43. Talia L. – Social Media: Representation and Transparency

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Thanks to social media, the perception of who can be a lawyer is changing. Talia L has created a TikTok to do just that. As an Armenian, she sees few female attorneys and even fewer judges who have the same lived experience as her. Today she shares her path and what drove her to become one of only two people to ever win the Pepperdine hat trick – winning all three moot court competitions – and how she uses social media to paint a more nuanced picture of what lawyering looks like.

What’s In This Episode

  • Who is Talia L?
  • When she felt like quitting, what kept her going?
  • What was the experience of successfully arguing a case before the California Court of Appeal at just 25 years old?
  • As a woman and Armenian, what does holding a judgeship position mean to her?
  • How do social media platforms like TikTok aid in the advancement of female trial attorneys?

Transcript

Talia:

In order to ensure that fairness of the judiciary, I think it’s very important to have people from all walks of life on the bench.

Sonya Palmer:

Representation and transparency at every level matters.

Talia:

It’s really important to have people come on and just be candid and be truthful about how things really are going on in the legal field.

Sonya Palmer:

In 2021, women made up over half of all summer associates for the fourth year in a row, yet equity partners and multi-tier law firms continue to be disproportionately white men. Only 22% of equity partners are women. 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, build community, 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 digital agency of choice for personal injury lawyers. This is LawHer.
Talia is well on her way to carving out her place in the legal industry. A recent graduate, she is one of only two Pepperdine law students to complete the hat trick and successfully argued a case before the California Court of Appeal at just 25 years old. She has tens of thousands of followers on social media, a tool she uses to challenge the perception of who can be a lawyer. Let’s dive in.

Talia:

I would say a hundred percent of my drive comes from my grandparents. They raised me. They have given me all the tools necessary to be where I am at right now, so they definitely have pushed me forward in my life and career.

Sonya Palmer:

What kind of tools?

Talia:

They’ve given me multiple opportunities to learn a bunch of different languages. My first language was Armenian, actually, so I spoke that at home, and then they taught me how to speak French. I learned Spanish in school, and then I learned a little bit of Arabic from them as well, so that’s part of it. I would say the other part of it is they just gave me the opportunity to go full-fledged forward into all the schooling that I wanted to, so I’m very grateful for that as well.

Sonya Palmer:

They supported that?

Talia:

Yes.

Sonya Palmer:

Was a legal career always in the cards for you?

Talia:

Oddly enough, I wanted to be a doctor initially. I think that was more what they wanted me to do, so I always, out of respect for them, and because of everything they really have given me, I was like, “Okay, I’ll definitely go ahead and go to med school and be a doctor.” But once I was in college, I realized that I’m not the best at organic chemistry, things like that, so I had to shift my trajectory a little bit and I stumbled upon the law idea and here we are.

Sonya Palmer:

Amazing. Then when you did make it to law school, what did you expect it to be like, and then how was it different from your expectations?

Talia:

I expected law school to be difficult. I don’t think I expected the amount of competition that there actually was, but other than that, I thought it would be more similar, I would say, I guess, to college than what it really is, so it surprised me that the teachers were using the Socratic method, the cold calling, all the competitiveness amongst my peers as well, I think that surprised me more than anything. But it was difficult, that’s one thing that I expected that was pretty on par, but law school ultimately wasn’t something that seemed impossible to get through, it just you needed to put the work in, and you’d be able to get there.

Sonya Palmer:

Sure. When it felt really hard, if you felt like quitting, what keeps you going in those moments?

Talia:

Definitely my grandparents. I think their support and their constant reassurance that I could do it and that I would make it through, that was extremely helpful. On the flip side of it, I have always wanted to give back to them inadvertently in the sense that if I went ahead and did something on my own, they would be proud and happy, so that always gave me that extra push when I was not feeling too motivated.

Sonya Palmer:

I love that. While you’re at law school, was there anything you wish that there had been more of?

