Gloria Allred is known as a fierce fighter for women's rights who goes after the likes of media mogul Aaron Spelling and actor Rob Lowe in high-profile employment discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits. Her philosophy is influenced by a personal trauma: She was raped while on vacation in Mexico in 1966, and almost died as a result of the illegal abortion she had to get to terminate the resulting pregnancy. She still gets emotional when she discusses the matter. Allred, 67, was raised in a modest Philadelphia row house as the only child of parents who had little education. Her desire to do better led her to the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated as a single mother. Although she had wanted to go to law school, that was pushed aside by the need to support her daughter, and instead she began teaching. She came to Los Angeles with her second husband in 1968, and attended Loyola Law School. She then co-founded Allred Maroko & Goldberg LLP, and has been practicing with her two law school friends for more than 30 years. Allred recently sat down with the Business Journal in her Wilshire Boulevard office to discuss her life and her law practice.

Question: Tell me about your parents .

Answer: My parents are, unfortunately, no longer alive. My parents were Morris and Stella Bloom, and both only had an eighth-grade education. My dad was a door-to-door salesman and my mom was a full-time homemaker.

Q: What did your father sell?

A: He sold enlargements for photographers. It was a tough business, and he literally went door to door. He worked six days a week and on the seventh he would sit at his desk and prepare for the next week. We would go to the post office and mail his letters, and then we would go to the movies. He would often stay in the park and wait for me to come out of the movie and he wouldn't say why. But I realized years later that he couldn't afford tickets for both of us.

Q: Despite your family's lack of money, you attended an Ivy League college.

A: My parents always encouraged me to get a good education. My dad always said, "Don't worry, I will save and wherever you want to go, you will be able to go." He didn't earn very much, but he saved just about everything for me. I remember him in the same suit all the time and a couple of different shirts. I don't ever remember him buying anything for himself.

Q: You are an only child. Did you ever want siblings?

A: I thought about what it would be like to have brothers and sisters. There are benefits, and then there are downsides. I do think only children become more adult sooner, and I did. I had girlfriends, so that was like having sisters. I used to talk with the girl who grew up in the little row house next to me through the thin bedroom walls. Our mothers would always say, "Gloria, Sandy, stop talking through the bedroom walls and go to sleep."

Q: Did being a single mom shape your perspective?

A: I had to overcome so many obstacles. The inability to collect court-ordered child support, being a victim of sex discrimination on my first job as an assistant buyer at a
department store, becoming a victim of rape in Mexico. Because of my life experiences, I understand that I have an opportunity to help other women; I have the desire and the
ability.

Q: You were pregnant due to a rape, and the illegal operation almost killed you. How did this affect you?

A: It's part of who I am. And because the system didn't work for me, or I didn't think it would, I didn't use it. But that is why I want the system to be there, and to be effective for women. I think that women should understand that it is nothing for them to be ashamed of. They are not the wrongdoer, they are the victim. It needs to come out of the closet so that the stigma is removed.

Q: You are best known for your press conferences. How did you become media savvy?

A: I attended a meeting of the National Women's Caucus and they said to me, "We want to do a news conference and point out that then-Gov. Brown, Jerry Brown, was not keeping his promise to appoint more women judges." I said why me? Nobody had ever heard of me, I didn't know what a news conference was and I had never been to one. They said show up and we will give you what you should read. I criticized the governor, it got attention and he appointed more women judges. That's how it got started. Why me? The reason was that everybody else wanted to be appointed by the governor to a board, a commission, an agency or a judgeship. The first, the second and the third rule in politics is loyalty, loyalty, loyalty.

Q: So, you never wanted to be an appointed official ?

A: I never wanted to be appointed to anything. I realized my role is as an advocate, and as someone who is like a private attorney general who enforces the law.

Q: Are people constantly asking you to represent them?

A: I get e-mails from people all over the nation, in some instances all over the world, asking me to help them. I was in a restroom stall one time and a woman reached her hand under the stall and asked me for my card. I can be in a parking lot, a retail store, a restaurant and you will be guaranteed that someone will ask for my card or talk with me about a case. It's constant.

Q: How busy are you?

A: There are no two days that are the same, and nobody can keep my schedule except for me because it is always changing. I am always working, from the minute I wake up I am sitting at my computer checking my e-mail to the time I go to sleep when I am still checking my e-mail. Like with a lot of people, my office is everywhere. But almost every day I am still in my office.

Q: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

A: Most nights, I get a good night's sleep. I try to eat three meals a day. The only thing I don't do is exercise. I tell my daughter: I talk a lot does that count as exercise?

Q: What has been the most interesting case that you have litigated?

A: In the 1980s, we had the case of Rita Milla and seven Catholic priests. We sued the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on behalf of Rita Milla who was a Catholic parishioner. We alleged that she was sexually abused by seven Catholic priests and had a baby by one of them. We litigated that case for 23 years, and we were able to win a settlement.

Q: Any others?

