Attorney of the Month Award for Pima County
By Michele Mirto
The VLP’s monthly award is a distinct honor: of the nearly 1100 attorneys who volunteer their time with Southern Arizona Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP), only 12 receive the Outstanding Pro Bono Attorney award each year.
Peter Akmajian was selected to receive the Outstanding Pro Bono Attorney of the Month Award for February 2016. Peter joined the VLP in 1989. He represents VLP clients in contract, real property, and tort-defense cases. Recently, Peter completed work on a real property case, helping a family obtain title to their home. Peter dedicated forty hours to the matter and achieved a wonderful result for the family of three. The VLP is grateful for Peter’s support of the program and for his continued friendship.
Q & A WITH Peter Akmajian
Where are you from? Tucson, Arizona
Where did you go to college? University of Arizona
Where did you go to law school? University of Arizona
How long have you lived in Tucson? My entire life (except 5 years in Phoenix)
What is the history of your practice of law? I had a wonderful year after law school clerking for Justice Frank Gordon of the Arizona Supreme Court. One of the job requirements was Tuesday morning tennis with the judge. I went on to work at O’Connor Cavanagh in both Phoenix and in Tucson and then joined Chandler Udall, now the Udall Law Firm in 1999.
What are your current practice areas? I represent health care providers in medical malpractice cases; I represent lawyers in legal malpractice cases and in State Bar matters; I do other general civil litigation.
What drives you to volunteer with VLP? The clients are in such need and we have an obligation to do our part to help them. I really enjoy meeting and getting to know the clients. The work is extremely rewarding, and I don’t feel like I’m “sacrificing”. In my most recent case, I was able to help someone quiet title to a home that he had purchased on an oral contract and had been living in and improved for months. The other party disputed the contract and tried to evict him. We were able to resolve the case. I was so happy for my client and his family that he was able to become the legal owner of his home. This sort of case is what keeps me involved in VLP.
Anyone you would like to acknowledge for contributing to your legal career / pro bono service? I’ve had fantastic mentors over the years, all of whom emphasized the importance of pro bono work. To name just a few: Tom Mauet, Frank Gordon, Jon Westover, Ted Schmidt and of course Burr Udall.
A great anecdote from your VLP experiences? After a successful result for one client many years ago, he insisted on buying me a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s. I’ve eaten out at breakfast plenty of times, but this one stands out.
One reason you would encourage attorneys to volunteer with VLP? The appreciation you get from the clients as well as a sense that you’re doing at least a little bit to give truth to the ideal of equal justice under the law.
Favorite Tucson restaurant? There are so many, and I’m notorious on Instagram/Facebook for my food photos. Lately, I’ve discovered Wild Garlic Grill, Zayna and Dante’s Fire. Others include Kingfisher, Guero Canelo, Miss Saigon, Poca Cosa and our old family favorite, especially on the patio, Caruso’s.
Things you do when not working or volunteering your legal services? You’ve heard about the ping pong. I also enjoy photography. In addition to food photos, I’ve lately been taking photos of Tango dancers at my brother’s Tango club.
If this award was accompanied by prize money, how would you spend it? How much are we talking about?
Best thing about being an attorney in Tucson? The collegiality of the bar.
Worst thing about being an attorney in Tucson? Driving to Phoenix.
Things that you wish were closer to your office? My firm left downtown some years ago, just as it was coming into its own. Great timing. I would really love to return there someday.
Favorite song? New York, New York (where my daughter is now trying to make it as an actress).
Food you can’t live without? My mother’s baklava. Oh and her stuffed grape leaves too.
Best vacation destination? Again, there are so many. I’ll never forget a wonderful trip that I took with my family to Armenia in 2005. It was so beautiful and moving.