Criminal defense attorney Silva Megerditchian of SLM Law shares how she has found the good in life and criminal law.
Let’s face it, attorneys practicing criminal law are cut from a special cloth. It takes legal expertise, tenacious commitment, mental fortitude, and the ability to work with challenging people on difficult cases.
When clients speak of attorney Silva Megerditchian, they don’t hold things back and are quick to sing her praises. They use words like meticulous, caring, fierce, passionate, and exceptional. When she walks into the room, Silva has one of the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen and a warm hug for those around her. She also oozes gratitude: gratitude for what she does and gratitude for where she is in life.
Echelon Professional Magazine recently caught up with Silva to chat about what makes her such a well-respected criminal defense attorney, and how she is able to balance her life with this challenging area of law.
Q: Tell us a little about your background, your upbringing, and where you went to school.
I was born and raised in New Rochelle, New York. My parents were Armenians from Syria and Lebanon and immigrated to the United States in 1969.
After I graduated from New Rochelle High School, I moved to California and graduated from California State University, Northridge with honors. I studied Political Science with a minor in Journalism. I received an internship at Premiere Radio Networks in Sherman Oaks. I worked my way to become a Producer for a Nationally Syndicated Talk Show, “The Michael Reagan Talk Show.” I was the youngest female syndicated radio producer in the country at the time.
Q: When did law school come into play?
At the age of 28, I realized I had to go after my dream of becoming a lawyer and went to Southwestern School of Law in Los Angeles. I had a serious medical condition and it made me realize that life is so short, so I wasted no time and worked hard to make my life’s dream become reality. Upon graduating in 2007, I was employed by the Los Angeles Public Defender’s Office where I was a deputy public defender for more than 7 years.
Now I am the President and CEO of my own law firm, SLM Law. I represent adults and children in all aspects of criminal and federal law. I represent anyone who has been arrested—for any crime.
From a young age, I knew I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney. I found the practice fascinating and understood the desperation that some people face when they violate certain laws. Most of my clients become close friends because I represent them as I would a family member. Being able to give a voice to those who feel injustice by the system is extremely rewarding and is what motivates me everyday.
Q: Who have been your mentors and your idols? Who would you say has most influenced you as an attorney?
My mentors have always been people who stood for what they believed in and fought to achieve their goals despite their trials in life. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Elon Musk. Also, a major influence in my life has been female criminal defense attorneys I saw in court—they gave me the confidence that I, too, can start my own law firm and be successful. Blair Burke, Shawn Holley, and Leslie Abramson are just some of the incredible attorneys who made a reputation of excellence and gave me the confidence to leave the Public Defenders’ Office and start my own firm.
Q: How did you find yourself in the criminal defense area of practice as an attorney?
I had a paid senior law clerk position with the L.A. County District Attorneys’ office. While I was there, I realized there that I cared more about the people accused of crimes and WHY they did what they did—rather than just the punishment given to them. I always believed that by trying to understand the underlying issue that led to the person committing the crime, we could prevent future crimes from happening. This is when I realized I was a criminal defense attorney in my soul.
Q: What are some of the trends you are seeing in this area of law?
California is becoming rehabilitative—meaning it’s less about punishment and more about rehabilitating the person to prevent crime in the future. We can see this for people who have been convicted. They are more able now than ever to get those cases expunged or even pardoned. Governor Newsom has been very supportive of rehabilitation of criminal convictions.
Also, there is finally an awakening of using therapy, treatment, and rehabilitation for mentally ill people who commit crimes as a result of their illness. There are amazing alternatives to imprisonment now, which we never had before—alternatives that have changed lives and have prevented future crimes from occurring. The law is finally at a place of understanding the need to treat the mentally ill—and not just “throw them away” into jails and prisons.
Q: Tell us about your client base.
I represent children, adults, and corporations all over the State of California. Clients are in cities like Los Angeles, Indio, Orange County, and Ventura to name a few.
Q: What are some of your favorite non-work activities?
I love working out. I actually was a certified trainer while in law school. I love to travel, be with animals and nature, and watching reality TV shows on Bravo!
Q: What inspires you?
Passion and hope inspire me. I have a lot of passion for everything I do and hope that things, no matter how bleak, will eventually always be better.
Q: There’s a lot of stress in criminal law as well as long hours. How do you balance work and life?
I believe it is imperative to have a balance between my personal life and work. I am reachable 24/7 for my clients, but I do not accept every case. I can only maintain balance by keeping my hours reasonable. I always take yearly vacations and can be found unwinding at a local coffee shop, or yes, even a bar. There is nothing a good glass of wine
Q: Your area of law can be highly emotional. How do you personally deal with the highs and lows?
I wish I could say I found a way to not feel the emotional highs and lows of my profession. I am still trying to learn how to deal best with the emotional toll this job has on me. It is called the practice of law for a reason…the best lawyers always learn. For me, I am always trying to find ways to separate myself from the emotional drain of my cases— I will say my husband helps a lot with perspective and keeping hope. He gives me the faith that tomorrow is a new day, and to not feel overwhelmed and desperate. I always say that sometimes walking away and relaxing the mind is the best therapy around.