Talia:

Yes. I think it would be better to have a little bit more, I guess, legal writing going on. I know that we had that core 1L Legal Research & Writing class, but I think if I didn’t do a journal in addition to that, then I wouldn’t have obtained as much legal writing knowledge that I need to be successful in my current position that I’m at right now, so that’s something I would potentially push more for.

Sonya Palmer:

You’re right because a lot of the everyday of a lawyer is writing, correct?

Talia:

Exactly. It’s pretty much all reading and writing.

Sonya Palmer:

Talia is one of only two Pepperdine law students to ever complete the hat trick, winning all three moot court competitions hosted at Pepperdine each year. We spoke to her partner in these competitions, Reb, in a previous episode. Check out the show notes for her interview.

Talia:

Just at the outset, I want to mention I’m surprised that I even made it to that point. My moot court partner, Reb, she actually pushed us to opt into that first moot court competition. We were required to do one round just as part of our legal research and writing class, but she pushed us to opt in, and we somehow made it all the way through. I think she carried me a bit more in that one, I’ll be completely honestly with you.

Sonya Palmer:

I feel like she said the same thing about you.

Talia:

Well, I mean, I think going forward after 1L, I would definitely say that we both had good oral argument skills and writing skills. I would say she exceeded my writing skills.

Sonya Palmer:

Pioneered it.

Talia:

Yeah. My oral argument at a certain point exceeded hers to an extent, so that’s why we made that really good team.

Sonya Palmer:

Good balance, yeah.

Talia:

Yeah. It was not easy, but it’s just something that for some reason I’m good at doing. I’m able to create an argument out of nothing as long as I understand what the issues are. I think that’s what helped me get there because moot court is all about judges interrupting you and asking you all these questions and you need to be quick on your feet. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t always the most prepared. Some of our competitions, we were shocked that we even advanced, but it worked out. We just got into the knack and I think it helped having her as my teammate as well.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah, I like your choice of wording there because a good lawyer is prepared, but like you just said, you can’t always be prepared, but if you have the understanding, so even if you’re not fully prepared, if you understand it enough, then you can make the argument, so I like that. Tell us a little bit more about the experience in general.

Talia:

It’s a little daunting, to say the least. I think it’s very stressful, frankly, to have to go up there and know your oral argument cold. It’s one thing that we always tried to do was to minimize the use of the papers in front of us, so it was a lot of preparation in the sense that we had to know the case law, we had to know each of our issues well, and we had to prepare for the questions that we thought we would be asked. I think that was probably the most difficult part of it. The briefs for the actual national competitions that we did, that portion was not easy either, to say the least. A lot of time went into that.
But I think the biggest thing with moot court that made me realize that this is something I do want to do in my actual career is I really enjoyed creating arguments and knowing that it could set precedent. I think that was the most exciting part of it and that’s when I-

Sonya Palmer:

I get that.

Talia:

… Yeah, I started enjoying it just more and more with time. I think once we were 3Ls, too, it just became even more exciting to do it, frankly, because we knew it was nearing the end as well. But moot court is a lot of work, but a lot of reward as well. I think it helped a lot in general just in my career.

Sonya Palmer:

So, it’s worth it?

Talia:

Absolutely worth it.

Sonya Palmer:

Did you have a support network or a mentor while you were in law school?

Talia:

I did not have a mentor. My support network was just friends and family, but they were plenty during the time, so I am grateful for them.

Sonya Palmer:

Awesome. Then you successfully argued a case before the California Court of Appeal at just 25 years old. Can you tell us about that case?

Talia:

Yes. I had the honor at my current firm to handle an appeal. When I first started off there, I actually let them know how much I enjoyed doing appeals, and they took that into consideration. I’m grateful for that and they gave me this case going up on appeal. We were the respondent. The other side basically lost an emotion to compel arbitration and appealed it and they went in and tried to change the law with regard to how courts viewed those certain types of arbitration agreements. I went in and did the respondent’s brief, which the law was on my side, I will say that. Then the oral argument was virtual, but either way, it was still very exciting to go before the three justices and argue the points and get a good ruling in our favor as well. I think that’s very exciting. It made all that moot court stuff seem real.

