13. Aslin Tutuyan, Mandell Trial Lawyers – Putting Yourself First: Mental Wellness for Trial Lawyers

Subscribe to LawHer now

Nothing beats real trial experience. You can read books and attend seminars, but to become the best you have to get in the ring. Aslin Tutuyan‘s first trial – a premises liability case against LA Times – set the tone for her career. Never shying away from a fight, as the personal injury trial attorney at Mandell Trial Lawyers she has walked away from massive companies like Disney and represented over 250 plaintiffs against SoCal Gas.

On today’s episode, we discuss pre-trial jitters and building a strong opening statement. We also dive into mental well-being, taking ownership of our happiness, and the importance of self-care for trial lawyers.

What’s In This Episode?

  • Who is Aslin Tutuyan?
  • When Aslin lost her father, how did she decide to seek help?
  • How did the Plaintiffs Trial Academy prepare Aslin for her first trial?
  • What excites Aslin about trial?
  • How does Aslin manage stress during a trial?
  • How can lawyers recover from less than desirable outcomes for their clients?

Transcript

Aslin Tutuyan

The surface story nobody really cares about, but if you’re able to pull out your client’s deepest and most raw feelings and convey that to a jury and just make them care about this person that you are standing up for. that makes all the difference in the world.

Sonya Palmer

Even after years of practice doing what lights us up can still come with challenges. But it’s optimism and resilience that carries us through.

Aslin Tutuyan

I’m not going to lie. Trials are still scary to me. you gotta be able to let go of that and you gotta be able to roll with the punches. Um, but when I walk into a courtroom, like literally when I opened the doors, I walk in and I’m like, This is my place. Like I am here to do something really, really important.

Sonya Palmer

According to a recent survey, only 19% of managing partners in US law firms are female. We would like to see that change. Hello and welcome to LawHer the show where we celebrate the trailblazing attorneys and entrepreneurs who are changing the game for women in the legal field. Be inspired by their stories, learn from their mistakes and look forward to the future they’re helping build for the next generation of women in law. I am Sonya Palmer, your host and VP of operations at Rankings. The SEO agency of choice for elite law firms. This is LawHer. As lead attorney at Mandell Trial Lawyers Aslin loves what she does. Her first trial was a premises liability case against LA Times, setting the tone for the rest of her career. She has won multiple six-figure verdicts and settlements for her clients. Never shying away from complicated cases or well-funded opposition. Today on the show we discuss how Azlan coped with the unexpected death of her father while in law school and how self care can make better lawyers. Aslin also shares how to recover when a case does not go as well as hoped reminding us what is on the line. Let’s dive in

Aslin Tutuyan

You know, there was never like another option for me. I kind of knew from forever for forever. Like I was never interested in medicine or being a doctor or a teacher. Like it. was just never an option for me. I always just knew I wanted to be a lawyer.

Sonya Palmer

How did you choose the law school?

Aslin Tutuyan

I knew I wanted to stay local because, uh, I got married very, very young. I got married and then, um, two days later I graduated undergrad at USC. So had to Yeah. Um, and Southwestern was kind of a really good fit for me. You know, it was close enough where I could commute and it was local to the community and it was just a really great fit.

Sonya Palmer

So did you have certain expectations of what law school would be like and then were they accurate? Like, did you feel like it was what you thought it was going to be?

Aslin Tutuyan

I had zero expectations of law And, um, so I dunno, it’s kind of difficult for me to answer that question because law school was a little bit of a blur. right after my first year of law school, I lost my dad, uh, suddenly unexpectedly, um, from cardiac arrest and his dream for me was to be a lawyer. I pushed through and I carried on, but those, those like two remaining years of law school were just, I was so deep in grief at that point that I didn’t really get to experience law school, which I have a little bit of regret for, you know, I wish I got to do some of the things, uh, That you would expect people to do in law school? I mean, the most I did was I, uh, I made it to the moot court competition. I competed in Lubbock, Texas. I went to Lubbock and Oh, international law moot court competition.

Sonya Palmer

That’s a Testament to you to go through something that difficult while also going through law school, which is something that’s typically very difficult and hard for people.

