Three years after Nahla Rajan joined Los Angeles-based Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp as a litigation associate in 2006, she has established an expertise in trust and estates disputes — big ones. She says it was somewhat by accident. “It started because I happened to be handy and had experience with trials,” she said. “But I liked dealing with individuals a lot more than with general counsel and corporate counsel.”
Rajan, 36, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, was a deputy public defender and federal prosecutor before joining the firm. Within a week, she was asked to prepare for an upcoming trial for the heirs of Burt Lancaster who had sued a bank that was the surviving co-trustee of the actor’s estate. Last year, she negotiated an agreement on behalf of the grandchildren of Walt Disney who wanted to oust their father, Bill Lund, as a co-trustee of the estate of Disney’s daughter, Sharon. Lund, Sharon’s ex-husband, was accused of taking kickbacks in exchange for trust investments in land deals in Arizona. The dispute settled, but Lund’s son, who suffers from mental impairment, now has sued the trust to disperse his funds.
Rajan also assists in trials. Last year, she successfully represented talent agent Todd Shemarya in a wrongful termination case brought against him. Shemarya has represented celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Leo DiCaprio and Jennifer Aniston. A member of the firm’s diversity committee, Rajan has been influential in recruiting summer associates who are of Muslim or of South Asian descent.
Outside the firm, she has participated in numerous bar associations, including the South Asian Bar Association Public Interest Foundation, where she served as director in 2008. She plans to start a Muslim bar association in Los Angeles next year. — Amanda Bronstad