Sonya Palmer:

Real, yeah.

Talia:

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes, congratulations.

Talia:

Thank you.

Sonya Palmer:

Do you feel it being virtual made it more difficult or more easy?

Talia:

I think it’s easier. The only reason why I say that is because I actually argued before the Court of Appeal again in person one time. That case I did not win, unfortunately, but you can’t win them all.

Sonya Palmer:

You cannot.

Talia:

No, you cannot. But that one was definitely more intense. I think my nerves were a little higher as well, I think just simply by virtue of the fact that I’ve never gone to court in person at all. That was my first time and it was the Court of Appeal, of all things, so I do think virtually it made it a little bit easier, so I appreciate my first oral argument at the Court of Appeal being a little more mellow, if you will.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah, I feel like it would be, you could hide your nerves. It’s maybe a little less intimidating when it’s a computer, but then you lose out of walking into a courtroom and all of the formality and official that would be an inspiration, motivation, so I see both.

Talia:

Yeah, you’re completely right.

Sonya Palmer:

Then we often hear that law students are not given the tools needed to actually take a case to trial. How did you feel before walking into the courtroom? How did you feel logging into Zoom, I guess? I’m assuming it’s Zoom.

Talia:

It was Zoom. I was a little nervous, but to be honest with you, I think me doing moot court really prepared me well for it. I think if I hadn’t done moot court, I wouldn’t necessarily know what to expect. I do agree with you that sometimes law school doesn’t give all students the tools to take a case to trial. I was not on the trial team. I think if and when probably I do go to trial at some point, I’m also going to struggle a little bit because I don’t necessarily know all the formalities, voir dire, jury selection, things of that nature. But I think for me personally, the Court of Appeal argument wasn’t too bad because I just took the skills that I learned in moot court and I just brought it forward in practice and it worked out. But it is hard to, I guess, go through a trial without having had done it before. I think that’s something that even for me personally, it’s a little daunting.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah, we hear often that it’s in theory but not in practice, they don’t always prepare. You feel like moot court prepared you and that without it you might not have been as prepared?

Talia:

Absolutely. I 100% agree with that statement.

Sonya Palmer:

Then you’re currently practicing employment litigation. What draws you to employment law?

Talia:

I did not have a specific interest in employment law initially. I wanted to do litigation, but the reason why I’ve been at my current firm for nearly two years at this point is because I enjoy fighting for employees. I think it is an important part of the law and I think there’s a lot of employers and companies who don’t necessarily treat their employees the way that they should be treated, despite the fact that they have actually very good hardworking employees, and it’s something that gives me a little bit of self-satisfaction as well in knowing that I’m helping the employees on the plaintiff’s side. I don’t know if I necessarily would enjoy doing the defendant’s side of this specific type of work just because of that.

Sonya Palmer:

Then we hear time and time again that having a support network is extremely important to keeping women in the legal field. What does your current network look like, personal or professional?

Talia:

My current support network currently, my boyfriend, he’s been great. My friends are still very great. I have a lot of friends who are attorneys, a lot of female attorneys, actually, so of course, we have Reb, we have my best friend from growing up. I’ve known her since I was five. She’s also an attorney, so that’s great to have. I think my current bosses at my job, they are also very great. I’ve unfortunately had to deal with a couple family medical emergency issues in the last year and they’ve been extremely accommodating, which I’m very grateful for because I think it’s really important for me personally to handle the family side of things since family’s always been my number one in life, and I really respect and am grateful for them to allow me the time to step away a little, just get my work done, but not have to overthink work, and have some things covered in having to deal with that, so I think that’s very, very helpful in the practice.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah, that’s amazing. Then you have some very large ambitions. Do you see a clear path to judgeship?

