Hollywood’s favorite entertainment lawyer Mitra Ahouraian is anything but a typical attorney. She truly believes in helping people really understand the law and making it approachable and even fun. She is the founder and principal attorney at Ahouraian Law, a full service corporate and entertainment law firm based in Los Angeles.
Mitra has represented some of the biggest and most prominent actors, writers, directors, producers, models, and influencers in Hollywood, New York, and more. Her passion for the law is powered by the mindset that her clients have more than just a firm behind their back — they have personal advocates who care about the outcome. She holds true to her core values and is always strategic, prepared, and personable with every move. While fulfilling her mission in making the law more accessible to others, she also takes great pride in sharing her wisdom and insights via her YouTube and Instagram channels, while also hosting prominent panels on Clubhouse discussing anything and everything pertaining to entertainment law.
Mitra often appears on outlets including FOX LA, FOX 5 DC, FOX 5 San Diego, Cheddar TV, Newsy, and Court TV, and is a monthly contributor to Forbes.
What inspired you to become an attorney, and an entertainment lawyer at that?
I don’t think you are going to get a satisfying answer. I actually did not want to be a lawyer. I did not set out to be an entertainment lawyer, but life guided me in a different direction from where I intended to go.
I worked hard my whole life and excelled so that I could go to medical school. I was in the premed program at UCLA, but in my last year, my dad became very sick. I needed to stay local and help take care of him while also being present with my family. I made a very quick decision to apply to law school because law school was only three years and I could stay local to be with my family during these rough times. I told myself 3 years is nothing, and I could always go back to med school later if I wanted to. Those years in law school were very difficult— my dad was extremely sick and basically dying throughout the time that I was studying, so life was very much one day at a time. He passed away two weeks after I received my bar results. One of the things I am most grateful for is that my dad was there to see me graduate and pass the bar. Education was always very important to him, and I know he was very proud.
When it comes to the things in law that I was drawn to after law school, my plan wasn’t different from the average law graduate’s goal— to get the best paying job with the best law firm that I could find. I thought I might go into patent law because then I could marry my love of the sciences with the new skills that I now had. I also realized that I was in Los Angeles, one of the most competitive markets in terms of the saturation of lawyers. To sit for the patent bar, you have to have a science degree, so it made sense just from the standpoint of the advantage that I would have in the field to do that.
There was kind of a list of events that led me to the entertainment field. I was assigned to work on a merger between two of the largest entertainment conglomerates. The Department of Justice was looking into their pricing practices as it typically done in mergers, so we had pulled the hard drives from all the executives at the studio. I discovered that the president of the studio was teaching these courses at UCLA in the entertainment business. I leveraged my love for learning and my desire to be the best at everything I did, so I looked up the program, was intrigued, and decided to take an entertainment business course. I absolutely loved it, so I kept going. I took another and another and did the full program, and the rest is history. From there, everything started to open. Since I grew up in Los Angeles, as people found out I was working in entertainment, things just kind of worked out and became easy because I knew so many people in the industry from simply being here my whole life.
That’s kind of the way it happened. Not the typical “little girl has a dream of being a lawyer” story.
I like that story. We are either shaped by our own design or by accident.
Absolutely. I’m shocked that this was my purpose and that this is my career. But I’m great at it and I love what I do. In a lot of ways, it’s a dream.
As a female attorney, when you go before a judge, do you feel any kind of prejudice because you are a woman?
It was very surprising to me how much I feel that hostility by the fact that I’m a woman. It was something I never really felt until I entered the workforce. This has been historically a male-dominated field and I hope that if enough of us are in it, it becomes the norm. But I feel it most with opposing counsel, not necessarily judges. I definitely feel something specific in that dynamic that speaks to a different experience compared to what my male counterparts experience. I think the judges that I have come across have been fair minded for the most part.
I was lucky to have a mentor before starting law school. I had lunch with a family friend who was a Ninth Circuit judge and she had been the dean of UCLA law school for 20 years at the time. She graduated law school at a time where she was probably the only woman in the firm. People often mistook her for the secretary. So, when I met with her before starting law school. I asked her if she had any advice for me. Her advice was interesting because it didn’t pertain to school or work, but rather me as a woman in the field. She said, “You as a woman are going to be so important in changing this field. Never shy away from bringing the qualities that are uniquely feminine to a field that resolves disputes or justice from a male perspective.” That really opened my eyes to how women can really change the field of law. Through our femininity, we bring a compassionate, softer, and nurturing perspective that is often lost in the field of law and business.