Aslin Tutuyan

Yeah, I didn’t really give myself a choice and, and really my mom didn’t give me a choice. No. You know, she, uh, she like just kinda pushed me back and said, you, you must do this. There is No. choice. And so I did what I was told.

Sonya Palmer

Did you have a support system? I guess both like as a law student, but then also as you were grieving,

Aslin Tutuyan

My support system is my family. At that time. I didn’t have kids, you know, I have a mom, I have a younger brother and I have an amazing husband. Um, I didn’t really rely on a support system. I grieved very differently than most people. Um, I think I just very much shut down. And, and when I say like a couple years of my life after my dad passing is a blur, it’s empty. It’s, it’s literally empty. And what I mean by that is, you know, I, I love taking pictures. I’m super big on taking pictures and organizing my albums which is difficult now because everything’s on our phone. But back then I would take pictures. I would go to Costco, I would print them and I would organize them chronologically in each album. And then I would line them up. And so when you look at my albums, there is a point, um, up until like 2004, where like there’s a chronology of my life. And then 2004 to about 2007 is blank. And the only pictures I have, or like four pictures from my law school graduation, and everybody in those pictures looks miserable. Like I’m sad. My mom’s sad. And my brother’s side, everybody’s sad. And then all of a sudden, 2007, you have pictures of my daughter being born. And so it was kind of like a very, Uh, I don’t know. I just don’t know what happened during that time. And I, I didn’t know how to deal with that grief. It took me a very long time. I would say like, just like four years ago. Um, um, how many years is that? More than 15? It took me 15 years to decide to see a grief therapist. How crazy is it?

Sonya Palmer

I don’t think it’s crazy. people do things on their own time, in their own way,
Aslin Still kind of taboo to talk about therapy. Uh, you know, to talk about, um, the benefits of talking to a professional about very deep and heavy feelings that We we just as human beings. I don’t know if we know how to sort all of that out. And, um, and seeing a therapist. I mean, I don’t. even want to call her that, like she has a name she’s like almost like a friend. She, she helped me sort out. So many different issues, not just the grief of dealing with my dad’s untimely death, but so many other things that shape you as a, as a human, when you deal with that kind of a loss.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah, I do think that’s one of the good things that came out of the lockdown is it, it has brought a focus to mental health, mental wellbeing, just that, you know, you’re allowed to struggle. And what do you do about that? You seek help you. So I do think that is a benefit that that has become a focus. what’s something you really liked about your dad?

Aslin Tutuyan

Oh, so many things. I mean, he’s just warm, like when I think of my dad, I think of warmth. I think of kindness. I think of generosity. My dad was just a really, really cool calm guy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him get upset or like lose his cool or anything like that. Uh, just very much. Go with the wind, go with the flow, just a good guy. And he gave the best hugs. The just, ah, I would, you know, when people say I do anything for a hug, I really would do anything for one more hug. So.

Sonya Palmer

yeah, it’s a good dad. so finishing law school, trying, how then did you sort of start out your career? Like what were your next steps?

Aslin Tutuyan

My dad wanted me to, um, be a city attorney and I was the first person in my family to go to college and graduate law school. You know, my, my parents, um, came here. Um, just a couple of years before I was born. Um, so like that was a really big deal for our family, you know, the first person to actually go to college and, you know, and graduate. So that was his dream for me. Like, you know, to have like this government job where you’re really doing a service to your community. And, and I went along with it. I was really, you know, I, I wanted that too. Except at that time there was a hiring freeze, both at the city attorney’s office and the DA’s office. And I had spent, um, quite a bit of time interning both at the city attorney’s office and the DA’s office before graduating law school. But, you know, unfortunately there, I needed a job. I need to start working. And, um, after I passed the bar, I found a job at a medical malpractice defense firm, and I was there for exactly a year. And, towards the end of my time there, I was pregnant with my daughter, Vanessa. And I mean, if I could just be like brutally honest, I hated what I did. I absolutely hated the things that were being asked of me. I hated what I was doing. And I thought this is not like, for sure, this is not why I became a lawyer. And, um, I knew I wanted to leave, but you know, it was really hard at that point to have a new baby. Um, and so I stuck it out for a little bit and by a stroke of fate, I, I came across the firm that I am at now, and I’ve been at for, 13, 13 plus years. It was like, the stars were all lined up.

