Arlington Heights lawyer tough on outside, a Lego lover on the inside

While attorneys can often be tough when representing their client, they likely find stress relief after work by playing music or volunteering in the community.

Susan Dawson, a founding partner at Waltz, Palmer & Dawson LLC in Rolling Meadows, does some volunteering. But her biggest stress relief? Lego sets.

She has crafted six Lego sets and her kids give them to her as gifts at Christmas and Mother's Day. She is now working on her seventh set, called Slave I.

"I work on whatever they think is cool and want me to put together," said Dawson, 44, of Arlington Heights. "I'm putting Tower Bridge on my Christmas list next year. I lived in London briefly after college and fell in love with the city. So I want to have the Tower Bridge set to remind me of that time. I would love to get the 3,100-piece Imperial Super Star Destroyer set one day. It's rare and very expensive, so not sure that will ever happen, but a girl can dream."

This girl-at-heart hobby started while crafting the Lego sets with her children, Matthew, 11, Andrew, 10, and Ellen, 6. But over time, they lost interest and she found that she really enjoyed the process herself.

"It's very therapeutic for me," Dawson said. "At the end of a crazy day with work and kids, I can sit down and just focus

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on the Lego pieces. Putting each piece where they need to go and watch something form and evolve before my eyes."

Her favorite was the Death Star, which is about 16 inches tall and just as wide.

Besides creating and growing Lego sets, she also helps businesses to grow by working with owners and executives. She has done legal work for foreign companies that acquired land and facilities to expand in the United States and also helped U.S. companies with large real estate acquisitions, including strip malls, mixed use commercial buildings and a hotel.

"My legal training was key to knowing what to do, but I also very much approached the work as a business owner, thinking strategically about how to manage costs," she said. "A lawyer at a big firm doesn't necessarily think that way. They just need to bill their clients for as many hours of work as they can. But a lawyer who is also an entrepreneur definitely sees things differently."

Dawson said that she is more than just a founder of a law firm. She is also a business owner. And the connections she has made through her involvement with the Chicago Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners has been vital to the firm's growth. So it is gratifying to be able to serve the organization that's helped her accomplish many of her goals as an entrepreneur.

Too often, as women in business, they try to copy the strategies that worked for our male counterparts in advancing their careers, she said.

"For a business lawyer like me, that used to mean golf or cigars or sports talk, ways of connecting to potential clients that just never felt comfortable," she said. "But I came to understand that there are great networks outside those well-worn paths. Joining NAWBO helped open my eyes to the huge economic power held by women business owners, many of whom had been overlooked by other firms. This is an enormous and underserved market and, incidentally, one that I relate to authentically."


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•There's more to business than just the bottom line. We want to tell you about the people that make business work. Send news about people in business to Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter.

Dan Casey is president of Casey's in Naperville, which is marking its 25th anniversary this year. DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO 2010
Beth L. LaSalle
Sean Bergan
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