She-Devil. Delusional. Shrill. Self-promoter. The Worst.
Just some of the names people have called attorney Gloria Allred.
She doesn’t seem to care. “When people call me names I know that I've won because it means they have no good argument to present,” Allred told Off The Cuff. “When they use names, or four-letter words, that means I've won. They've had to resort to name calling. So they've sent up the flag so to speak: ‘you've won, we’ve lost. This is all we've got now’," she said.
In her nearly forty-year career, Allred has made her name by representing women – and the occasional man - who say they’ve been wronged. There was Amber Frey, the mistress of Scott Peterson later convicted of the 2002 murder of his wife; a member of the Spice Girls singing group who sued Eddie Murphy for child support; an alleged mistress of Tiger Woods; a porn star who was pen pals with Rep. Anthony Weiner; a woman who accused former presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment. The list goes on.
“My clients are often the victims of injustice by the rich, by the powerful, by the famous, by large corporations - victims of child molesters, rapists, batterers, sexual harassers,” Allred said, “I am determined to level the playing field. We have to meet power with power because power only understands power. And that's the only leverage our clients have."
Then there are the cases that don’t make the tabloids. She’s worked on a myriad of wrongful termination cases, AIDS discrimination cases, child abuse cases, gay and lesbian rights.
“I care about real people with real problems whose names you've probably never heard of, unless and until we make them public, but who have been hurt significant ways…. we're like a private attorney general, we're there to enforce the laws,” she said.
She’s turned the press conference into performance art, criticized for trying her cases in the court of public opinion, and raising her own profile in the process. “I make no apologies for breaking the silence. I will do it whenever and wherever and however I think it is appropriate to help to achieve my clients' goals,” she said.
Allred learned to harness the power of the press conference in the late 1970s, when the National Women’s Political Caucus asked her to hold a news conference to criticize then California governor Jerry Brown for not appointing more women judges. “I said ‘why me? I don't know what a news conference is. Nobody's ever heard of me. I wouldn't know what to say. Why would anybody even come?’ It did get coverage,” she recalled, “and he appointed more women judges. And then they said, ‘that worked. Let's do it again.’"
“You're asking me about press, but I'm a real attorney,” she continued. “I'm not a television attorney. I do real cases. We have literally represented thousands of people and they have real lives that are affected by what happens and what is done. I take my responsibility very seriously. And that's how we've been able to win hundreds of millions of dollars, because we do our homework.”
She said that she and her law partners are approached by thousands of would-be clients every year.
Allred said she identifies with her clients because she’s lived through similar ordeals. Divorced after two years of marriage, she said she had to fight for child support for her daughter Lisa. She went to work in a department store, and was paid less than her male colleagues. In 1966, she was raped at gunpoint while on vacation in Mexico, got pregnant, and had an illegal abortion. The procedure was botched and she said she almost bled to death.
“Life experience is a huge factor in the person that I am today. Life experience for me has caused me to become a feminist,” she said. “When I experienced what so many others experienced I thought maybe I was the only one. At the time I didn't think I had any rights, or that if I asserted them no one would believe me.“
Once she became a lawyer, talking to thousands of women about their experiences led her to the realization that “there was something I could do about it, that there's something each one of us can do about it perhaps in different ways,” she said.
Allred lives in a $5 million house, according to reports, on the beach in Malibu, California.
“I just feel very privileged and blessed. I come from two parents who had an eighth grade education. We never had a car, we never had any money, little old row house in Philadelphia,” she said.
She doesn’t take vacations, she said. “I feel the clock ticking. This is my duty is to help as many people as I can as much as I can while I'm here on this earth.”
“My friends tease me because I'm always taking my little smart phone, sneaking a peek as I'm walking on the beach and then sitting on a rock and responding.”