It’s Women’s History Month and CELEB is celebrating successful female entrepreneurs and businesswomen. In an exclusive, we talk to Niki Ghazian, a high-profile L.A. lawyer, model and mother. Ghazian speaks about her career in law, the passion that drives her and how she balances the demands on her time.
Ghazian’s Career in Wrongful Death Law Started Strong
Ghazian shares what she does, where she focuses her time in the office and what clients come to her for help with. Ghazian explains, “I practice litigation, and my emphasis is on personal injury, wrongful death and business litigation. For business litigation, I handle contract disputes and partnership disputes. That’s basically my wheelhouse—personal injury and business litigation. Before I had my own practice, I was at a prominent plaintiff-side firm, where I handled a prominent wrongful death cases that came across my desk.”
Recalling some of her most high profile cases, Ghazian shares, “I can tell you about two of them. One of the cases that we represented was the family of Mallory Dies. She was run over and killed by an aide of Congresswoman Lois Capps in Santa Barbara.”
Dies was killed in a drunk driving accident helmed by an aide of Capps, who was on the clock at the time of the accident. Capps was sued by Dies’ family under the allegation that the congresswoman hired her aide, Robert Morua, with the knowledge that he suffered from substance abuse issues and was known to be intoxicated when he drove on an errand for Capps.
Ghazian continues, “That was a high profile case obviously because we went after the Congresswoman for the wrongful death.”
“Another prominent wrongful death case that came across my desk was that of the late actress from the Bad News Bears movie, Sammy Kane Kraft.”
Kraft was killed as a passenger in an Audi that drove at reckless speeds on the freeway before striking a big rig truck and then was struck by another vehicle. Kraft suffered fatal injuries in the wreck. The driver of the Audi, Molly Kate Adams, was intoxicated at the time of the accident and escaped with minor injuries.
“I had many wrongful death cases that came across my desk very early on in my career. I have a lot of experience with people being negligent in death cases, like what’s happening right now in L.A. with James Khuri’s son allegedly killing Monique Munoz in a reckless driving case.”
Ghazian continues, “I eventually went off on my own and started my own practice—Ghazian Law Group—and most of my practice is personal injury/wrongful death and business litigation/contract disputes. I was also an attorney on the Johnny Manziel case here in LA, which was a contract dispute case.”
Ghazian is a Full-Time Mom and Part-Time Model
Ghazian adds, “I’ve been selected to the Super Lawyers—Rising Star list for two years in a row. Rising Star is an award that is given to less than 2 percent of attorneys. I’ve had a lot of big cases against billion dollar companies and insurance companies, and have luckily most of the time been able to hold them accountable.”
However, law isn’t Ghazian’s only passion or accomplishment. Ghazian has a son who turns two in May, and credits the time she is able to spend with him to the foresight a younger her had in planning family into her future career.
“I spend the morning—the mornings that I don’t have court or deposition—I am blessed to spend with my son. And then I’m in the office in the afternoon, sometimes well into the night, depending on how much work I have. But one of the reason I started my own practice, many years ago, is that I had the foresight to know that I did want to start a family. And that I didn’t want to work 14 hours a day for somebody else. I did want to be able to have that work-life and family-life balance, which I’m so blessed to have. I have a supportive mom and family, along with a great nanny, who really helps me be in a place where I can have a career and do it all.”
Ghazian also has an impressive portfolio as a model, but finds less time these days for that part-time pursuit.
“Now with being a mom, I’m definitely not modeling full-time anymore. When I was in law school and before that, I was doing modeling. That was my main career. But obviously, that has taken a backseat to my law career and just being a mom. Now I’m very, very selective about modeling jobs. Now I usually shoot just for publications, or covers, or really big features. Otherwise, I don’t really have time for it.”
COVID Has Altered Ghazian’s Practice
Like everyone, the mother of one has found her life upended by COVID. Although Ghazian admits she hasn’t seen as many directly COVID-related cases as she thought there might be, COVID has changed the nature of her practice for the short term. It’s hard to prove where someone might have caught COVID, so litigation over those cases often sputters. However, with fewer people on the road last year, traffic fatalities dropped by half. “The first and the most obvious change would be that this year during the shutdown—and this is a statistical figure of traffic in LA., cars on the road decreased by 50 percent. Most of my practice is personal injury, which is car accidents, and wrongful deaths related to that. While it’s wonderful to see deaths drop with decreased traffic, obviously my practice has been hit hard by it. Luckily, I have the business litigation portion of my practice and that has helped float us along.”
Ghazian Offers This Advice to Women
Although Ghazian has a clear passion for helping people and advocating for those who are the underdog, the lawyer suggests that law is not for the faint of heart.
“I think the legal profession is a great career for women. Especially if you don’t mind setting off powerful men who are intimidated by women doing the same job they are. Men really do give women a tough time in these professions and often try to make it harder for us. It’s such a boys club vibe. If you feel like that won’t bother you, and you enjoy ruffling feathers and disrupting the norm, then go into law.”
Ghazian reminisces on what inspired her to seek a career in law; “My whole life, even as a child, my personality was that I was always advocating for someone or something. I was outspoken, and would stand up for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves or who I felt were being bullied. If you feel like that’s how you are, and you’re passionate about helping people who need you, then you should be a lawyer.”
To be a good lawyer, Ghazian says you have to have passion for advocating for people. Although people often perceive lawyers as wealthy—and many are—it is an incredibly demanding and emotionally taxing career. “There are honestly so many ways to make lawyer money that are a lot easier than practicing law. If you want to go into law to make money, you’re not going to be happy. There are other ways to make the same amount of money without busting your butt. You really have to be passionate about helping people, agitating and standing up for the little guy or the corporation—whatever your niche is. You have to be passionate about advocacy, whoever it is that you’re choosing to advocate for. For myself, I want to take on the big guys and defend the underdog. I want to help the people who have been hurt by the powerful. This is my passion.”