As a part of our Legal Trailblazers special issue, we sat down with attorney Salman Bhojani, the owner of Bhojani Law. In his legal practice, he focuses on helping small businesses and individuals with their legal needs in real estate, business law, and estate planning, provides title insurance and real estate closing services. Bhojani was recently elected to the Texas State House, and is a former member of the City Council of Euless, Texas.
AALM: What first sparked your interest in becoming a lawyer? What is the story behind that?
SB: I originally did not want to be a lawyer. I went to school with the intention of becoming a doctor, but after my professor showed us a video of the internal body organs of humans, I became sick in my second-year pre-med class. When I moved to the United States at the age of 19, I was working three minimum-wage jobs to support myself and my family, all while studying MIS at the University of Texas at Dallas. I eventually purchased four gas stations before changing fields (again!) to attend Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law in the evenings.
AALM: Share with us your immigration story and the beginning of your career.
SB: I was born in Pakistan and immigrated to Texas when I was 19 years old. I got my first job making $6 an hour cleaning gas station bathrooms and stocking shelves. I had to work at three different stores because no one would give me more than 40 hours a week. But I was a very hard worker, and was promoted to cashier, then manager, and eventually owned multiple gas stations in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.
AALM: How did you come from a small business owner-purchasing convenience stores to earning a law degree?
SB: As a small business owner, I felt my community and colleagues were not setting up their business properly, they were not drafting contracts when partnering with others, and they were not getting the critical advice of attorneys to set themselves up for entrepreneurial success. This lack of legal guidance caused many entrepreneurs to get into disputes with their partners, vendors, employees, and even family members. I saw how thriving businesses failed because two brothers—who never put their agreements in writing—would fight over business issues because they each had their own vision for their business.
Oftentimes, partners got into business without a written agreement. After one partner passed away, the other would leave the estate of the first partner out of any business profit. I quickly realized that the lack of a written, unambiguous agreement was the single most important contributor to failure of many businesses—despite having all the other important ingredients of entrepreneurial success. Having gained the business acumen through my entrepreneurial journey, I felt I was ready to take on the challenge of studying law and helping other business owners successfully navigate the legal issues they faced.
AALM: Tell us about the challenges you overcame to earn your degree.
SB: I attended SMU Law School during my evenings while operating my gas stations during the day. This was a four-year degree instead of three. My daily schedule started at 6 AM, working at the gas stations. I would leave for SMU at 5 PM, and I would attend classes from 6 PM until 9:45 PM. I’d get home at 11 PM with no time to spend with family, catch up on sleep, or do anything that might qualify as “fun” or “relaxing.”
For the next four years, it was wash, rinse and repeat! Despite my busy schedule, I was able to complete 11 internships and other opportunities, such as briefing cases for Late Justice Scalia and Professor Bryan Garner for their book, Reading Law; writing an article about ghostwriting, which was published in the SMU Law Review. My internships included SMU Small Business Clinic, U.S. Immigration Court in Dallas, U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Dallas, Fifth District Court of Appeals, Department of Health & Human Services, U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, Anderson & Tobin (small law firm), Haynes & Boone (large law firm) and teaching assistant to a legal writing professor. I was also grateful to have the opportunity to study the UK Constitution Law at the University College of the Oxford University in Oxford, UK during the summer of 2010.
AALM: How has your time as a lawyer changed your perspective on law?
SB: My time as a lawyer has only solidified my belief that small businesses often miss the opportunity to structure their businesses for success because they either can’t afford attorneys, don’t have access to them, or don’t value that perspective as much as they should. At Bhojani Law, we routinely do Lunch & Learn sessions to educate the community about issues that impact businesses and individuals in real estate, business law and estate planning.
AALM: Did you have any teachers or mentors who helped you prepare for law school?
SB: Absolutely! I am the product of hundreds of well wishers who have shared their wisdom with me, which is the reason for my success. Dean Martin Camp, Professor Bryan Garner, Professor Beverly Dureus, and Professor Marc Steinberg are examples of teachers who took me under their wing and made me into a practicing attorney. Mentors like Sakina Rasheed Foster, Jameel Habib, and hundreds of other community members encouraged me to persevere through the four years that culminated in me working at the largest law firm in North Texas. I can’t forget the most important people, without whom I would never have been able to complete my law school journey – my best friend and wife, Nima Bhojani, my brilliant and wonderful kids, Aarish and Raisha, and my supportive parents, Sultan and Yasmin.
AALM: How does it feel to be one of the first Muslims and the first South Asians ever elected to the Texas Legislature and the first person of color to represent House District 92?
SB: Being one of the first South Asians and First Muslims ever elected to the Texas Legislature—I’m incredibly proud to be the first, but I definitely don’t want to be the last. My passion is to build a pipeline of young, diverse people to provide all of us the best representation we can get from the local, state and federal government.
Personally, I can already see a change happening in my community. After my election to Euless City Council in 2018, I was approached by Zo Quadri. He told me that I was the first “Muslim protagonist” he had ever seen on TV, and that I had inspired him to run for local office. This past November, he was elected to Austin City Council.
This honor does not just belong to myself. It belongs to the Muslim community who will see one of their own walk the halls of the State Capitol, it belongs to our immigrant communities, whose children will hear their stories echoed by their elected officials in the House chamber. It belongs to all Texans who will benefit from a new perspective at the decision-making table.
AALM: How do you plan to support future generations of lawyers? What more do you hope to accomplish in the future?
SB: Lawyers understand our laws more intimately than any other professionals. I hope to inspire young lawyers to run for elected office and give back to our community. I hope to provide a unique perspective to attorneys in my community so they can expand their practice areas and continue to be successful. I plan to speak at various legal events to share my American Dream story so the next generation can dream big like I did when I came to this country.
Sometimes, the biggest obstacle we have to overcome is ourselves and how we think. I’ve been victim to only taking the safe route. But I’ve been more successful when stepping outside my comfort zone to achieve something I could never have imagined. I hope to inspire the future generations of lawyers to do the same.
There’s so much I want to accomplish as an attorney, as a small business owner, and now as a freshmen state representative, I look forward to providing meaningful representation to my constituents and my community. The issues I’m focusing on are improving our strong economy with good paying jobs; ensuring we have access to quality healthcare; building world-class schools; ensuring we protect religious freedom; and integrating technology into multiple sectors across Texas.
AALM: Is there anything you would like to add?
SB: The legal profession has opened up so many doors for me and I hope that other people pursue it to fulfill their passions and change the world in the process.