Sonya Palmer

And you’re a very accomplished trial lawyer. what was your first trial like?

Aslin Tutuyan

My first trial, my first trial was a premises liability case against LA Times

Sonya Palmer

oh, wow.

Aslin Tutuyan

First trial and I’m taking on LA Times. Right. it was a great experience because I had just graduated from a program called the, um, Calla PTA, which is the consumer attorneys association of LA. And it’s the largest plaintiff’s organization and it’s something that I’m so, so proud to be a part of. And at that time they had, I think it was a six week course called the Plaintiff’s Trial Academy, where for six weeks you go to the Calla office. And I think it was like two or three times a week. You learn from the best trial lawyers in the world, and you’re not just learning, like you’re actually getting up on your feet and you’re doing it. And then one day a week you are watching yourself do it because they record you doing it. So, you know, during the week that we did, let’s say opening statement, They do the opening statement for you. They teach you how to do it, and then you get up and you do it and they record you doing it. And then you watch yourself doing it. And let me tell you that is a humbling experience. I mean, nothing works to see yourself on video, messing up.

Sonya Palmer

Now sports. That’s how coaching works. You know, they just watch themselves over and over and over place so that they can get a better, but I, I believe you.

Aslin Tutuyan

Yeah. I mean, you kind of have to do that. I tell people all the time, I think with, um, especially trial work, you can read every book. You can go to every seminar, you can, you know, study the masters, but unless you’re doing it, unless you’re actually in a courtroom going through that, I don’t think anything beats that kind of experience. The trial academy really like it got me ready. And then I think two months later I did, I did a trial I I’m so thankful that it was a good experience. The jury gave me everything I asked for even things I didn’t ask for, which was a little surprising.

Sonya Palmer

That’s really good. Yeah.

Aslin Tutuyan

I don’t think that was a loss of earnings claim. I think they gave me loss of earnings, but they believe it was a really good experience because I needed that boost. I needed that confidence. And so kind of worked out, you know, really, really well.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah. You mentioned opening statements. Uh, what goes into a good strong opening statement?

Aslin Tutuyan

I think that you always need a good story. I mean that that’s really the bottom line. If you’re going up there and you’re saying, and the evidence will show you that on so-and-so date, so-and-so person got into their car and they were rear-ended by this negligent defendant. It’s like, nobody cares. Why are you wasting my time? Why are you plucking me away from my family and my job to come here and listen to this rerender crash. Like why do I care? So I think a story is the most important thing that you can do it during all aspects of trial. And it starts with, even at the time you’re picking your jury. Um, we have been fortunate enough to work with, um, a guy who helps us do what’s called psychodrama. And I think that, um, that has been one of the best things that I’ve done for myself as a lawyer. And I’ve done for my clients to prepare them for trial because. The surface story nobody really cares about, but if you’re able to pull out your client’s deepest and most raw feelings and convey that to a jury and just make them care about this person that you are standing up for. that makes all the difference in the world. So I always think like, where am I going with this? What’s the story. And it’s not always sad. Those strangers, you know, the people sitting in that jury box know, you’re asking them to give your client a lot of money, you know, to compensate them for what they’ve been through. And it’s easy to go up there and say, I’m asking for $2 million, but why? And if you are able to tell their story and you are able to paint a picture of what this person was before this car crash and what they are now, and what’s been taken away from them between then and now, People are more willing to help out. And that’s what you’re asking your jury to do. You’re asking them to help your client because something was taken away from them and I need you all to help make my person whole.

Sonya Palmer

I think you’re absolutely right. It doesn’t always have to be sad, but the story makes it relatable. And then the jury can, you know, envision themselves in that situation, which then they understand the damage that’s been done. So, What is it about the courtroom and trials that lights you up , excites you?

