Focus on an AAARTA Fellow
Daniel Ziskin, Arizona
“How many lawyers get to do ‘happy’ law?” asked Fellow Daniel Ziskin, when asked why he chose to practice in the area of adoptions and assisted fertility. “I feel as though I’m involved in something that is truly helpful to people and significant. We’re helping to make children’s lives so much better than they might otherwise have been. We’re making a real difference.”
Dan attended Arizona State University for both his BA (with high distinction) and JD and was admitted to the bar in 1975. Before his legal career, he engaged in a variety of occupations, including delivery boy, mechanic, auto shop manager, magazine salesman, Encyclopedia Britannica salesman, steelworker, entrepreneur and a variety of other jobs that are no longer memorable. His very first job was as a cleanup boy at his father’s automobile shop. Dan decided to pursue a legal career after he was rejected by some of the best psychology graduate schools all over the country. He was on the leading edge of the baby boom, studying experimental psychology. Dan reports that not going to these graduate schools was the best thing that ever happened to him. “People used to confuse the hell out of me,” he said.
Dan became interested in adoption and ART law after he and his wife began looking to adopt as they were going through fertility procedures. They adopted their daughter, and later had a GIFT procedure that resulted in their twin boys. As a result, Dan began handling adoptions and ART matters in his law practice and feels a deep personal connection to both.
Dan jettisoned everything that he disliked, and kept everything that he liked so that his practice is now limited to adoptions, surrogacy and plaintiff’s personal injury work. His least favorite area of practice was divorce and his idea of lawyer hell would be doing divorces into eternity. If Dan were starting over and choosing a new career today he would like to be a philanthropist (assuming he had the appropriate assets). Otherwise, practicing law has been a rewarding career and he would do it all over again.
Dan’s greatest professional accomplishments have been to find wonderful homes for children who need them and helping people obtain compensation for wrongs done to them. Dan has learned never to assume a particular bad result. “I never fail to be happily surprised when things that don’t look like they will work out, do.” Worrying about things never helps and he finds that “no” is usually just a prelude to “yes.” Dan always tries to be up front and frank. He has very few filters regarding what he is willing to say but will never say anything about anyone else that he would not say directly to them. All he asks is that people always assume the best of intent.
Dan’s greatest personal accomplishment is “finding a wife who would put up with me for all these years and our three children who have all turned out to be wonderful human beings.” One of his most cherished memories is from the first day his daughter Miriam came home. “She was ours from the moment she was put into our arms.”
Dan tries to help others when they need it. He tries to stay connected with birth mothers he has represented, and tries to get them thinking about where they want to be ten years down the line. He spends a lot of time volunteering in both his professional and personal communities. Dan appreciates that he was born to parents “who were the picks of each of their respective litters (he has not said this to his cousins – so please don’t pass this on). I had opportunities that many other people did not have. I try to help other people who have not been so lucky.” Dan would like his headstone to say something similar to what he and his sisters put on their parents’ headstone: “Their acts of righteousness helped heal the world. They were an example to all and a blessing to friends and family.”