Disability Inclusion In The Workplace: Robin Saghian, Edwin Saghian, Shahab Mossavar-Rahmani Of Omega Law Group On How Businesses Make Accommodations For Customers and Employees Who Have a Disability
An Interview With Eric Pines
Be Patient: Trust in your vision, keep at it, and be patient. In the years we spent as attorneys, we know that cases could take time to resolve. This same principle applies in reaping the benefits of operating a successful law practice. The first few years were tough but seeing the growth of our firm has been extremely rewarding.
As we all know, over the past several years there has been a great deal of discussion about inclusion and diversity in the workplace. One aspect of inclusion that is not discussed enough, is how businesses can be inclusive of people with disabilities. We know that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. What exactly does this look like in practice? What exactly are reasonable accommodations? Aside from what is legally required, what are some best practices that can make a business place feel more welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about the “How Businesses Make Accommodations For Customers and Employees Who Are Disabled “.
As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Robin Saghian, Edwin Saghian, Shahab Mossavar-Rahmani.
Brothers Edwin and Robin Saghian began their law careers working out of a small business litigation firm in the heart of Beverly Hills under the tutelage of seasoned attorneys. Meanwhile, Shahab Mossavar-Rahmani worked at the Public Defender’s office where he litigated countless criminal cases, gaining invaluable experience in jury trials, court trials, and evidentiary hearings in felony and misdemeanor cases. Synergizing their skills and vision, they formed Omega Law Group, PC in 2016, in the hopes of representing people who need a voice against exploitative and greedy insurance companies.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you ended up where you are?
The three of us started working closely when we were in law school. But prior to starting Omega Law Group, we — Edwin and Robin Saghian, and Shahab Mossavar-Rahmani — wanted to first deepen our understanding of the law by pursuing other work endeavors separately. The two of us (the Saghian Brothers — Robin and Edwin) formed our own firm where we explored other facets of the law, be it Class Action, complex civil litigation, employment law, etc. while Shahab worked as a Public Defender in Orange County. We always worked well together and dreamed of working together more often. So, when the opportunity presented itself, we decided to take a leap of faith and start our own firm.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
In the years we spent cultivating our firm’s reputation, we found our work ethic to be integral to the successes we’ve enjoyed since we started. We believe that hard work and humility go hand in hand. As leaders, we knew early on that we had to let go of whatever ego we may have had. And if we want to achieve the big dreams we have for the firm, we would have to do some of the more “menial tasks” and get our hands dirty when necessary. It doesn’t matter what positions we hold, or how many people we’ve employed. We are all working towards the same goal, and we will do whatever it takes to meet those goals. If that means helping build workstations or sorting through electric cables ourselves just so our team’s monitors are working properly, then we will gladly do it.
Being a good listener is another key component to our success. A lot of personal injury law firms merely view their clients as “just another file,” disregarding the fact that those files represent actual people whose lives can quite literally change depending on how it is handled. We break free from this unfortunate practice by applying a more personable approach. We make sure that our clients always have a direct line of communication to us and our attorneys. So, when they need us, all they need to do is give us a call. This in turn allows us to foster a trusting relationship between our clients, enabling us to do our jobs more effectively and efficiently.
Lastly, our team is an integral factor to the success of our firm. We wouldn’t be able to get this far without them. Truly.
Can you share a story about one of your greatest work related struggles? Can you share what you did to overcome it?
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the country, the justice system was at a standstill. Trials were paused or being held virtually, and medical treatments for our injured clients were stalled as clinics were either closed or at full capacity. Nobody could have foreseen this coming and providing the same level of service was a huge struggle during that time. But years of practicing law taught us to remain adaptable to the environment we are in, and it is thanks to this that we persevered in the face of uncertainty.
It’s this adaptability that enabled us to adjust accordingly and make snap decisions, like having the team work remotely. Although necessary, we were a little nervous about making this transition. Our office dynamic enabled us to yield the best results for our clients, and we weren’t sure how we were going to replicate that same chemistry and results apart from each other behind the screens. However, the three of us are fortunate to have a great team behind our firm. We were always ahead of the curve technologically, so this also helped ease the transition. But the current successes we now experience is in large part attributed to the work that our team has done then, and continuously do now.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
This is a tough question to answer. The good thing about our line of work is that we are always dealing with interesting and complex cases. We get to see the intersection of medicine and law through the clients we represent who have life-changing injuries, so it’s impossible to point out a specific one that makes us “most excited” because each case has its own complexity and challenges that we are constantly wading through. This makes the work we do fulfilling for us because although we have been lawyers for so long, we are always learning about new things while helping people. It’s really satisfying for us to learn a new concept and be able to help a client get the justice they deserve. There is never a one-size-fits-all solution, which could be frustrating yet rewarding, nevertheless.