Aslin Tutuyan

I’m not going to lie. Trials are still scary to me. Okay. I still get really nervous and really scared before trial. And that’s because there are so many unknowns, you know, you don’t know what evidence is coming in. You don’t know what evidence is staying out. You don’t know what some witnesses are necessarily going to say. So there’s a lot of unknowns. I don’t like unknowns. I’m a little bit of a control freak, and I need to know everything. Like, I need to know how everything’s going to come in, how everything’s going to get laid out. And trial is humbling. Cause you gotta, you gotta be able to let go of that and you gotta be able to roll with the punches. Um, but when I walk into a courtroom, like literally when I opened the doors, I walk in and I’m like, This is my place. Like I am here to do something really, really important. And I think a lot of lawyers, um, we lose sight of that. Myself included, you know, a lot of times we’re sitting behind a computer with our notepads and our books and our files, and we’re working away like just chugging, chugging, and chugging away. And we lose sight of the fact that. Uh, another human being in their most vulnerable state is relying on you, right? I feel like sometimes I become a friend to my clients, a therapist, you know, um, sometimes they call me just to talk and I’m like, why are we having this conversation? I need to be working on, you know, a motion, but I realized, you know, You take up a really important part of that person’s life. And so I think we should really honor and respect that because what we’re doing is it’s so amazing. Like the fact that this person is relying on you to stand up for them and in what, you know, in the personal injury world, that’s what it really boils down to. It’s you know, my client, my plaintiff, my person. Got hurt by somebody, somebody that was careless, somebody that was reckless and they don’t want to own it. And my, my person got really, really hurt and they need help. And now the person that hurt them is going to do stupid things, like blame it on them, you know, or say it wasn’t my fault. And, and. That’s like they are being bullied in a way. And so when I walk into that courtroom, I feel like I am there to stand up for my person and what a honorable thing that is to do. I’m so blessed. I get to be able to do that. So, so blessed.

Sonya Palmer

With so much of herself invested in each case- I wanted to know if Aslin believes there’s a cap on the number of cases a lawyer can take to trial before burning out.

Aslin Tutuyan

I know several trial lawyers that can jump from trial to trial back to back with no break in between. And that is, I am in awe of those people. I, I mean, that’s truly, truly amazing and inspiring, and there are some days that I want to be that kind of a person, but realistically. I know. I, I I’m, I’m a human being. I have, I have obligations that require me to tend to and care for other people. And so realistically, I don’t think I can jump from trial to trial. I don’t think I can do, you know, two trials a month and that’s okay. Because not every case should go to trial anyway, you know, some cases. Should settle and they do settle and some need to be tried. So I try not to think too much of that, but balance is something that’s really, really important to me. Um, and I know that’s something that women especially struggle with. It’s a tough predicament to be in, you know, to want to be able to be that amazing, great trial lawyer with, you know, the hundreds and hundreds of multi-million dollar verdicts, but reality is a little bit different, right? It’s draining because you are taking on another human being like literally you are taking them on.

Sonya Palmer

You’re right.

Aslin Tutuyan

And, um, as exhausting as it is, it’s still the best. Best feeling in the world. It’s so amazing.

Sonya Palmer

We’re talking about how tack things can be. How do you manage stress before? And then also during a trial?

Aslin Tutuyan

So before and during the trial? , actually every day and any day movement movement is a key part of my stress relief and my therapy. I think that in order to be the, the best trial lawyer, the best mother the best wife, the best partner, you have to be willing to take care of you. And you have to realize that self care is not selfish.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah.

Aslin Tutuyan

And, you know, self care comes in different forms for everybody. Some people like gardening. Some people like knitting, some people want to go see a movie, whatever it is you choose to do for yourself, you have to get to a place where you say I am okay taking an hour, an hour and a half out of the 24 hours in a day to just do something that brings me. Me joy that brings warmth to my heart. That makes me feel free. That makes me feel happy. That just makes me feel good. And it’s okay. It’s okay to take that time for yourself. I just wish I wish everybody would see that, that if you put yourself on the back burner, you are doing a disservice to everybody around you because. need you and people need you to be in like top shape emotionally, mentally, and physically. So to me, self care is movement every day, every single day, no matter what, whether it’s my amazing, totally sacred Peloton I’m absolutely in love with. I would die if it ever broke down.

