The North Hollywood law firm Ajalat & Ajalat, LLP is headed up by its patriarch Sol P. Ajalat, Esq. After growing up in Chicago and moving to Los Angeles as a teenager in the 1940s he found his way into practicing law and making it a family affair which is thriving more than ever to this day! The firm is family-owned and handles a vast array of legalities. He and his sons take great care in representing their clients in business deals, real estate, and insurance as well as wills, trusts, bodily injury, and medical malpractice. Sol Ajalat’s expertise in the medical field, which stems in part from his days in the Army, has made him one of very few U.S. attorneys who can successfully deal with certain areas of extremely multifaceted medical cases. He has been a proud resident of Toluca Lake since 1963 and is also well-known around this area for all of his community service work throughout the years.
What made you want to become a lawyer?
When I was a teenager my family lived in Hancock Park and after graduating high school I worked at the Hollywood YMCA while attending LACC for two years. I went on to UCLA and graduated from the School of Public Health. I also served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in San Antonio, Texas as an instructor in emergency medical care. As a senior in college I took classes in public health and one of classes involved business law which I found interesting. But I never thought I’d be going to law school. However, so many of my friends had gone to law school that I decided to go. I then applied for law school and was accepted at UCLA and graduated in three years. I then went to work for the Chief Judge in the Federal District Court system as an aide to him and remained there for a couple of years. I was admitted to the California State Bar in 1963 after which I went into a legal firm in Pasadena for a year. After that I took the bold step of opening my own practice. I was 33-years-old at the time.
Your law firm has been in business for more than five decades! What makes you so successful?
What really makes a person successful is being persistent, being unyielding, and working as hard as the dickens, both scholastically as well as at efforts in your endeavors. Two qualifications that you need more than any others are being willing to do the hard work and also being honest.
You have a wide span of areas of law you represent your clients in. Do you have a preference?
I enjoy them all; there is no preference! I do have a lot of knowledge in the medical area and as a result I have sat on hospital boards including North Hollywood Medical Center and Hollywood Community Hospital. I’m well versed in medicine and as a result these are areas that are a little bit easier for me though it is very complex. I have formed corporations, LLCs; I help them operate and I have handled all kinds of personal injury cases. I’ve sued the FDA (and won!) regarding adulterated honey where I represented the manufacturer of the adulterated honey that had sugar put into it. I represented the company that purchased the sugar unaware of the adulteration. I have handled criminal cases and marital dissolution, previously known as divorce, which I don’t do anymore.
Tell me about the case Ajalat & Ajalat was successful before the California Supreme Court?
That involved a volunteer teacher’s assistant at Toluca Lake Elementary. She had parked her car on the west side of the street and was using the crosswalk to get to the school. A car was proceeding down the road and when the driver went to put her foot on the brake she instead pushed the accelerator and hit the victim causing extreme injuries. She had a bit of insurance, but the injuries were devastating to both her and her husband. We were successful in maintaining that her crossing the crosswalk was outside the ‘Going and Coming Rule.’ Under the Rule workers comp does not cover injuries that occur while you’re going and coming to work. She was covered by workers compensation on the basis that the school principal had instructed people to walk in the crosswalk. She was treated well medically though she lost the use of her right leg.
How did you manage to get three sons to all practice law like their father and join the firm?
You’re assuming that my kids are working for me…. Actually, I’m working for them! (Smiles) You don’t tell kids what to do; all you can do is set an example and pray they follow the example. And then there’s my daughter; she has a doctorate and is a practitioner in psychology, and she’s the one that keeps us all straight!
The thrust of what we do here, which is probably contrary to many others, is we don’t deal like it’s a ‘business.’ When we handle client matters it’s all personal to their particular problem. You go to some attorneys that have a ‘mill’; that are producing a lot. You don’t have that here. In other words, a client’s problem is dealt with very specifically.
Describe a bit about each of your sons who are all part of Ajalat & Ajalat … Gregory.
He has a wonderful interaction with clients as do the other two. He’s sharp and doing a great job. I don’t need to tell him what to do anymore; in fact, I have to ask him questions at this point! (Smiles)
He is unbelievably meticulous. There isn’t a fact that he doesn’t consider in any matter that he is handling.
He is doing a lot of work in estate planning and doing a great job as well. He also has a great interrelationship with his clients.
Do the Ajalats ever go to one another for advice on a case one of you is working on?
All the time! As a matter of fact, Greg and I were just discussing issues about a major case that we just settled about a woman who sustained very devastating injuries as a result of an MRI containing a contrast agent. Her body started developing a fibrosis both internally and on her skin. This was highly complex litigation involving attorneys throughout the United States. The beauty of it was we were able to settle it instead of going to court. It was interesting how all the attorneys worked together around the country and how cases were coordinated in, for instance, Ohio and San Francisco where it was also a coordinated action.
Are you ever going to retire after 50-plus years in this business?
What am I going do? Go on cruises? (Laughs) We are made to face and overcome challenges, not to avoid them. So many people try to avoid the stress of whatever it is they are doing. The stress is what gives you your strength!