From Glendale High School salutatorian to associate attorney in just four years, Liana Ohanian is one of the youngest practicing attorneys in the state of California.
After graduating from high school in 2019, Ohanian went on to study psychology at California State University, Northridge, where she enrolled in “3 plus 3,” an acceleration program for students to earn their bachelor’s degree in three years as a pathway to earning a law degree at Southwestern Law School.
Ohanian, however, created her own “2 plus 2” precedent by shaving an additional year off her bachelor’s degree and completing her law degree in two years through Southwestern’s SCALE program. Now, having received her passing results from the bar exam last week, Ohanian is officially a practicing attorney at age 22, working at B&D Injury Law Group APLC.
While Ohanian knew CSUN and Southwestern were the right choices for her, she was met with some curiosity from others on why she didn’t choose to attend big name schools, given her qualifications. People gave her the impression she was going to be “a big fish in a small pond.” Because of this, Ohanaian said she wanted to do something no one else had done and make a reputation for herself.
“I find that what happens a lot when young, impressionable students are leaving high school is that they’re feeling this pressure to go to a big name school, but I truly believe that you can make a beautiful future for yourself, no matter what your circumstances are,” Ohanian said. “You can pave your own way.”
Harriet Rolnick, the associate dean of SCALE, said that in her 18 years heading the program, she has never seen a student accomplish what Ohanian achieved in such a short time frame. Rolnick described Ohanian as “mature,” “driven,” “hardworking,” “goal-oriented,” “responsible” and “organized.” She also emphasized Ohanian’s warm nature and ability to connect with others.
“Liana is a very special young woman,” Rolnick told the News-Press. “She has the internal motivation and the intellectual capacity to succeed at whatever she chooses to do and she has the ability to relate and connect well with others.”
Other than some head turns and a few assumptions that she mismarked the dates on her resume, Ohanian sees her young age as a strength in the industry.
“One of the biggest advantages is the experience that I’m already gaining,” Ohanian said, adding that by the time most people her age become lawyers, she’ll have already been practicing for four years. “Experience is the most valuable thing, especially in the legal field. It’s very experience driven in that you don’t really know how to handle a situation until you’ve handled it before.”
While the academic track she set for herself did come with sacrifices, Ohanian wouldn’t trade her accomplishments for anything. She joked about not being able to go out for a drink with her classmates after completing final exam week after her first semester at Southwestern because she was still 20.
“You have to be OK with not being where everybody else is,” she said.
Ohanian’s initial interest in the legal field stems from a passion for animal rights and wanting to be an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. Through SCALE’s internship program, Ohanian was able to work for an animal rights organization, Mercy for Animals, as in-house counsel. As she gets further in her career, Ohanian plans to dedicate pro bono and personal time to animal rights work.
Following a car accident which resulted in the death of her best friend last November, Ohanian decided she wanted to start her career in the personal injury field to help people get justice and answers in the face of tragedy.
Ohanian has been with B&D Injury Law Group since August as a legal clerk and now with her bar exam results, she is an associate attorney at the firm.
“The beautiful thing about personal injury is that you are so pinnacle to civil litigation and civil procedure that it’s such a transferable concept,” Ohanian said. “And even if I do want to do pro bono work, and fight for something I’m passionate about, I’m learning so many valuable skills here.”
In addition to caring staff both at CSUN and Southwestern, Ohanian highlighted the support of her family who always championed her growth and believed in her ability to do what some deemed an impossible task.
“When somebody tells you it’s impossible, that just means it hasn’t been done, but you can certainly do it,” Ohanian said.
First published in the November 18 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.