Later when I was learning how to operate as a woman in my field, every time there was a lot of pressure to show up in a male-oriented way (even down to the things we were expected to wear), I remembered her words. There were times I fell prey to feeling like I needed to play a certain role early in my career, but I always used her advice and the sentiment she expressed to me as a guiding light.
When you take on a case or a project, do you ever take on a case that you know in advance is impossible to win?
I think “win” is defined differently for different people. One of the most important questions that I always ask my clients in the first conversation is “what is your goal?” It’s not always winning a lawsuit or winning an argument. Sometimes it’s something as simple as salvaging a relationship. We can absolutely get a favorable outcome depending on what the goals are. One of my best attributes is my ability to understand human behavior and determine their needs from there. I am all about finding creative ways to get the best results. Like I said, it’s different for every client, but there’s always a way to look at the result as a win. Even when we are navigating through what seems like an impossible case, dealing with impossible people, with the tensions so high that there’s no hope for an even playing field or a level-headed conversation, I’ve still been able to pull together some type of positive outcome in situations like that. Sometimes the win is simply getting people to come to the table.
Makes a lot of sense. When you represent someone, is it usually for contracts or licensing? Do you ever do criminal cases?
Here is how I like to describe myself. I work so closely with my clients that I’m often the first phone call when something comes up. I represent a lot of individuals who have companies. I represent families that are in the entertainment industry. There’s a wide array of people that I represent. I’ll always be the first one they go to for everything ranging from contracts, disputes, even a criminal matter or a standard ticket, issues with buying a new home – really, a general understanding of the law goes a long way in life. The way I see it: if you’re not afraid to do some research, talk to people in your network, and do the work that we are taught to do in terms of just thinking like a lawyer, you can come up with a lot of solutions to things that might be outside of your usual skillset.
I have dealt with criminal matters. But since I’m not dealing with prosecutors, I like to work in tandem with other experts. If there is a criminal matter, I always bring in some of the best criminal lawyers to work with my entertainment clients because, as we all know, folks in the entertainment business get into trouble from time to time. But I still stay on board because I have a relationship and an understanding of that client in a way that somebody who’s just coming in hasn’t established yet.
You mention how you like to explain the law to your clients so that they understand it.
Absolutely. I think it’s most important. I think that’s why I am here. I am very passionate about that.
What helped you decide how important that is?
I think my emphasis on making the law accessible is a direct result of people in my life who have taken the time to teach me things. I’m very conscious of the fact that the law is inaccessible to most people. There are things that, if I were not a lawyer, there would be no way that I could navigate through what the average person is expected to navigate through to live in this country. Now that I have this knowledge, I sometimes feel uneasy by the fact that most people don’t know the ins and outs of things that can greatly affect them. The reason people don’t know the law is because it is not written in a language they speak. Since most people never have to deal with the law to an extensive level, they pay it little attention until it comes up. That’s why I feel a responsibility. I feel like if it were me on the other end, I would want to have that understanding.
Of course, I do have clients that don’t want to be involved in most of the process and they just tell me to take care of it. But I think for certain matters, it’s really important for my clients to be able to know what to look for and what constitutes a red flag. There are certain basics of why we do what we’re doing. For example, why am I even registering the copyright? I explain to them it’s because registering it gives you certain benefits under the law that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t register it. These are the kinds of things I think are important to educate people on. It will help them have the proper conversations going forward. I feel very strongly about this sense of responsibility.
I deal with a lot of people in the entertainment field and I sometimes am glad that I have a degree in psychology. Do you ever feel that way?
Well, I certainly think it’s part of my job— to understand my clients’ psyche. I’m always tuned in to what their needs are, what they care about, what they don’t care about, how important certain relationships are to them. If we’re doing a deal, I understand how important it is to them that I represent them in a way that’s reflects who they are. I am always problem-solving, which means I need to be able to listen. Psychology is a huge part of the job, especially the kind of work that I do. I represent people for years and years. Sometimes I start at the beginning of their journey as I watch their careers grow and it’s important that I nourish these relationships, so they know that I care. How can you not care for somebody after working with them for so many years? So, I don’t mind it. My mom was a psychologist, and my major was psychobiology. Understanding my clients on a human level is in my DNA. I’m also Persian and I come from a family who loves to give advice (and sometimes can’t help it). I like that I can give advice in a way that is meaningful because I know it’s coming from a perspective of wanting to protect my client.
Website – http://ahouraianlaw.com/