December 31, 1933 - May 27, 2015
Hillel Chodos, a leading California trial lawyer, who during his 53-year career handled over a thousand trial cases and hundreds of appeals, died May 27, 2015, at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 81.
After graduating from UCLA Law School in 1961, Hillel immediately opened a solo practice. Hillel frequently took cases from clients who could not afford to pay him, but eventually became one of the highest hourly paid lawyers in Los Angeles, handling litigation in the areas of business, entertainment and insurance. During his lengthy career, Hillel represented celebrities, well-known musicians and political figures, yet still took time to mentor young lawyers -- including three of his four children who followed him into the law. Still, he often gave legal advice to friends and neighbors without ever asking for compensation.
Hillel was born in New York City on December 31, 1933, to Israel Chodos, a rabbi, and the former Judith Wolfert. He attended Yeshiva as a teen where he was recognized as a brilliant student. At the age of 14, he was admitted to the University of Chicago, where he graduated with a B.A. in English in two years. At age 16, he entered the University of Oklahoma, working toward a Ph.D. in English. There he met Hattie Jeanne Paul, who became his first wife. They later moved to Los Angeles, where Hillel supported his family by selling life insurance, but he soon realized that law was his calling.
Hillel found his greatest joy - and greatest success - in trying cases to a jury. He secured well over $150 million in jury verdicts. He worked long hours every day, including most weekends. His most passionate desire was to turn things upside down, to achieve results that no one dreamed could be achieved, and he often did.
Hillel is recognized as the co-founder of the alternative dispute resolution process known as "rent-a-judge," which helps clients avoid court delays. He also served on the California Commission on Judicial Performance and was a founding member of the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers. In his rare leisure time, Hillel loved to go out on his sailboat and listen to classical music.
Survivors include his wife, Joyce Kidd Chodos, his children, Deborah, Jonathan, Michael and Ethan; his step-sons, Emmett and Ian Kidd; his brothers Gabriel, Rafael and Daniel; six grandchildren and one step-grandchild.
Published in Los Angeles Times on Sep. 4, 2015.