Talia:

I have always wanted to be a judge. I have been trying to navigate what the best path is, I guess, to get there. I think at this point, obviously I’m a little young for that, regardless. I need a few more years of practice under my belt.

Sonya Palmer:

A few.

Talia:

Definitely. But I’ve been thinking maybe I should transition into the public sector at a certain point before wanting to get there. I just need to figure that out. That’s what I meant by the 10-year plan. I’m not too sure yet. Yeah, I need to figure out what the best course of action is.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes. As an Armenian and a woman, what does holding a position as a judge mean to you?

Talia:

I don’t think we have enough Armenian women. We do have a large Armenian community here as well, so I think having that representation, especially Armenian women, would be great for the community, would be great for the legal field as well. I think it’s very important to have people from all walks of life on the bench in order to ensure that fairness of the judiciary and it’s something that’s very, very important.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes, I think you’re absolutely correct. Representation gets talked about a lot, but I think for judges, it’s even more important because what you just said, the fairness. It’s pivotal to having diversity there.

Talia:

Right. Absolutely. Especially because a lot of people’s claims, civil or criminal, are in the hands of the judges at the end of the day, so I think it’s vital to have judges from all walks of life.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes. Are there any sitting female judges or attorneys that you look up to?

Talia:

Not currently sitting. I would say the one that comes to mind is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Sonya Palmer:

Of course.

Talia:

Yes. I would read her opinions in law school, and time and time again, just in reading more and more, I gained more respect for the woman, and she’s done so much for women in the legal field. Then at this point, I’ve come across a lot of phenomenal female judges as well just in practice, but I don’t know too much about their personal lives for me to sit here and tell you, yeah, any names off the top of my head. But there are some great people on the bench that I’ve come across.

Sonya Palmer:

The perception of who can be a female lawyer and what they are like has changed drastically thanks to social media. Talia shares why visibility is important and why she decided to make a legal TikTok.

Talia:

I do feel like it’s important to have women on social media and people of color, just I guess minority groups represented in these certain types of career fields coming on and talking about the sort of issues that are still perpetual in the field, such as there’s still, unfortunately, gender discrimination going on, of course, there’s racial inequities going on. There’s a lot of issues in the legal field that haven’t really gotten any better and I think it’s really important to have people come on and just be candid and be truthful about how things really are going on in the legal field.
I saw a woman, but she is an attorney, and she posts videos about mental health, and that resonates very well with me because I think that’s very important, and it’s something that’s not talked about enough, especially in the legal field. There’s a substance abuse problem. It’s something that needs to be spoken about more. There needs to be more resources I think put toward that as well. It’s really important to just have a bunch of individuals coming on from different career paths, just being super candid and talking about how things are so people understand and they have a support system, whether it’s online or on a more personal in-person level, but I think it’s important to have people come on and talk about all these things.

Sonya Palmer:

No, I think you’re absolutely right. You just listed a ton of valuable reasons. But do you see social media helping specifically to advance the careers of women in law?

Talia:

Oh, yeah. I think on the flip side as well, there’s that marketing aspect of it where I think it’s genius. If I had my own firm, I would definitely go to social media to market it. I would probably make a little bit more fun videos to reach out to those certain people, but yeah, I definitely think that’s the other aspect of it that’s really great. Social media is very up-and-coming. A lot of people are on it nowadays, people from all sorts of different career fields, and I think it’s the perfect marketing tool as well.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah, I like that you mentioned the support aspects of social media first because most people immediately think, “Oh, I can market myself, I can market my firm.” But you’re right, it is doing a lot more than just marketing. It’s painting a very vivid and real but also motivating picture of what it’s like to be in the industry as a woman.

