Some take the road to entrepreneurship after years of working for others. But for Elsa Ramo, head of Ramo Law PC in Beverly Hills, there was never any other option besides business ownership.
On her Power List application, she declares, “I have never been anything other than an entrepreneur. Even when I tried to have a conventional job in college, I would always inadvertently seek an opportunity to do something on my own.”
The 35-year-old powerhouse was right to follow her intuition. She has grown Ramo Law, which she started in 2005, into a high-profile business that rakes in a seven-figure revenue annually. Her work has also attracted press coverage by the likes of Indiewire and Variety, and earned her the 2010 California Lawyers for the Arts award.
After graduating from the University of San Diego School of Law in 2002, Ramo worked at Davis Dixon Kirby LLP, a music litigation firm based in Portland, Ore., from 2003 to 2005. She had initially planned to leave the firm to pursue more traditional legal work in criminal defense. But then, opportunity struck. “One of the partners … offered me a job where I got paid nothing but could open a Los Angeles office for them, as several of their cases were in California. It was a dream opportunity to get into entertainment law, so I took it.”
And she built that office — the beginnings of Ramo Law — from the ground up; her first work space was in a shared Universal Studios backlot trailer with no bathroom. A self-funded entrepreneur, Ramo has never even taken a line of credit to grow her business.
Ramo says the entrepreneurial spirit runs in her blood. She’s a first-generation American whose parents immigrated to the United States from Syria before she was born. Once settled in San Diego, her father established a dental practice, and seeing him overcome the odds to succeed inspired her. “When you have a parent who is an entrepreneur, you kind of have a stupid courage about it. You think, ‘Well, if they did it, I can do it too.'”
That mindset was especially helpful as she established herself in a male-dominated field. Never one to shy away from difficulty, Ramo saw sexism as a motivator. “I never let people judge me for the fact that I was young or a woman, or let them interfere with what I ultimately had to do — which was prove them wrong,” she said. “I didn’t allow [sexism] to be an excuse; I allowed it to be a challenge.”
Ramo has always marched to the beat of her own drum, even within entertainment law. She proudly calls herself “an advocate for creative people,” and is particularly passionate about collaborating with Indie filmmakers.
The result of her combined drive and focus is a unique company staffed mostly by women (though she does hire men as well). Each person she brings on board is a hire borne of her desire to surround herself with people who are “kind of counterculture.”
Going forward, the mother of one son (who turns 2 this August) sees an even bigger future for Ramo Law — but she wants to get there the smart way. “There are opportunities that present themselves every day. I think what is most important … is learning to say no, so that I’m completely open to say yes to things that are game-changers, that build our practice, that make us more profitable and a better firm.”
Why do you deserve to be on our Power List?
“My industry is highly competitive and male-dominated, yet I have been able to work my way into the entertainment industry by providing quality legal services and being who I am; by not accepting sexism or skepticism as an excuse, but rather, a challenge to do my job better. Along the way, I have mentored and supported women in my industry, [as well as] the independent film community.”