But shifting to the business side of it all, we are looking into expanding our services into other states. We wouldn’t necessarily call it a project as that has been a recurring goal of ours since we started Omega Law Group, PC in 2016, but it is something that we are constantly working toward. To see our hard work come to life with every new office we open has been incredible, especially at the rate that it has been happening. We’ve battled through many adversities trying to grow the firm, gritted our teeth as we charged through a global pandemic, and yet against all odds, we were able to open 7 different offices across California and employ over 75 people including 13 attorneys in just 7 years. We look forward to the future of the firm!
Fantastic. Let’s now shift to our discussion about inclusion. Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?
As personal injury lawyers, we don’t want to just help a specific group of people. We want to make sure our reach extends to everyone. So, our commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident in our team roster. We have people who speak Tagalog, Farsi, Spanish, Armenian, etc. as well as people with disabilities. Having their input is invaluable to the work that we do because they help us better understand the perspectives of the different groups of people that we work with.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have an inclusive work culture?
Simply put, diversity in the workplace makes us better lawyers, which is why it’s important for us to foster an inclusive work culture. It enables us to represent our clients better, especially as we deal with people of diverse backgrounds who are affected by a life changing injury.
The three of us have perspectives that are colored by our own experiences, and they are unique to each one of us as. We can’t pretend to know what the struggle is for people of different injuries, limitations, cultures, genders, etc. Hearing diverse perspectives from our team members improves our ability to serve clients because it enables us to have conversations with them and form a deeper understanding from what they — and in turn, our clients — may go through.
Their struggles are completely different from ours. For example, we personally don’t have any trouble getting up from bed or getting dressed or driving to work, but this isn’t the reality for many of our clients. As lawyers, we have to consider the little struggles that people endure daily just trying to live their normal lives after being injured. For this reason, having a diverse team is important to us. This way, we can glean a wealth of knowledge from simply engaging with them. Being able to hear about different perspectives makes us rethink how we value life, pain and suffering, and how we can better argue on behalf of our clients.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what this looks like in practice? What exactly are reasonable accommodations? Can you please share a few examples?
Following the accessibility standards stipulated in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), our facilities are accessible to people with disabilities. Since we operate a personal injury law firm, it is of utmost importance that we accommodate the needs of our disabled clients and team members.
We just made the move to our new Beverly Hills office, and the first thing we looked into was whether or not the building we moved into is accessible to people with disabilities. And it is. Both doorways to the building are easy to open, allowing for access to those who are injured. Though our office is located on the third floor, there are two elevators that can take them to any level of the building (including underground parking). The entryway to our office space is wide enough for wheelchair access and people with wheelchairs can easily traverse through the entire space without any difficulties.
We also make it a point to travel to our clients for the initial interview. A lot of the clients are unable to come to us, so we go to them. This allows them to focus on their recovery and wellbeing.
Seeing the challenges that our clients have experienced firsthand since acquiring their personal injury, we wanted to ensure that these accommodations are intact in our workplace. We believe these to be reasonable as they address the inequities that have barred people with disabilities access from numerous job opportunities. As a personal injury law firm, we would be remiss in our duties to not implement these reasonable and necessary accommodations.
Aside from what is legally required, what are some best practices that can make a business place feel more welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities? If you can, please share a few examples.
Ableism is deeply entrenched in our society. So, while reforms have been set to address the inequalities born out of the norms and systems in place (i.e.: ADA), we as able-bodied people don’t know how to best make our spaces inclusive any more than folks with disabilities. Following the ADA guidelines is the bare minimum. We have to constantly listen and watch out for the needs of our team members who may have disabilities. If they need to leave work early to go to a physical therapy appointment, we are flexible to their needs. If they need some time off, we do our best to accommodate those requests. We value the contributions they’ve put into the firm and the least we can do is to be flexible enough to work around their needs.
Can you share a few examples of ideas that were implemented at your workplace to help promote disability inclusion? Can you share with us how the work culture was impacted as a result?