Sonya Palmer

We do each another one.

Aslin Tutuyan

Yeah. Or, you know, going for a run or going to the gym or just, just moving, just moving and feeling your body. Like that heart pumping, the sweat pouring, you know, your body temperature, rising. There’s something so magical about being in tune with your body like that. When I do that, I actually feel like almost every, every workout that I do is kind of an out of body experience for me, because all, yes, it’s a total high.. It is like, it’s the best high, you know, because you’re not consuming alcohol, you’re not doing drugs, you’re not taking medication. It’s so natural and it feels so, so good. And I know it sounds strange to some people, it sounds strange, but whoever does it, I think would agree with me that. To get to that place where you don’t even know what you’re doing, but you are working and you are grinding and you are hustling for something. And when you’re done this overwhelming sense of accomplishment and achievement, that is enough to carry you throughout the entire day. And that that’s where I, I think I get my strength from, you know, my physical and mental and emotional stregenth.

Sonya Palmer

I love that you use movement as self-care, because I feel like for a lot of people, a lot of women and a lot of busy women exercise just ends up being another thing on their checklist that they have to accomplish, that they feel like they need to get done. And self-care is this like laying in a bath with cucumbers on your eyes or going to a spa? It’s very relaxing, which I think a lot of like, Powerful women have a hard time shifting those gears. So I think to combine them and just that mindset shift of fitness is self-care versus just something I need to do. I think could make it even more powerful for people.

Aslin Tutuyan

There’s a Peloton instructor. but she says I don’t have to. I get to, and that’s so true.

Sonya Palmer

Very

Aslin Tutuyan

I don’t have to work out. I don’t have to, but how lucky am I that I get to, I get to make myself feel. Good and strong and powerful and confident and happy. I get to do that to myself. I mean, if you really let that simmer and think about that, really is such a powerful tool to have in your arsenal, you know,

Sonya Palmer

Yep. You’re absolutely right.

Aslin Tutuyan

And you know, this notion of. Going to a spa with cucumbers or getting nails done. That’s amazing. I love that too. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love getting my nails done. I love a good facial, but I have trouble laying still. Everybody’s self care is different and that’s totally, totally fine, but I think that movement, whatever it is, even if you’re just going for a leisurely hike or a stroll with your dog, that, that feeling of, of moving and feeling. It’s so hard to describe. It’s so hard to describe, but it’s just, uh, one of the best feelings in the world.

Sonya Palmer

Aslin recently spoke about self care at the women in Trial Travel Summit. I wanted to know how this community and continuing education event impacted her.

Aslin Tutuyan

I made so many new friends. I walked away from that conference feeling so rejuvenated. I felt like I came back to life.

Sonya Palmer

Yes.

Aslin Tutuyan

I came back home feeling. Just ready, ready. And I think it’s not because I learned so much. I mean, I did, I, I picked up a lot of pearls, but to me, this was about meeting people and really connecting with them. And the fact that we were all women changed the dynamic significantly because it wasn’t like those other conferences where, uh, Everybody’s showing off and, you know, talking about their last humongous verdict, it was just women talking about I’m struggling with X. How do you deal with that? And so many opportunities came out of that. For me, you know, where, um, younger lawyers were asking me, Hey, you know, can, can you help me, you know, take a deposition. Can you send me the name of, you know, the person that does XYZ and knowing that people like that exist for you in the unit? Is so important because when you’re in trial trial, I think it feels very lonely, even though you’re surrounded by people in that courtroom, it’s still a very lonely, lonely place to be. Uh, you’re separated from your family. You know, all you’re focusing on is that trial and that case, it consumes you. So to know that there are people out there. Rooting for you and that have your back. it it’s invaluable. Like you can’t put a price on that to know that there’s somebody back home, just thinking about you or just sending you good vibes or somebody that you could just call and say. Let’s see like some bad piece of evidence came in and you think that it hurts your case, you know, it, it, it’s so important to have that person you can call without judgment and say, Hey, this happened today. Can you give me some ideas on how to deal with it? How do I fix it? Because I’m going to go back tomorrow, right? And you always have an opportunity to fix things and trial, give me some ideas, right? And that community, that sense of belonging, belonging to a group is It’s necessary because you can’t do this alone. But I heard so many stories where, uh, like. Women like went out on their own and they struggled and like bad things happened for them, you know, to get to where they are. Like now look at them. They are thriving. They are amazing powerhouse. Bad-ass lawyers and. I mean, you can read about that all you want, but then you, you get to see that and you get to touch that and you get to talk to that person and you’re like, I can totally do this. I can totally do it.

