Building a successful legal career is a challenge. Starting your own firm? That's an even bigger task. But at the young age of 37, domestic relations and adoption law specialist Roya Samarghandi has already accomplished this.
Samarghandi's Carmel Law serves moderate- and lower-income clients who might otherwise feel marginalized by the justice system. She takes on cases involving domestic relations, criminal defense, adoptions, Orders of Protection and DCFS appeals. She is also a court appointed Guardian ad Litem and Child Representative on behalf of children in contested custody matters.
Jessica Bednarz, associate director of innovation and the Justice Entrepreneurs Project at the Chicago Bar Foundation, said that Samarghandi has long experimented with different pricing structures to make legal services affordable to a greater number of clients.
Samarghandi offers set fees for her services and does not bill by the hour. This helps clients with more modest incomes; they are often on a budget and need to know upfront whether they can afford legal help.
During her career, Samarghandi has proven that she is a talented litigator, one who routinely notches victories for her clients. She also works hard to craft settlements that favor her clients, keeping them out of the courtroom.
"Roya has the perfect mix of legal and emotional intelligence and savviness that allows her to truly empathize with her clients and develop a plan to reach their goals," Bednarz said. "She is quick on her feet and crafty when it comes to legal strategy, but also compassionate."
Margaret Benson, executive director with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, said that Samarghandi has been a constant presence with the organization, taking on a steady stream of pro bono family law cases. This young attorney almost seems like another member of the family law staff for CVLS, Benson said.
"Roya is at home in a courtroom," Benson said. "She embraces the practice of law and is a true litigator. She works hard to negotiate reasonable resolutions for her clients, especially for the children. However, she is well-versed in litigation and does not shy from a good fight."
How committed is Samarghandi to her clients? Benson points to an example: Samarghandi represented a female client in a divorce proceeding, replacing the client's former attorney who had withdrawn from the case. Samarghandi quickly resolved the case favorably for her client.
But Samarghandi wasn't satisfied: Her client's former attorney filed a fee petition at the end of the case. Although not obligated to defend this petition, Samarghandi took on the challenge anyway. After several hearings, the petitioning attorney was referred to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and found that Samarghandi's client did not owe the attorney any fees.
"She has a quiet confidence that serves her well," said an associate judge of the domestic relations division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. "She is extremely knowledgeable on all fronts. More importantly, she has excellent rapport with her clients. She seeks to create fair resolutions for them and the families involved. She also has the respect and trust of the attorney community. She is a rising star."