We have dealt with clients with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and at first glance, one wouldn’t even think that they are afflicted with any injury or disability. But knowing better as their personal injury lawyers, we realize that anyone — even a few of our team members — may have disabilities or ailments that we don’t even know about. We cannot assume that they are able-bodied simply because they “look like it.” Having an injury or health issue looks different for everyone. As leaders, we try to be conscious of this. So, we encourage full transparency in our team, and in turn, accommodate their needs the best that we can. We want our team members to not be afraid to come to us for anything. If they need help with anything, we will work on it as a team. And we became better for it. Our ability to serve our clients is continuously improving. And because people are vocal about their needs, we are able to foster a work environment that’s built on trust and communication.
This is our signature question that we ask in many of our interviews. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started My Career”?
The 5 things we wish someone told us when we first started Omega Law Group, PC are:
- Practice Self Care: When you pour from an empty vessel, you won’t be able to fill up other people’s cups. This is the philosophy we wish someone had imparted on us when we started this firm. Even though our job is to help other people, we wouldn’t be able to do so to the best of our abilities if we didn’t take care of ourselves. Whether it be spending quality time with our families, or with ourselves, it’s extremely important to take that time and just do the things we enjoy outside of work. Doing so allows us to be better advocates for our clients.
- Be Patient: Trust in your vision, keep at it, and be patient. In the years we spent as attorneys, we know that cases could take time to resolve. This same principle applies in reaping the benefits of operating a successful law practice. The first few years were tough but seeing the growth of our firm has been extremely rewarding.
- Be Flexible: If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that you need to remain flexible enough to make quick changes. Don’t get stuck on the “plan.” There are other ways to fulfill the vision.
- Reach Out to Mentors: When we first started practicing, we had to learn how to do everything. But looking back, we realize that we could have benefited a lot from having a mentor. It would have saved us a lot of time and trial-and-error.
- It’s Okay to Not Know Everything In The Business: This also relates back to having mentors: it’s okay to not know everything. Admitting this and letting go of your ego opens you up to a whole new world of learning.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant in your own life?
“Be kind and considerate.”
It’s simple, yet a good quote to heed, nonetheless. There are a lot of lawyers who are unnecessarily abrasive. They think that if they bully and try to intimidate, everything will go their way. We find that we can’t operate like that. If we’re kind and considerate, people will often afford us that same kindness back. So we make the effort to remain open and thoughtful to the people that we are dealing with. Applying this principle in our work has always been intuitive. But Shahab’s experience working in the public defender’s office cemented the importance of kindness in the work we do as lawyers.
In his days as a public defender, he had to go up against the same prosecutors over and over. While they were pitted against each other during trial, he made sure to maintain a professional relationship with them. After all, there’s a high likelihood that he may work with them again for another case. How he treated them then could influence the outcomes of his future cases. And it did. Had he gloated during his victories, he probably would never have gotten his clients good deals on other cases.
He carries this lesson with him as a founding partner in the firm. He’s in a position now to mentor our lawyers and give them his thoughts on how to litigate. He always tells them to try to take the higher ground. If they carry themselves with respect and are open and reasonable with people, they will be rewarded. If they treat the opposing counsel with dignity, especially in victory, future cases are often easier to resolve. Applying the kindness approach instead of being 100% adversarial has done very well for our clients. And because of that, we get better outcomes since we’re not antagonistic.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Again, it really boils down to being kind and generous. We need to understand that we have a lot more in common with each other than we think. If we are all just willing to sit down and listen to each other, and not be bogged down by the us vs. them narrative that’s fed to us daily, we would be able to work through our differences and maybe even help each other.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can follow us on our social media platforms and our website!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!
About the Interviewer: Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative. A formal federal employee himself, Mr. Pines began his federal employment law career as in-house counsel for AFGE Local 1923 which is in Social Security Administration’s headquarters and is the largest federal union local in the world. He presently serves as AFGE 1923’s Chief Counsel as well as in-house counsel for all FEMA bargaining unit employees and numerous Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs unions.
While he and his firm specialize in representing federal employees from all federal agencies and in reference to virtually all federal employee matters, his firm has placed special attention on representing Veteran Affairs doctors and nurses hired under the authority of Title. He and his firm have a particular passion in representing disabled federal employees with their requests for medical and religious reasonable accommodations when those accommodations are warranted under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (ADA). He also represents them with their requests for Federal Employee Disability Retirement (OPM) when an accommodation would not be possible.
Disability Inclusion In The Workplace: Robin Saghian, Edwin Saghian, Shahab Mossavar-Rahmani Of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.