Talia:

Absolutely. I think it’s a great thing to have social media being this rampant and having people come on from… There’s a ton of doctors, for example, on TikTok, and I think they’re very helpful. I come across some of the videos where they’re fun and they’re dipping into the trends. They’re telling people, “Don’t do this,” or, “This is what you can do to improve this,” and I’m like, “Oh, yeah.” It’s good. It’s educational and it’s fun as well.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah. You currently have close to 20K followers on TikTok. What has that journey been like?

Talia:

I am surprised, frankly. I know it’s not a lot, but when I started TikTok, it was during COVID. It was when I was actually studying for the bar, and it was my outlet to get away from all of that, so I just did it for completely for fun, and I just tuck with it. It ended up being a little more, I guess, legal-related toward the end. At this point, it’s definitely dipping into that. It’s just been a journey.
I know there are 20,000 people, I don’t know all of them, but there are certain people that I interact with almost on a day-to-day basis and they’re great and everyone’s really supportive and very sweet. I’ve really loved the TikTok community. I think in general, people on TikTok are extremely, extremely supportive and very sweet and caring, and people love to check in on you if you’re not posting for a while, which I think is really nice. It’s a good little side thing to have. It’s a good escape from reality, frankly. It’s a good break. When I take a five-minute break once in a while throughout my day, I’ll just sit on TikTok and scroll ’cause it changes your mindset.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah, it’s sort of a break for you. Do you see it fitting into your career at all?

Talia:

I do. It’s not something that’s openly been discussed. It’s a good way, I think, for me to shed light even on a small scale on what being an attorney really is, and some people really appreciate that. There’s a lot of law students who ask a lot of questions and are seeking out little pieces of advice here and there and I love to be as helpful as I can be. I don’t know how helpful I am, but it’s something that I enjoy doing, so it’s definitely something I would stick with for probably a while until maybe I become too busy, which hopefully I don’t get to that point.

Sonya Palmer:

I think that being authentic is what sets TikTok apart. I feel like the community there is really, really authentic and they demand authenticity. They don’t let you get away with stuff and that makes it really unique, mm-hmm.

Talia:

Yeah, they keep people in check, for sure.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes, yes. What are some bright points that you are optimistic about?

Talia:

I am very optimistic about the future of the law in general. I think it might be because I am an attorney practicing in California. But I think the trajectory of how the laws are changing in California especially, at least to become more inclusive for certain groups, and to expand for more protections of our people in general is extremely great. I think it’s always good to have our laws constantly evolving and changing, especially for the better, so that’s one thing on a more general scale.
Then I think for me personally, I am optimistic that in the employment field, so a little more narrow, my firm and I in taking up some of these appeals, we’re going to carve out some good law, at least for the employee side of things, which I think is really helpful, and I think it’s a great thing that’s frankly necessary, and we need to be working on, so I’m very optimistic, I guess, on a large scale for just where the law is shifting toward in a positive light, at least in California.
I know, of course, in other states, there’s a lot of unfortunate laws that have come down since the overturning of that Roe v. Wade decision by the US Supreme Court. That’s something that’s a different beast to handle, but I also am excited for all the brilliant attorneys in those states to come forward and carve out a more narrow exception to those types of laws. I love the legal field because you always see things shifting, usually for the better, or eventually they’ll get there.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes. I find even with the most controversial or polarizing issues, laws, that we tend to have more in common than we think that we do, and that the law is what will uncover that, what do we agree on, right, versus what don’t we agree on. Then you mentioned mental health earlier. As a lawyer, busy attorney, how do you take care of yourself? How do you decompress? Do you have any rituals or routines?

