetry approach. I made a long list of words that evoked the sentiment I aimed to capture, and then mixed the words together until I found a phrase that felt right.

What range of services do you offer and what is a typical day like for you?

LITE helps clients capture intellectual property rights and secure funding from impact investors. A growing portion of our work is aimed at helping businesses institutionalize their values through democratic governance and equitable business practices.

I typically start work at 9 and try very, very hard to walk away from my computer at 5. I devote time each Sunday to calendaring and project planning so that my only concern during the week is to get through my to do list. I also incorporate movement throughout each day. A stretch here, a run there – something to get my blood pumping is absolutely essential. Invariably I find that if I skip movement, my body and brain feel like garbage.  

What do you like most about what you do?

My clients. They’re like superheroes. And I’m like C-3PO, the annoying robot that follows them around constantly alerting them to risk.

Can you talk about your work with E.G. Woode?

I serve as legal counsel to E.G. Woode, an entrepreneur cooperative based out of Englewood.  

You can think of E.G. Woode as consisting of two branches – a platform and a real estate development arm. These two branches are designed to complement one another and to drive change at both the individual and community level.

The platform branch provides entrepreneurs with essential resources at below-market rates, giving them collective bargaining power and a greater chance of launching sustainable businesses. As these businesses grow, they draw capital into traditionally under-resourced neighborhoods. This promotes local job creation as well as the potential for generational wealth.

The real estate development arm of E.G. Woode serves dual purposes. It generates high-quality storefront space for entrepreneur members, and also beautifies communities without displacing residents or changing local character. 

At the core of E.G. Woode’s model is community revitalization through entrepreneur empowerment. Every element of the cooperative is designed to serve the ultimate goal of giving entrepreneurs the support they need to have agency in their lives and ownership over their communities.

How did you connect with them?

Through a mutual friend, Marquis Davis, who recognized our alignment in values and made an introduction.

What inspired you to join the legal profession? 

This kind of question used to raise my blood pressure. For a long time, I thought the only correct answer was, “I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer.”

That is so not me. Candidly, I have never had a grand scheme for my career. I have always been a writer, and dreamt of doing work that was interesting and impactful. Without realizing it, I moved through life with those concepts serving as my compass.

I started college in New Mexico, where I studied western classical literature at a tiny school tucked away in the mountains. After a year I transferred to Chicago to study biochemistry. Soon after graduating, I learned that patent law existed. It sounded fascinating so I decided to go to law school.

The truth is that I backed into this profession. I pursued ideas that interested me, and at the end of it all, combined my skills to create my ideal job. The goal throughout my life was not to be a lawyer, it was to be happy.  

How do you define success?

Figuring out who you are and then doing it on purpose. (Thanks, Dolly)

What’s been the greatest challenge on your path and how did you work through it? 

The question: Who am I to do this?

Real talk? This question pops into my head every single time a meaningful opportunity arises. My ever-present companion is the concern that I am not smart enough; I don’t know enough; I am not good enough.

My strategy for working through this is not particularly elegant. To work through it I literally work through it. I sit in front of the computer and begin researching, or writing, or whatever. And the sooner I begin doing this the better, because each moment sitting in fear amplifies the emotion. Focusing my energy away from the fear and pointing it towards a practical task tends to provide me with significant relief.

What’s your go-to wellbeing activity?

Therapy. No surprise after my last answer. ???? I also meditate using a wonderful app called Insight Timer.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Left to my own devices, I rarely leave the house. I like to use downtime to explore other professions – therapy, design, education. I enjoy thinking about how practices borrowed from those fields might be implemented into my own work. 

Thankfully I have a partner, Keaton, who encourages me to spend more time playing. He gets me out of the house and out of my head. You can usually find us running around outside, playing with kettlebells, or thumbing through old records, seeking new additions for our collection.

What is a good book or podcast you have listed to recently?

My favorite podcasts are Psychology in Seattle and Strict Scrutiny. Right now I’m rereading The Satanic Verses and I just started reading Strangers in Their Own Land.

What is one thing about you that you think people would be surprised to learn?

I’m actually going to list three statements, two of which are true. You are free to reach out to me to confirm the ones that are accurate.  

  • Hercule Poirot is my hero.
  • I can do a perfect cartwheel.
  • I went to space camp as a child. And yes, I went on the spinny chair thing.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the legal profession, what would it be?

I would love to live in a world that has no need for adversarial dispute resolution. I imagine a society in which people are taught to differentiate their thoughts from their emotions, to empathize with others, and to resolve conflict in a way that preserves relationships. 

What is one new thing you are hoping to learn from others in this community?

What does happiness look like for you?

And what is one thing you are looking to share with others in this community?

My story, warts and all.