Kelli Sager

Davis Wright Tremaine

Specialty: Media law

Law School: University of Utah, 1985

In general, journalists don't like to get calls from lawyers, especially those who are libel specialists.

Getting a call from Kelli Sager is the exception. As a partner with downtown law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, Sager spends much of her time in court defending journalists, newspapers and other media clients who are facing libel charges. She is acknowledged as one of the best in her field.

"I have strong feelings about the First Amendment," she said. "I'm lucky because in most cases I feel we are on the right side and I can argue cases I believe in."

In a media-heavy town like Los Angeles, Sager has no shortage of cases, which means 80-hour weeks are often the norm. She is currently defending Random House in a multimillion-dollar libel suit filed by Judith Exner over a book that discussed her alleged relationship with President John Kennedy.

In another case, Sager is defending CBS in an invasion-of-privacy suit brought by a car crash victim whose rescue and helicopter evacuation were videotaped by one of the network's cameramen.

Sager earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from USC before going on to law school at the University of Utah College of Law. Unlike many lawyers who spend years playing the field before choosing a specialty, Sager jumped into media law almost immediately after passing the bar.

Asked whether she ever thinks she missed her calling as a journalist, Sager answers: "No, because now I get the best of both worlds. By working a lot with editors and reporters, I get to vicariously live in the journalists' world."

Jason Booth

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