Meet Southern California-based attorney Bobby Samini,
a bona fide star in the world of celebrity legal representation
By: Justin Frank and Mayar Zokaei
For attorney Bobby Samini, president and founding member of prominent Newport Beach, California-based law firm Samini Scheinberg, PC, the eclectic stable of prominent clients that comprise his rolodex reads like a Who’s Who of the entertainment, music and sports world. He represents and advises the likes of former Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball organization owner Donald Sterling and Academy Award-winning rapper DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia fame among other luminaries. He also represents plaintiffs in class action lawsuits against real estate site Zillow.com and electronics and auto manufacturing giant Mitsubishi, as well as private equity firm SAIL Ventures LLC in its litigation involving singer and actress Cher.
A perfectly balanced hybrid of brains and bravado, Samini is just as ease at a Clinton Foundation charity poker tournament – he attended this year’s rendezvous in Las Vegas in July – among celebrities and renowned business moguls as he is at a deposition in a case against arguably the biggest sports league in the world. His secret weapon? His uncanny ability to gel with people from all walks of life. Case in point: he was recently caught by paparazzi dining at L.A. hotspot The Nice Guy with friend and notorious world poker champ Antonio Esfandiari and rumored client Dennis Graham, the father of ubiquitous hip-hop superstar Drake. How many lawyers do you know who can pull something like that off, and then settle a seven-figure breach of contract case in favor of another client the next morning?
Though he now finds himself specializing in civil and business litigation involving high-profile clients, Samini didn’t necessarily believe he would become a somewhat “lawyer to the stars” when he first started out.
“I thought at first I would just be a conservative business lawyer, but then I just found myself being interested in more exciting, high-profile cases,” Samini explains.“I wanted to be a lawyer from a young age. I’m not really sure why; I was just really interested in law. There was just something about it… a mystique. I knew this was something I wanted to do.”
Samini and his family came to San Antonio, Texas from Iran in the early 1970’s, led by Samini’s father, who was a colonel in the Iranian Air Force. The younger Samini earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California in political science and eventually, his law degree from the Ohio State University. After a brief stint back in Iran, he settled in Orange County, California where he would spend the rest of his formative years. At the time, the O.C. didn’t exactly have a large Persian population.
“Most Persians were in the Los Angeles area at the time and not having a large Persian community (in O.C.) assimilated us,” Samini recalls.
Part of that assimilation was very evident in the way he was raised by his parents. While most Persian parents encourage their children to pursue careers in law and in the medicine, Samini’s parents were supportive of any future he decided to pursue.
“They were two of the most progressive Iranian parents,” Samini explains. “They wanted us to pick something that made us happy. They never pressured us to pursue any particular profession. I’m really glad they didn’t apply that type of pressure.”
The result: not only is Samini a lawyer but so is his older brother Keyvan, who is also one of his biggest influences. Keyvan also obtained his law degree from Ohio State and has been there for his little brother all along the way.
“[Keyvan] was my single biggest influence,” Samini remembers. “Not only did I follow him down the same path, but he also helped me every step of the way. He constantly reminded me of the things I needed to do and was always there for me when I was down and wanted to quit.”
Representing clients that might have a negative public image is challenging, but Samini takes them on by reserving judgment. He is always engaged by the results.
“No matter what you think, you have to stay open minded,” Samini warns. “One of the best parts of this job is that you learn about people. You’re working with them in really stressful times.”
As for going up against high-powered corporate entities such as celebrity-gossip media entity TMZ and the National Basketball Association, Samini actually enjoys it.
“If you feel intimidated, you’re probably on the wrong path,” Samini explains. “They fight hard, come at you at every level and have a lot of resources. I like being the underdog.”
Through his work, he has found that many of his client’s personas are contrary to their public image, including Sterling, who he still represents in ongoing litigation against the NBA. Sterling made controversial comments during a private conversation that was recorded without his knowledge and eventually leaked to TMZ, leading to the forced sale of his beloved Clippers by the league in 2014.
“I found out [the Sterlings] are kind and generous,” Samini says. “[Mr. Sterling] is nothing like how he is publicly described. He is a good person, who has worked hard to do a lot for the city of L.A. You can take 15 to 30 seconds of a conversation from any person and skew it.”
Samini conveys a calm, cool, and collected demeanor that has come in very valuable while dealing with the media. Representing the high-profile candidates that he does has led to countless television appearances in which he is able to speak for his clients in a classy and courteous manner. He has appeared in the capacity of legal expert and legal commentator on outlets such as CNN, Fox and Bloomberg.
“Dealing with media is one of a handful of qualities you need; if you don’t have it, you might want to consider a different profession,” Samini warns. “You have to develop a good relationship with individual reporters and answer the tough questions.”
Despite going on a number of programs that have the opposing view of his clients, Samini has still been able to cultivate a good relationship with the media.
“The funniest thing is I have the best relationships with (media members) who have opposite views,” Samini notes. “I’m very lucky the media treats me as well as they do.”
Samini’s media ubiquity has even led to guest spots on news programs in which he offers his expert commentary on cases not involving his clients. He recently was on popular Fox L.A. morning show Good Day L.A. to talk about the case of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who pleaded guilty to charges of lying during a federal investigation.
“I really enjoy talking about other cases,” Samini explains. They are way more fun and way less stressful because you don’t have to be worried about being involved in the case.”
In the future, when his days practicing law wind down, Samini sees himself perhaps taking on more of a role in media.“If I went into the media full time, that would be a huge commitment,” Samini says. “But, at some point in the future, I could see myself there.”
But he also has other personal goals in mind.
“I want to get more involved in the philanthropic world,” Samini explains. “I’ve had a wonderful career and I want to give more back to the community. I have some dear friends who have really inspired me to work more with charitable organizations.”
As for Samini’s favorite takeaways from Persian culture: “I truly love our Persian culture. Particularly the parts that teach and encourage us to respect others and to make positive contributions to humanity.”
However, if you need advice on what Persian musical artists to listen to, you might need to seek further counsel.
“I’m familiar with the older artists like Andy,” Samini reveals. “I’m sure there is a ton of younger, amazing artists, but I’m not cool enough to know any of them.”