A: Another case that was also extraordinary was an international child custody abduction case. I pursued a father who abducted his child from Southern California to Italy. I was able to get the child back from Italy to Los Angeles, and he followed and was arrested at the airport by the FBI. When he was testifying on the stand in the criminal case he said "I don't feel very well," put his head down and died on the witness stand. It was unbelievable.


Q: Why did you decided to start your own firm after law school, instead of joining an established organization?

A: I didn't want to have my own firm. I had been a clerk for a Superior Court judge and he said you should have your own firm and not be working for somebody else. I didn't know what it was going to be like to found a firm, and it's a good thing I didn't know, because I might have been too afraid to do it had I known. And I didn't want to be a sole practitioner, I wanted to have partners.

Q: How did you meet your partners?

A: I met my two partners, Nathan Goldberg and Michael Maroko, at Loyola. We were all in the district attorney's clinical training program. We were sitting at a kitchen table one day, and I persuaded them to come into practice with me. For some reason still unknown to me, they agreed. And 32 years later they are like my brothers. We have been partners longer than some people's marriages have lasted.

Q: You had your daughter while you were an undergraduate?

A: Well, I met my husband as a freshman, married him as a sophomore, had my daughter as a junior and divorced him as a senior. I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and had a beautiful college degree and my daughter, Lisa.

Q: Did you want to go to law school after your undergraduate studies?

A: I went to apply to the University of Pennsylvania Law School when I was graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. I remember standing at the counter and asking for an application. I realized it was impossible because I was a single parent at the time, and I really wouldn't have had any money to go to law school. Even if I had gotten a scholarship, I still would have needed money to support my daughter because I wasn't getting child support. I realized it was a pointless exercise and I couldn't go to law school. So, I started teaching.

Q: Where did you teach?

A: I started as a substitute teacher, and I really liked it. So, I earned my credential and also my master's degree in English education in New York. I taught at Ben Franklin High School, among other schools in Philadelphia. When I moved to Los Angeles, I sought to teach in Watts one year after the Watts riots. I also earned a supervision credential to be a principal. I wanted to be a principal in Watts, but that was the time of a rising black power movement and they wanted African-American administrators in African-American schools. I left teaching and went to law school.

Q: Are you a Pennsylvania native?

A: I grew up in a little row house in Philadelphia. I was fortunate to grow up in Philadelphia because I had the benefit of excellent public schools. I attended an all-girls high school, the Philadelphia High School for Girls. It was like a private high school, you either had to have excellent grades or a high I.Q. to be admitted. That was a wonderful opportunity for me, a life-changing experience.

Q: How so?

A: In those days a lot of girls I knew were just getting married very young, and were expected to be homemakers and not have careers. So, it was rather startling when our vice principal called us together and said, "Girls, you can be whatever you want to be. You girls are going to be the leaders, elected officials, bankers, lawyers, doctors, the visionaries."

Q: Do you keep in touch with anyone from high school?

A: I do. I met my best friend, Fern Kaplan, the very first day of high school. We have kept in touch for all of these years, and she is still my best friend.


Q: Tell me about your daughter.

A: She is an anchor on Tru TV, and under contract with CBS and the "Early Show" as their legal commentator. She is also an attorney, and I encouraged her to be a lawyer. I always say Lisa is my best work.



Q: Is it difficult having her live in New York while you're here?

A: I love Southern California, but I am frequently in New York. And she comes back to do television. My granddaughter is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, and my grandson is in his senior year of high school in New York.

Q: Are you a doting grandma?

A: I am. I just finished taking my grandson to see some colleges.

Q: Tell me about the uniform on display in your office.

A: I have an English Bobby uniform that I bought in London years ago. It has the original handcuffs to remind women that they used to be arrested by people wearing those uniforms when they were fighting for the right to vote.

Q: As you and your partners have been advocating for equal rights for gays and lesbians since the 1970s, what did it feel like to see Proposition 8 pass ?

A: It was sad that we won change with the election of Barack Obama, but at the same time there is a whole class of people that the court has said should be protected against discrimination and now someone was trying to take that away, and I knew I was going to have to do something about it. My partner worked all night election night, and early in the morning I sent out a notice that we were going to file a petition seeking a writ with the California Supreme Court asking for an immediate stay of Proposition 8 so that it doesn't go into effect.

Gloria Allred
Title: Partner
Firm: Allred Maroko & Goldberg LLP
Born: 1941; Philadelphia
Education: B.A. with honors in English, University of Pennsylvania; master's in
education, New York University; J.D., Loyola Law School
Career Turning Point: Going into practice with partners Nathan Goldberg and Michael Maroko
Most Influential People: Cousin Rachel Ash, the first female cardiologist at Children's Heart Hospital in Philadelphia; late parents Morris and Stella Bloom; law partners
Personal: Lives in Pacific Palisades; adult daughter Lisa Bloom lives in New York; two grandchildren
Hobbies: An occasional movie. "I confess to being a workaholic."

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