Thursday, January 10, 2019
ALICE A. SALVO
She’s an Attorney With a Sense of Humor, a Quest to Be a Leader, and a Devotion to Law
Alice A. Salvo knew from an early age that she wanted to be a lawyer. She came to that realization when students in her tenth grade English class in Long Island, New York were assigned to write an essay on their career aspirations.
In those days in Patchogue (some 50 miles from Manhattan on Long Island’s southern shore), the village was divided into the rich section by the lake, the poor section by the train tracks, and the section for everyone in between. Salvo family was in between. Her father’s job as a forklift-operator at a lumberyard provided enough pay for the support of his wife and three children.
Young Alice noticed that rich kids tended to pick one of two jobs as their career goal: doctor or lawyer.
“I said to myself, okay, well I’m smarter than they are because my class standing is higher than theirs,” Salvo recalls. “If they’re going to be doctors or lawyers, I’m going to be a doctor or lawyer.
“So I thought for another minute and I knew that at med school, you have to work on cadavers—which I was not going to do, because I didn’t even want to dissect a frog in biology. So I decided I was going to be a lawyer.”
Above is Alice Ann Salvo at 6 months.
Salvo remembers that her mother was less than pleased when she announced her decision to pursue a career in law. On the day of her epiphany as to what she would do in life, Salvo rushed home and threw open the door.
“Mom!” she shouted exuberantly, “I’m going to be a lawyer!”
Her mother burst into tears.
“You would think she was crying tears of joy,” Salvo relates. “But no, she was sad.”
Her mother’s response was to the point:
“No, no, no! I don’t want you to be a lawyer, I want you to be a hairdresser!”
Years later, when Salvo’s daughter was a competitive gymnast in school, the youngster would have the mother of a teammate prepare her hair for the meets, due to what Salvo claims is her ineptitude in performing the task.
She tells of commenting to her mother:
“So Ma, I chose the right profession!”
Salvo says her work ethic, which enabled her to outperform her classmates in high school, stems from her father’s example.
“He was a very hard worker,” she explains.
Her inherited devotion to hard work continues to benefit the attorney whose solo practice boasts thousands of clients and whose extra-curricular pursuits include several bar association leadership roles.
Despite their differences as to the best career choice for her, Salvo says she and her mother had much in common.
For instance, Salvo says her mother was a consummate practical joker. The butt of many of those jokes was one particular relative, Uncle Ernie, who took in stride his sister’s water glasses with surprise leaks and sugar bowls with spoons stuck to the bottom, guaranteed to get granules all over him.
Such pranks invariably occurred outdoors, Salvo notes, saying that her mother’s affinity for practical jokes was matched only by her fastidious devotion to keeping a clean house.
At one Sunday dinner, hosted weekly by Salvo’s family, her mother laid several tables end-to-end to accommodate the characteristically large Italian family. The final table, as it happened, was half way into the bathroom. Who was relegated to the seat of honor?
“I got the work ethic from my father, but I got the jokes from my mother,” Salvo says, with a smile.
Humor is necessary, she explains, in dealing with clients in probate law. Daily, she deals with clients whose loved ones have died. Jokes, she says, lighten the atmosphere.
She will type something, she relates, and mention to the client: “You don’t pay me for my typing.” Salvo reports: “I always get a laugh out of that.”
There’s a further factor putting clients at ease. Salvo’s husband and law office director of marketing, Mel I. Stein, advises:
“Law offices are serious places with clients that have to handle life challenging issues. To minimize the stress, her estate planning clients come to the office and not only get their legal documents and court related matters properly completed, they actually get to meet her dog, ‘Buddy the Pug’ of Instagram fame.”
Buddy has been scampering through the office during workhours for 8½ years.
Alice Salvo is seen with the pug “Buddy,” a fixture at her Woodland Hills law office.
Salvo says a love of humor was not the only trait she inherited from her mother, noting:
“I like to be in charge—probably because my mother was the boss of the family.”
That trait is reflected in Salvo’s role as a “bar junkie.” Repeatedly, she has taken charge of groups.
