By: Christine Soussa
I met with my good friend and working-mom superstar role model, Tina Odjaghian, for coffee. Tina is one of those people whose energy is magnetic. We became instant friends when we first met and over the years have encouraged and supported each other during key moments in our lives. Our conversation this time wasn’t personal, I interviewed her because of her incredible contributions to our community as a business owner, attorney, advocate, Mother and Wife.
Tina was born in London to a Russian-Armenian Father. Her Mother is Portuguese, Lebanese and Indian. Education was always of critical importance. Her Fraternal Grandmother was the only female who graduated Dental school out of a class of 100 plus students.
In 1986, when Tina was 10 years old her family moved to La Canada, California via Iran. When they arrived to the United States Tina’s brother was 5 years old. At the time, because of the Iran/Iraq war they were recruiting boys. Tina’s Father announced that they were going on a family trip to the United States of America. Upon arrival, he shared that they were not returning to Iran. Tina’s father however, had to return to work as he owned an import/export business. Therefore, he stayed in Iran for 25 years. Tina’s Mom worked as a florist at in Montrose, California.
As they acclimated to their new life in California, Tina had to grow up very quickly as she had to take on a lot of responsibility at a young age. Her Mom would drop Tina and her brother off at school at 7:00am so she could go to work. After school, Tina would have to pick up her 5 year old brother and together they would walk home. A 45 min walk. Tina and her brother would then be home alone until her Mother got home from work, sometimes as late as 8-9pm. This was in the mid-1980s, when there were no cell phones much less smart phones. During this time Tina learned some critical lessons that are now instrumental in her life. She learned how to hustle, be a caretaker, she learned that life was hard and not always fair. She learned to strive, to be overdriven to achieve.
When Tina was in the 8th grade, they moved to Glendale. When she was 12 years old he started working at the Flower shop with her mother. At 17 she started working at Macy’s then Nordstrom in their cosmetics department as a make-up artist. She was very talented and started booking weddings.
After graduating High School, Tina started college at California State University Northridge (CSUN). With a 1.67 GPA she didn’t feel academically focused or driven. She shares that she found herself surrounded by wealthy Iranian friends with families who expected their children to at least receive a Masters. This gave her the motivation she needed, “If they can do it, then so can I.” She shares, “I set up a meeting with the college councilor and asked her about law school. He looked at me and said, law school isn’t going to happen for me given my D average. So I got to work. I declared a major in Political Science. as a child my punishment for being bad was copying pages out of the American Dictionary so vocabulary was my strong suit and writing was my passion. I got 19 A’s in a row!” This changed the trajectory of her life. She started being focused and improving her grades. She graduated college, took the LSAT and got into Loyola Law School. “I loved law school and the Loyola experience. I would pull into campus so proud, even though I had a junk-er Toyota Camry among the nice cars in the lot. I didn’t care. I was so happy to be there.” Tina shares that her first year of Law School she did okay because she was studying the way people were telling her to study. In the 2nd and 3rd year she started to study her way and was in the top 20% of the class. After graduation she decided to take a job in Civil Litigation and in Workers’ Compensation litigation– which was considered the least prestigious and least desired. Tina says, “I graduated Law School in 2003 when all the IP firms went down and new grads were competing with much more experienced talent. I got married to my neighbor. He was in Dental School, I was in Law school. After we got married, I owned my own practice and my husband opened his own dental practice. All our money went into our practices. I guess ignorance is bliss. Four years into my practice, I met a women who’s husband had fallen off the roof. We settled at $3.4 million dollars. At that time I realized that in my job I am impacting and changing peoples’ lives during their darkest hour. With hard work, lots of love and endurance we continue to do all we can to contribute to our community and society.”
A few questions for Tina:
What words of wisdom do you offer the younger generation?
Trust your gut. Appreciate yourself. Have a sense of self-worth. If you are at a cross-roads talk to someone. Have a mentor. Change your mindset to the positive, always. The universe will pick up on the positivity. Always try to keep your options open. Try as hard as you can. Go to the best school you can to get the best opportunities you can. Don’t ever let where you came from limit in any way where you can go. Write your own story. The best thing from adversity is perseverance. GIVE! Giving gives positivity. Go volunteer, become a tutor, start a toy drive or a soup kitchen. When you start to see the impact you have on others’ lives, it pushes you to achieve more so you can give more and do more.
What words of wisdom do you offer for Working-Moms?
It’s hard. Get a grip on the guilt. Because actually, as a Working-Mom you are setting a great example to your children. It’s empowering for them to see their Mom as a respected, successful, hard-working, positive, contributing member of society. Include your children. I took my oldest son with me to a conference where I was invited to speak. There were 2,000 people and my 4 year old was there in the audience. He was so incredibly proud. Seeing his big, proud eyes looking at me is a moment I will always cherish, and I think he will too. My boys get so proud when they see a clip of me on TV. With the same token, it’s also important to balance things and soak in every stage. They grow so fast. I try as hard as I can to pick my children up from school at least 3 times a week. Sometimes I take them to the office. I love spending time with my boys. We have Dance Party USA often. Pay for help and ask for help – it’s okay, I promise.
About Tina and Odjaghian Law Group
At Odjaghian Law Group, the firm’s attorneys champion the cases of catastrophically injured individuals suffering from brain Injury, spinal cord injury, stroke and severe PTSD.
Tina Odjaghian, selected to Super Lawyers for the third consecutive year, and her team of outstanding attorneys have secured more than 20 seven-figure results and several six-figure results on behalf of catastrophically injured workers in the past few years alone. They proudly defy California workers’ compensation norms by consistently obtaining record-breaking results on behalf of clients despite the dire workers’ compensation climate after the enactment of Senate Bill 863, which drastically limits access to medical treatment and negatively impacts values of claims. At Odjaghian Law Group, the firm’s attorneys champion the cases of catastrophically injured individuals as though they are civil personal injury cases, expending extensive time and resources into bringing them to fruition.
Odjaghian and her team have acquired vast scientific knowledge necessary to prove these tough, and oftentimes invisible, neurological injuries. She is very involved in the brain injury community and most recently accepted a board position with the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery and Neurosciences, where she serves in an advisory capacity. She repeatedly serves on educational panels and speaks to doctors, nurses and fellow attorneys about the protocol and nuances of litigating TBI cases. “It is a privilege for us to represent catastrophically injured workers,” says Odjaghian. “We don’t take for granted that, in every battle we win, we get to play a small role in potentially saving someone’s life—and that is a pretty incredible thing.”
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