Written by The Business Journal Staff
Laurie A. Avedisian, President
Fresno County Bar Association
What we do: Lozano Smith, where I am a partner, is a diverse, full-service education and public agency law firm serving hundreds of California’s K-12 and community college districts, universities, and numerous cities, counties, and special districts for 25 years. Our Local Government Practice Group is comprised of attorneys who serve in city attorney, county counsel and general counsel capacities for clients across the state.
The Fresno County Bar Association is the local professional organization of attorneys and judges with over 1,200 members covering the entire spectrum of legal services in Fresno.
Education: California State University, Fresno, B.S.
University of San Diego, J.D.
What made you want to be an attorney?
I wanted to be an attorney from as far back as I can remember. I recall the struggles that my parents faced as small business owners and wanted to find a way to help them. I focused my undergraduate studies in business, with an accountancy option, which gave me practical knowledge about business operations and gave me a solid foundation for law school. As I’ve progressed in my career, I have transitioned from helping small businesses to helping public agencies, but my business and accounting background remain helpful, especially in light of the financial difficulties currently plaguing government agencies.
How did you come to your position as president of the Fresno County Bar Association, Laurie?
Not long after being sworn in as an attorney, I became a member of the board of directors for Fresno County Young Lawyers Association (FCYLA), a division of the Fresno County Bar Association for newly admitted attorneys. In 2008, I served as FCYLA president and, in that capacity, became a member of the board of directors of the Fresno County Bar Association, which gave me the opportunity to expand my involvement in bar association activities. I have remained on the board of directors since that time and was elected as president by the board of directors.
What benefits does the Fresno County Bar Association offer to its members and what events would be especially helpful, Laurie?
The Fresno County Bar Association provides low-cost continuing education, hosts luncheons and mixers, engages in community service activities, and provides outreach to the community. The event that would be most useful to the community at large is our Law Day event. Each year the Fresno County Bar Association sponsors a Law Day luncheon in conjunction with the Central California Legal Services Elder Abuse Prevention Conference. This year, Law Day will be expanded to include various booths on the Fulton Mall in order to bring together all of the various individuals who help make our legal system work and to provide members of the public with helpful information about the legal court systems. Mark your calendars for May 8 and plan to attend!
How do budget cuts made to the state’s court system over the past year affect your job, Laurie?
Cuts to the court system have had a huge impact on our clients. As a result of state budget cuts, outlying courts such as those in Firebaugh, Reedley and Coalinga were recently closed, forcing residents to drive to Fresno to attend court. This poses problems not only for residents in those cities, but also for police departments whose officers now require additional time away from patrol to travel to and from court for appearances.
The impact of budget cuts to the court system also affects my role as an officer of the Fresno County Bar Association. The bar association has been actively involved with the Open Courts Coalition, a group comprised of interested citizens as well as former elected officials, working to restore vital court services. The Coalition’s approach includes restoration of funds, increased court efficiency, and use of court reserve funds.
What are the advantages of working with a large law firm like Lozano Smith, Laurie?
We like to gauge our success based on what we hear from our clients. Many say they want to work with us because of our intense focus on preventive measures, available training programs, and greater access to the latest legal developments, resources and specialists in our diversified areas of practice. We believe an additional advantage for clients is our steadfast commitment to representing public agencies for the past 25 years.
What are some common topics that you deal with as an attorney, Laurie?
I deal with a wide variety of legal issues, but you haven’t seen any of them on TV. I handle real estate and development transactions, personnel issues, public meeting laws, labor negotiations, as well as an array of unique issues that arise on a daily basis.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Laurie?
My first job was working on the family farm, which taught me dedication and strong work ethic.
What are your roots in the San Joaquin Valley, Laurie?
I was born and raised in the outskirts of Fowler, where my father was a raisin farmer. I left Fresno for a few years to attend law school in San Diego. My law school friends still give me a hard time about leaving San Diego to return to Fresno, but for me Fresno is home.
What do you do in your spare time, Laurie?
During the summer, you’ll find me wakeboarding at Pine Flat or Millerton Lake most weekends. I enjoy running and have completed multiple marathons and half marathons; several with Team in Training. I also enjoy traveling and recently visited Brazil and Argentina.