Being named to 40 Under Forty in 2003 pushed Howard S. Dakoff’s private practice into overdrive.
At the time, Dakoff was a 32-year old associate at Levenfeld Pearlstein LLC. He described himself as being “on the cusp of breaking out as a thought leader in my practice area,” which is community association law.
“As attorneys, besides sharpening our craft, for those that want to develop a true career and business development, you need credentialing to develop your skill set,” Dakoff said. “That award helped credential me as someone recognized by peers as a leader in my practice.”
One case Dakoff still takes pride in led to legislative action. Dakoff represented Jewish condo owners who had discovered that their condominium associations banned all residents from placing items on their doors. This included mezuzahs, which have specific phrases from the Torah written on them that must be hung on the outside of Jewish homes, Dakoff said.
Dakoff said his representation of those condo owners led to legislative changes at both the Chicago City Council and the Illinois General Assembly so that the law protected religiously mandated objects mezuzahs.
Dakoff said this led to similar legislation being passed in Florida and Texas.
“That’s part of my legacy - helping the change that protects those rights,” Dakoff said. “That was a nice accomplishment in my industry.”
Once a rising star at his firm, Dakoff is now an equity partner and has begun identifying the next generation of up-and-comers. The 48-year-old said he’s mentoring one young attorney in particular who could be featured in a future class of 40 Under Forty.
“I’m giving him the opportunities my mentor gave to me,” Dakoff said, adding that he’s getting him to write and speak more. “If the public sees you as a thought leader, so will your client.”
Since 2012, Dakoff has written a monthly column for the Chicago Tribune called Condo Adviser. He’s also written for several industry magazines, including Condo Lifestyles and Common Interest. He is also a past co-chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Real Estate Law, Condominium Subcommittee.