Talia:

I’ll be very candid about the mental health aspect of things. I feel sometimes that I may have very high-functioning anxiety, maybe a little bit of depression that might have mostly came from those temporary bouts of the family issues that were going on. In those times, it’s very difficult to feel motivated and want to get out of bed every morning and to have to sit down and get through multiple tasks that you need to finish in the day, or to start thinking about all these major assignments that you have the following week, it’s draining.
The legal profession is not simple, especially in doing litigation. For me personally, I think having those set deadlines, having certain things that need to be done by a certain time, it’s something that you really need to take a step back from once in a while, and just be able to look at it from a bigger scale and say, “Okay, I need to tackle certain things first. Then I can get to these later.” But I think for me personally, to try to get into a better headspace, rather, I need to just take time for myself and that when I come home from work, I need to just decompress, come do a little mini night routine, if you will. Just wash my face, brush my teeth, sit, watch a good TV show, maybe have a glass of wine, something like that. Or I think a good thing for me as well personally is seeing my family. I have a brother. He’s five.

Sonya Palmer:

Aw.

Talia:

Yes. He makes me just unconditionally happy, so whenever I’m feeling down, I always try to call my mom and see if they’re free, just go hang out with him for a little bit, just get away, remove yourself from the situation. Try to keep yourself even a little bit distracted if you can. I know there’s times, of course, where we need to get things done within the next, let’s say, four hours or so, and there’s no time to step away. But I think on those days, it’s important to just take a little break, take 5, 10, 15 minutes to yourself, scroll on TikTok, call your loved ones, anything like that, and just don’t think about it. Then go back to it with a more fresh headspace. I think that’s a good way, for me at least, to get into a better, more motivated mindset.

Sonya Palmer:

I think it’s true for most people that even though it might feel counterintuitive to walk away from all of this work that I have to do, but the reality is if you can walk away and rest for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever rejuvenation looks like for you, you will then be able to come back and actually complete those tasks accurately because if you try to just trudge through, a lot of times it takes longer, you make mistakes, so no, I think sometimes just walking away, take a break, go take a walk, scroll on TikTok, call someone, whatever it is, that then makes you able to do the work.

Talia:

Right. Absolutely. I think it’s almost better to cut down your time and have less time to complete something if you are in a better headspace and you’re going to be able to execute your work in a more productive manner, for sure.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes. I have a four-year-old niece and they do grant perspective. The things that matter to them are not the same things that matter to us, so it does grant a lot of perspective.

Talia:

Absolutely. It’s good to learn from little kids sometimes. I look at my brother and I’m like, “You’re right. This doesn’t matter.” There’s certain things he’s like, “Why are we talking about this?” I’m like, “You’re right. Doesn’t matter.” It makes you rethink certain things, yeah.

Sonya Palmer:

Uh-huh, exactly. Then we already ruled out doctor, but if you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?

Talia:

Interior design.

Sonya Palmer:

Ooh, nice.

Talia:

I would be an interior designer.

Sonya Palmer:

What are some of your go-tos? Do you have any social accounts and stuff that you follow that you like?

Talia:

I don’t know specific names. I’m on Pinterest for most of that stuff, so I don’t really know the names of people, but I love going on Pinterest and getting ideas. There’s certain people on TikTok. Actually, I can name you some names. Kaylee May. I think it’s Kaylee May. She does really cute organization-type videos and I’ve gotten inspiration from her for my coffee bar area. I’m moving in two days.

Sonya Palmer:

Ooh.

Talia:

It’s not something to show at this point, but it looked really nice initially. Now, I have it packed up. But she’s great. There’s a lot of amazing creators who just show the way that they lay out their furniture and the decorative pieces and I grab a lot of inspiration from that and I’ve realized in the last few years how much I enjoy just doing a little bit of decor around the apartment, so I think that’s definitely something I would’ve done if not being an attorney.

Sonya Palmer:

When attorneys are candid about the real-life issues that affect them, it opens space for others to step forward, speak up, and seek help, and build a supportive network for others along the way.
A big thank you to Talia 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 just made you smile, please share this episode with a trailblazer in your life. For more about Talia, 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. I will see you next week on LawHer, where we’ll shed light how another of the brightest and boldest women in the legal industry climbed to the top of her field.

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