While many graduates of the Chapman University Fowler School of Law find success working in large and small law firms, corporate offices, and courtrooms, others also use the foundational skills they develop in law school to become entrepreneurs, launching new businesses and legal ventures—both in solo forays and leadership roles.
Whether it’s to create a more equitable workplace, improve access to legal services, or to make a difference in the lives of those who have suffered injury, the attorneys featured here are just a few examples of those alumni who embody the entrepreneurial spirit fostered at the Fowler School of Law.
Creating a Progressive and Powerful Workplace
Samantha Dorey (JD ’11) says her work philosophy boils down to this: You can do the right thing for your employees without sacrificing legal success for your clients.
This guiding principle spurred Dorey to leave a high-profile law firm and co-found a small (but rapidly growing) one. She and her business partner, Seymour “Sy” B. Everett III, opened Everett Dorey LLP in August 2017. Dorey had previously worked as a litigator at two large national firms, one of which had well over 1,000 lawyers. She relished the legal opportunities at the big firms, but as she became a more experienced attorney, Dorey said she realized that having her own, smaller firm would be “more well-suited for who I am,” allowing her to implement policies and create a culture that reflected her deeply held values.
In Everett Dorey she has found the perfect balance. She says the firm started with a “focus on technology,” having the benefit of starting “with the best of the best out of the gate.” That enabled a seamless transition to remote work when external forces made that necessary.
Everett Dorey has assembled a diverse legal team, now 20 lawyers strong—which includes several Fowler School of Law alumni. The firm has created structural mechanisms to fulfill its stated commitment to “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging,” including the implementation of the Everett Dorey Diversity Committee, a Supplier Diversity Program, and the role of Director of Diversity & Inclusion.
“We have really been able to walk the walk,” Dorey said. “To support, promote, and encourage a truly diverse and inclusive environment.”
The firm has built this progressive workplace while also thriving in the courtroom. Dorey reports that their lawyers are undefeated in Orange County Superior Court jury trials. The Irvine-based firm has four offices and handles cases throughout California. With a broad practice ranging from ADA compliance and product liability to school accreditation and wildfire litigation, Everett Dorey also represents several municipal clients, including the city of Costa Mesa.
Asked if she ever felt scared starting a new firm, Dorey says she never hesitated. “I knew it was the right thing to do every step of the way,” she said. “It felt scarier not to do it.”
Dorey says the Fowler School of Law shaped who she is as a litigator and leader. She says she took advantage of every opportunity while there, participating in Moot Court, editing the Chapman Law Review, mentoring junior law students, and serving as a Student Ambassador for recruiting events on campus. She also came back to teach a class for several years.
“Chapman set me up for my career in so many ways,” said Dorey.
A Purpose and a Meaning
Not long after she graduated from the Fowler School of Law, Leslie Ivie (JD ’08) went to work as a trial lawyer for the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office. After two years, she knew it wasn’t the right path for her.
“I was very naïve about the larger systemic issues that poor people face,” Ivie said. “I wanted to try to practice law in a different way. I wanted to help people in a different way.”
Ivie is doing that through the Restoration Law Center, a private practice she formed in 2015. She provides criminal defense services for people facing significant life obstacles—those at risk of unemployment or homelessness, for example, or people recently released from prison. Ivie also represents nonprofits, and receives funding for her work by partnering with the Los Angeles Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise and the LA Conservation Corps.
“I feel like my life has a purpose and meaning,” said Ivie.
She also enjoys the freedom and variety that comes with providing mobile legal services. Ivie hits the road in her 36-foot-long RV—complete with computers, printers, meeting spaces, and sleeping quarters—and meets clients in rural, coastal, and inner-city communities throughout Southern California. Ivie says the “office on wheels” idea was first suggested to her to help reach more clients who were up against tight deadlines to file petitions.
“I knew right away that this RV would be part of my life for years,” Ivie said.
Ivie studied art history and poetry before turning her sights to law school. She has high praise for her professors at the Fowler School of Law, singling out two in particular: Marisa Cianciarulo and Matthew Parlow, now the associate dean for academic affairs and the dean of the law school, respectively. The former, she says, influenced Ivie with her deeply humanistic approach to law. And Parlow, in his class on land-use issues, took what could have been a dry topic and “made it exciting,” said Ivie, who was also president of the Public Interest Law Foundation at Chapman.
Restoration Law Center evolved from Ivie’s participation in the Lawyer Entrepreneur Assistance Program, a yearlong incubator program established by the Legal Aid Society of Orange County that helped new attorneys aiming to pursue a solo practice (it has since been replaced with a newer program, the Orange County Legal Consortium).
Along with her work for low-income people, Ivie serves as of counsel for one of the largest Black-owned law firms in California: Ivie, McNeill, Wyatt, Purcell & Diggs. (The “Ivie” in the firm’s name is Rickey Ivie, her uncle.)
Ivie says she’s increasingly taking an interest in civil rights work, drawing inspiration from her parents. Her mother was a civil rights lawyer, while her father earned a doctorate in education to improve educational opportunities for low-income communities.
“My parents are amazing,” Ivie said. “I feel very lucky.”
‘Dive into the deep end and figure it out’
When Mike Kazerouni (JD ’07) co-founded a law firm barely six months after graduating from the Fowler School of Law, his resources were modest, to say the least. He and his partner worked out of a coffee shop, and their marketing was limited to advertising legal services on Craigslist.
“It was like a scene out of Better Call Saul,” he said, jokingly.
Kazerouni Law Group APC has come a long way since then. The Costa Mesa, California-based firm boasts 20-plus employees and handles cases nationwide. They specialize in litigating consumer protection and personal injury cases and have won numerous multi-million-dollar verdicts, including a nearly $11 million verdict that Kazerouni won for a wrongful death litigation in San Diego County.
“We’ve handled some very catastrophic cases,” he said, “and I see what a difference it makes to [the victims or families of victims] when you actually get them recovery that they would not otherwise have.”
A member of the Fowler School of Law’s Dean’s Counsel, Kazerouni always wanted to have his own practice, but figured he’d work at a law firm for a few years first. A new plan was born out of necessity. After both passing the bar in 2007 amid an economic downturn and dismal job market, he and his uncle Abbas Kazerounian decided to start a firm on their own instead.
“It was just ‘dive into the deep end and figure it out,’” said Kazerouni.
The two scrambled to take as many cases as possible, working both criminal and civil cases. When he speaks to Fowler School of Law students now, Kazerouni encourages them to consider going out on their own, “because you may find you enjoy it, you’re good at it, and you can reach your financial goals quicker if you put in the time.”
In 2015, he and Kazerounian launched another venture, opening Advanced Resolution Management, a state-of-the-art mediation center in Las Vegas. The company has flourished, resolving several prominent legal disputes.
Kazerouni says his time at Chapman Law contributed greatly to his success. The school provided inspiring experiences outside the classroom, he notes, such as mentorships and a lecture series that drew such legal luminaries as former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Opportunities like that, Kazerouni said, “made a great impression on me.”