Soheila S. Azizi knows first-hand how it feels to be discriminated against and oppressed.
Azizi, a La Verne Law graduate, was born and raised in Iran. She came to the United States as a teenager to escape religious persecution. Members of her faith – Baha’is – have no legal rights in Iran and have been persecuted and killed because of their beliefs.
As a successful attorney with her own practice, Azizi considers it her mission to help Baha’is in Iran, especially students who are deprived of their rights to education because of their faith.
“It’s my obligation to be the voice of those who do not have one back there,” she said.
That dedication is part of everything Azizi does, whether she is helping those in her home country, devoting countless hours to community service, mentoring youth, or providing devoted representation to her clients. Her energy, she says, comes from within.
“My faith is my mission,” she said. “It’s about a way of life that lets me be in service to all.”
Azizi, who also has been an adjunct professor at La Verne Law, has been practicing law in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire for 18 years. Her firm, The Law Offices of Soheila S. Azizi & Associates (www.azizilaw.com), handles family law and medical malpractice/elder abuse as well as a wide range of civil mediation/arbitrations.
Azizi was 16 when she started college in Iran. At that time, the Shah was still in power. When the Iranian Revolution began in the late 1970s, Baha’is were executed, imprisoned and denied rights.
“My parents felt that being a minority, we just had to get out,” she said. One of her brothers left first and Azizi and her other brother left next. Her parents stayed behind to wrap up business and personal matters before leaving. Unfortunately, her father fell ill and died in Iran; her mother came to the U.S. a few years later.
She was 18 when she came to the United States and began attending Hofstra University in New York. She then began studying for her master’s in urban economics at the University of Illinois. She took extension courses at UCLA and had a successful career in fashion design and merchandising, creating lines of clothing.
Azizi was recovering from a back injury and lying on her couch at home contemplating her next move in life when her husband brought home some LSAT books. She took the exam, got into a few schools, and decided on La Verne.
“I chose La Verne as my school because I felt at home,” she said. “I felt like I could talk to my professors.”
Azizi graduated from La Verne in 1993, took the Bar exam, and passed the first time.
“I found law to be very appealing. I felt that the scholastic pursuit was very much of a challenge,” she said. The law would also give her something. “I thought the law would give me the power and sophistication that I needed to help humanity.”
She uses those tools well. She is the founder of California Arbitration & Mediation Services (CAMS) and a co-founder and board member for Women on The Move Network and the Upland Interfaith Council. She is passionate about Women on The Move Network’s Who’s Your Hero?, a mentoring program for girls 9 to 11. Azizi also serves as president of Upland Interfaith Council and Vice President of Upland Spirituality Assembly, is involved in numerous other community organizations, and serves as a judge pro tem. She is also a sponsor of La Verne Law Review’s Civil Rights Section 1983 Symposium.
Azizi admits she gets attached to her clients and their cases.
“Everything I do has a lot of passion in it. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
“My motto is ‘We are your law firm for life.’ I want people to build relationships with me,” she said. “I didn’t become an attorney to be making a lot of money. I just wanted to make the world a better place.”