Her past positions include stints as president of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association in 2004-05, chair of the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluations 2010-11, and 2014 chairperson of the Breakfast Club, which made endorsements of candidates for what was then the State Bar Board of Governors (now the Board of Trustees).
Salvo served last year as chair of the Los Angeles County Bar Association delegation to the Conference of California Bar Associations, successor to the State Bar Conference of Delegates.
She was named last Oct. 13 to the Board of Trustees of the National Italian American Bar Association, and served in 2014 on the California Supreme Court’s Applicant Evaluation and Nomination Committee which recruited and screened applicants for State Bar Court judgeships.
Currently, Salvo is president of the Italian American Lawyers Association (“IALA”) in Los Angeles. Her term will end Jan. 19 when Gregory M. Salvato will be sworn in as her successor at the installation Ball at the City Club.
IALA board member and 2014 MetNews Person of the Year L. Ernestine Fields says that “being kind and thoughtful and generous is a way of life for Alice Salvo.”
Lydia Liberio, the IALA’s immediate past president, observes that Salvo has “mentored many” and has “indirectly influenced everyone with whom she has come in contact, building community ties across legal associations and improving public perceptions of ethical, positive lawyering.”
During her presidency of IALA—which has “up” years and “down” years—Salvo has staged programs attracting attendance that has been uncharacteristically high. Her first event, the installation of her and other officers, was held at an atypical venue for the group, the Magic Castle, a private club of professional magicians to which she had access based on her husband’s membership.
Stein was a professional magician and, at the cocktail receptions at IALA monthly meetings, will, if entreated to do so, amaze small groups with close-up magic.
“The presidency is winding down,” Salvo says wistfully. “I’m going to miss it a lot.
“Every organization I join I want to be president of.”
Between her bar activities and her active practice, the attorney has not had time lately for another love of hers: teaching.
The Southwestern School of Law alumnus taught wills and trusts at her alma mater from 2013-17. That allowed her to reconnect with an old acquaintance, Professor Herbert Krimmel. He taught the wills and trusts class in which Salvo was a student in 1979, and he sat in on her first semester as an adjunct professor to critique her.
“He influenced me, so when he was sitting in the back I had to complement him,” she says.
Salvo received her law degree from Southwestern in 1980. Her time at Southwestern proved a major influence on her choice to practice in Los Angeles.
The lawyer—who says, “I don’t really like the snow”—remembers returning to New York during Southwestern’s winter vacation when the temperature was 20 degrees below zero there. Her reaction was:
“I’m not coming back here.”
She had her choice of states in which to practice. She passed not only the California bar exam (in 1982), but also those in New York and Florida. Her connection with Florida was that she received an LLM in estate planning from the University of Miami in 1981.
In this 2004 photograph taken at Mammoth are Mel Stein, children Robbie, 10, Jenny, 9, and Alice Salvo.
Salvo—a State Bar-certified specialist in estate planning, trust and probate law—credits Stein, to a large extent, for the success of her Woodland Hills law practice.
He initially helped her when she put out her shingle 25 years ago, the lawyer points out, saying that Stein “had a business”—a printing company—“and knew how to run a business.”
“I opened up the door and within a month I had 50 clients.”
Now, he works for the firm full-time, handling search engine optimization, marketing and promotion. He was instrumental in the staging of her elder law seminars and wills and trusts MCLE classes, Salvo says, noting that those efforts have wound down in light of her other obligations.
The arrangement between the spouses hasn’t cause any tension during the 10 years they have worked together, she says, commenting:
“We’re both on the same page, and he’s very proud of me. Sometimes it’s embarrassing because you hear him on the phone bragging about me.”
“Working for her is great. Free lunch for all at the firm every Friday. Excellent opportunity to continuously implement the latest in digital technology making every year better than the previous.”
The two met in 1992 through a dating service—“Great Expectations”—which, Salvo notes, “was pre-computer.”
It was “video dating,” she says. Participants would go to a center, make a video, and return there, and view videos made by others.
Salvo was asked if she wanted a date with Stein. She recounts, with a grin:
“I said yes!”
The two were married the following year, and have two children, 23 and 24.
Copyright 2019, Metropolitan News Company