Sonya Palmer

Not every retrial ends with perfect verdict or case with a perfect settlement. What advice do you give lawyers when they hear a less than desirable outcome for their clients?

Aslin Tutuyan

Pack your shit up and do it all over again.

Sonya Palmer

It’s good advice.

Aslin Tutuyan

You just have to, I mean, it kind of the name of the game, you know, you can’t just give up and I’m done practicing law. Like that’s not how it works. You. You have a unique gift. You know, if you’re a trial lawyer, I really think that you are unique and you’re doing something. Not many people can, um, you are, it would be a shame to S to stop doing that because you had one badoutcome. That’s not to say you shouldn’t cry over it. You know, that’s not to say you shouldn’t be sad about it. And that’s not to say you shouldn’t learn from it. Every trial, every settlement, every case, even every deposition is a learning experience. Right. And I, I think every lawyer has that, uh, That moment where they take a deposition and then they come out of the deposition and they’re talking to their friend about what, what the witness said and what kind of questions they ask. And then they’re like, shit, I didn’t ask that question. I think everybody does that. Right. And it’s totally normal to do that. I don’t know if anybody ever takes a perfect, perfect deposition. I refuse to let it bring me down. some cases have issues. You know, some cases are not perfect. And as long as your client is happy with the result, as long as they feel vindicated, justice looks different for everybody. Right. You know, for some people, justice is millions and millions and millions of dollars. And for some people, justice is take care of my medical bills, make sure I’m taking care of that’s justice. And for some people, justice is I’m sorry, I messed up now I need to make it right. So as long as your client is walking away from that experience, satisfied that justice prevailed, you’ve done your job.

Sonya Palmer

Excellent. In closing, who are your favorite Peloton instructors?

Aslin Tutuyan

Absolute favorite. Well, it kind of depends what I’m in the mood for. Right? If I’m, if I’m looking to like just work and hustle and really get some crazy shit done. I would say Olivia and Robin, I think Robbins Tabata classes. Insane. Uh, I don’t even know how my heart rate gets so high in 20 minutes when I do hurt, uh, Tabata classes. But I also have a very, very special place in my heart for Cody. Um, I mean, he’s, he’s the one that I ride to when I just need to, I need my mind to wander. I need to have fun. I need to sing along. Um, they’re all great. Make your health a priority -mental, physical, and emotional. Being a strong attorney for your clients also means being supportive of yourself. Seeking aid -from therapists to Peloton instructors -will benefit both your personal and professional life. On the days that you don’t feel powerful or confident, fake it till you make it and connect with the people who will cheer you on. Not every day is going to be a win, but how we learn from our losses gives us the resilience to carry on.

Sonya Palmer

A huge thank you to Aslin for sharing her story and unbelievable insights with us today. You have been listening to LawHer with me, Sonya Palmer. If you found this content insightful, inspiring, or it just made you smile, please share this episode with the trailblazer in your life for more about Aslin check out our show notes and while you’re there, please leave us a review or a five star rating. It really goes a long way for others to discover the show and I’ll see you next week on LawHer where well shed light on how another of the brightest and boldest women in the legal industry climbed to the top of her field.

Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet
Nibh Libero Aenean In Sit Fugit Vitae

Delivered straight to your inbox
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Comments Below

Let us know your thoughts

More Episodes