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She left Philadelphia a decade ago with a Temple Law degree in hand and the dream of establishing herself as a divorce lawyer in New York. But now Samantha Daniels gets paid to find true love for wayward singles, an ironic career twist that is the inspiration for the new television drama “Miss Match.” Daniels, the daughter of former Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Robert Daniels, first pitched the idea for the show to a talent agent two summers ago. She was soon connected with Darren Star, the Emmy Award-winning producer of “Sex and the City.” After some initial meetings, Daniels sold her life story to Star and has been “bicoastal” ever since — making weekly trips to Los Angeles for producers’ meetings while maintaining her matchmaking business, Samantha’s Table, in both locales. “When I tell people that I’m a matchmaker they are both shocked and fascinated,” Daniels said. “I think people have an impression of matchmakers as being like the one in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ — an older, unattractive yenta. It didn’t matter if someone was old or young or where they lived. They were all fascinated by what I did for a living.” “So I started to think that it would make a good TV show. I held my breath during pilot season that there would be no matchmaker show, and, of course, there wasn’t one. Then there was the reality television craze, and I saw there was a tremendous amount of public interest. But I didn’t mention it to anyone because I didn’t want someone in Hollywood to steal my idea. I just happened to meet someone at a dinner party who said they knew someone at William Morris [talent agency] and things sort of took off from there.” An admitted “Daddy’s little girl” who was raised on Philadelphia’s Main Line by one of the city’s pre-eminent trial lawyers, Daniels said she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a lawyer. She founded and was president of her high school’s debate team before attending the University of Pennsylvania. Though she always wanted to live in New York City, Daniels said she felt compelled to attend her father’s alma mater, Temple University’s Beasley School of Law. Her brothers, Sean and Christopher, both earned law degrees, but are not practicing today. “Samantha could twist and turn me any way she wanted when she was a kid,” Robert Daniels said. “And that’s a big part of her success. She’s a goal-oriented person who, when she’s dedicated to do something, doesn’t take no for an answer. But I don’t think I was the inspiration for her to become a lawyer. I think that came from her mother [Donna, who died in 1997 due to complications from breast cancer], who raised her to be an independent woman who establishes her own base. And she’s certainly become that and more.” When looking for a summer job during her second year of law school, Daniels wrote letters to some of New York’s top matrimonial lawyers. Robert Dobrish of Dobrish & Wrubel was impressed with what he read and hired her as a summer clerk. “From the beginning, I could see her talent,” Dobrish said. “She didn’t know much about matrimonial law, but she had street smarts. She knew how to find things and get things done. It was refreshing to see. So when she wanted to get into the field [after graduation], I helped her get a job.” Upon graduating from Temple Law in 1993, Daniels moved to New York without a job. Friends in the field suggested that Daniels volunteer for a matrimonial judge to put herself in a better position to obtain a full-time job. She paid bills by doing per diem work, and eventually received an offer from Irving Shafran, then of Anderson Kill. After learning the ropes from Shafran for a few years, Daniels went to work for her father, a plaintiff personal injury lawyer by trade, who also handles some high-end divorce cases. It was while she was working for her father that Daniels began throwing parties at Manhattan night spots, charging a small cover and collecting business cards each time. “I remember always seeing a guy on one side of the room and a girl on the other and thinking who would make a good couple and trying to bring them together,” Daniels said. “I always thought about establishing my own business. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak, and I had this fascination with singles. I had collected something like 7,000 business cards, and I decided to start Samantha’s Table.” Her father was not especially pleased at the prospect of his only daughter seemingly throwing away her legal education for such a risky business proposition. Daniels gave herself two months for the business to catch on, while continuing to practice law on the side. “I was hesitant, to put it mildly,” Robert Daniels said. “I invested all this money in her legal education, I saw her flourishing in the matrimonial practice, and now she tells me that she wants to get into the matchmaking business. “I was really [skeptical] until one day she invited me up to New York for lunch and she showed me this very professional-looking brochure. I was impressed, but I’m a dinosaur when it comes to that stuff. People from my generation just didn’t meet people through things like that. But Samantha said to me, ‘Dad, there are people who work 20 hours a day on Wall Street, and they need an expert like me to match them up.’ And she was right, of course.” With the help of the brochure mailed to her thousands of partygoers, Daniels’ new business venture took off within two months and soon began to get press coverage. The concept is simple. People come to her and give a description their ideal mate. Daniels then serves as a headhunter of sorts, doing computer searches in her database of roughly 10,000 singles and more often than not sets them up with someone who is not a client. Daniels claims her track record includes 10,000 set-ups and 41 marriages. But at 34, the still single Daniels has yet to find the right match for herself. Upon meeting with the talent agent, Daniels was asked who her dream producer for the show would be. Without hesitation she named Star, whose credits include “Beverly Hills 90210″ and “Melrose Place.” “’90210′ was my favorite show,” Daniels said. “And you can tell from ‘Sex and the City’ that he really understands life and business in New York.” When the show was in its conceptual stages, Daniels met for drinks with her old mentor Dobrish. “She knew about five or six of the guys at this place, and they were all getting divorced,” Dobrish said. “It was really funny. I thought to myself that she could be a tremendous source of business for me. “But we talked about the concept of the show, and there was a chance it would be set in New York. Samantha knows matchmaking, but they would have needed an experienced New York matrimonial lawyer to serve as a consultant about what’s going on in divorce law today and get ideas for storylines. So we talked about me being an adviser. But they wound up basing the show in Los Angeles, so I’m sure they have a divorce lawyer out there who consults with them.” The plot of “Miss Match” has a familiar ring to it. Alicia Silverstone, who played an amateur matchmaker in the 1995 hit movie “Clueless,” was cast as the lead character, Kate Fox, who works as an associate in her father’s Los Angeles law firm. In addition to being a divorce attorney, Kate has a knack for matchmaking, which she considers a hobby until a socialite bride credits her for finding her a husband. Word of the young lawyer’s talent spreads, and soon Kate is juggling the conflicting worlds of divorce law and matchmaking, though her father, Jerry, (Ryan O’Neal) would rather she focus on the law. As co-producer on the show, Daniels shares anecdotes with writers and producers about her experiences that often wind up serving as storylines for the show. The show has received critical acclaim, and some trade publications picked it as the best new drama of the fall season. But ratings have been tepid at best as “Miss Match” finished third in its time slot (Fridays at 8 p.m.) last week, causing NBC to move the show to a new time (Fridays at 9 p.m.) starting Oct. 10. Not everyone is a fan of the portrayal of divorce lawyers on the show. Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen partner Lynne Gold-Bikin, who ironically has been on the other side of divorce cases with Robert Daniels, said she was appalled by the depiction of O’Neal’s character, who in one scene urged a client to have consultations with every other top divorce lawyer in town so they would all be conflicted out of representing the other side. “In shows like ‘ER,’ doctors are always portrayed as heroes,” Gold-Bikin said. “So why do they have to trash lawyers like this to make a buck. At least in ‘The Practice,’ where they also do unethical things, they discuss ethics and there are consequences.” Robert Daniels was quick to point out that, regardless of similarities with his relationship with Samantha, O’Neal’s character was not based on him. “[The character] is a product of the writer’s prerogative,” Robert Daniels said. “I have been involved in cases where lawyers have consulted with a client and wound up on the other side. And when they get called into court, they don’t tell the truth about it.” A branch of Samantha’s Table was established in Los Angeles, and Daniels regularly attends tapings. Her father, who now simply refers to his daughter as “Miss Match,” witnessed the taping of the first episode on location in Pasadena. “I think it’s amazing that this young woman with no contacts in the entertainment industry was somehow able to make all of this happen,” Robert Daniels said. “I’m not a stargazer, but when I was on the set, I was struck by the enormity of it all. They must have had 250 people there to shoot what wound up being two or three minutes of the show, and my kid inspired all of this. What’s she’s accomplished is truly a one in a million thing.”

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