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The Philosophy of Resolution

ProfessionalProfile_2013With plans to follow his father’s footsteps into a career of finance, Robert Ounjian, Partner with Carpenter, Zuckerman, Rowley, LLP (CZR), had decided to major in economics when he took his first philosophy course at the University of California, Irvine. That course, plus a tragic life experience, had him hooked. Questions such as “what does it all mean?” began to occupy a great deal of his time, and in no time, he changed his major.

The love of wisdom, as philosophy is loosely translated, merged with law in one of Ounjian’s classes, and he recognized that the creative thinking and application of sound arguments that are mandatory in both logic and law were firmly in his wheelhouse. “I think that those who love to study philosophy tend to be very passionate, and tend to argue from the heart,” he says. “You learn how to apply critical thinking to be creative with arguments,” he adds.

He subsequently entered law school at Southwestern, and admittedly “became one of those students who are on campus studying from 7am until 11pm.” He became active in Southwestern School of Law’s Moot Court Honors Program, and graduated with his J.D. in May of 2000.

RobertPursuit Of Knowledge & Wisdom

Ounjian started his career in the medical malpractice defense firm of Bonne, Bridges, Mueller, O’Keefe & Nichols in Los Angeles, where he was mentored by N. Denise Taylor. “I received four years of incredible training,” Ounjian says. “I did nothing but medical malpractice defense, and it was a terrific learning experience working with Denise.”

However, his passions began to shift during his time at the firm, and he realized that he wanted to start using his skills to help others on a more personal level. “I realized that I did not want to do insurance defense. I wanted to help injured people,” he says. The opportunity arose for Ounjian to transfer into plaintiff litigation in 2004, when he accepted a position at the Law Offices of Carl. A McMahan. “Carl had 25 years of experience in medical malpractice and as a skilled trial lawyer,” Ounjian says. Moreover, working with McMahan provided the opportunity for Ounjian to carve out a highly specialized niche in the medical malpractice arena. “95% of my work was in birth injuries. We did a lot of work with brain damaged babies, and shoulder dystocia. I was traveling up and down California for weeks at a time on cases,” he recalls.

After five years of plaintiffs, work for birth injury cases, Ounjian and McMahan worked a case that would ultimately prompt Ounjian to broaden his scope of practice. “It was a dangerous condition or roadway case, that involved a 12 year old quadriplegic girl,” Ounjian says. “The case was very different from what I was used to working on, and it made me want to broaden my horizons to include catastrophic personal injury cases,” he adds.

Personal Philosophy of Law

In 2009, after nearly a decade of practice, Ounjian had finessed his own philosophy of law. Culling from his experience on the defense side of medical malpractice and his developed expertise in plaintiff’s work, he had a three-pronged philosophy for how to be the most effective attorney possible for his clients.

“There is no substitute for being over-prepared and highly competent,” Ounjian says of his willingness to work tireless hours to prepare for his cases. Likewise, his willingness and, in fact, commitment to “having integrity and honesty with the defense counsel” has served him and his clients extraordinarily well. “I don’t believe in pulling tricks. I am upfront and honest. I’ve learned in my work as both a plaintiff’s attorney and a defense attorney that your reputation means a lot. I believe in having very frank conversations with opposing counsel,” he adds.

These two philosophies lend themselves to what is the crux of Ounjian’s legal philosophy. “I try to identify the straightest and most direct path to resolution,” he says of minimizing distractions. “Filing countless motions only distracts from the end goal, which is to get the best resolution for my clients. I don’t engage in those actions which are not absolutely necessary,” he adds.

Ounjian’s personal philosophy was attractive to Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley, LLP, who extended an offer to him to join their firm in 2009. The firm didn’t have a big medical malpractice practice area at the time, and Ounjian recognized that he was being given a tremendous opportunity to bring those cases, and specifically birth injury cases, to the firm. But, he would also get the opportunity to continue broadening his horizons by working on a wider variety of general liability cases, including auto and premises liability.

Indeed, the opportunity for growth offered by CZR appealed to Ounjian immensely. “This firm is incredible. There are all the opportunities in the world, if you get through, and prove your merit. I started small, and they threw the kitchen sink at me to see if I would survive,” he recalls.

Ounjian did more than just survive. In 2012, three years after joining CZR, as second chair in Sofia Blunt, et al. v. Haupt, MD, et al., Ounjian spent “the best 7 weeks of my career. We got the case in February of 2012, with trial beginning in March 2012. I worked 15, sometimes  20 hours a day preparing for trial. The case was in San Luis Obispo, where there hadn’t been a plaintiff’s medical malpractice verdict in nearly 20 years,” he says.

The birth injury medical malpractice case was a perfect case for Ounjian to try alongside CZR partner Nick Rowley. The three year old victim in the case had suffered oxygen deprivation before and after delivery, causing her to suffer permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy. When the verdict came back, it was for an astounding $74.525 million.

“That was the most personally and professionally gratifying case of my career. That type of result makes everything worth it. We have set this little girl up to be as comfortable as possible for her life,” he says.

Partner Perspective

With that case and countless other successes under his belt, which he credits directly to the team at CZR who are “not afraid to shy away from hard work, who will work 24 hours a day, and who will creatively prosecute these cases,” it’s not surprising that Ounjian was made partner in March 2013.

Suffice to say, Ounjian’s progress to partner of Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley, LLP in just four years is quite an accomplishment. But for Ounjian, what’s even more exciting lies not in the past, but in the future. “I’m looking forward helping to grow, develop and foster the momentum we have as a plaintiff’s personal injury firm. I’m also looking forward to growing the firm’s medical malpractice group. And of course, Ounjian says, “I’m excited to help more people, and I’ll do as many trials as necessary to get cases resolved for clients. Their interests, ahead of mine, come first,” he says. “Resolution is the goal.”


Robert Ounjian
Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley, LLP

750 B Street, Suite #3300 San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-814-9000

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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