Is The DLA Piper Sexual Harassment Case The Legal Community’s Harvey Weinstein Scandal That I’ve Been Predicting? Sure Looks like It…

For almost two years, I’ve been telling my ethics training attendees at bar associations and law firms that their profession has a serious sexual harassment problem, that there are many Harvey Weinstein, Esq,s out there, and the arrival of a major big law firm scandal or ten is inevitable.

Earlier this month, I wrote about the emerging sexual harassment controversy at DLA Piper,  the largest law firm in the world. Vanina Guerrero, a junior partner at  Piper, alleged that Louis Lehot, a notable “rainmaking” partner of long-standing who  pursued her,  groped her, and then retaliated when she rejected his advances. I wrote in part,

The kind of harassment she alleges is not the kind of behavior that is a secret, whether it occurs in a law firm in Hollywood, on a morning news show, on a TV production set or in an opera company, just to name some familiar locales. She says that the partner who recruited her had groped or kissed her on four occasions, and through her attorney’s supplemental filing with the EEOC, that the partner “regularly throws temper tantrums in and out of the office,” and no one at the law firm has reined him in.

There is now more information regarding this story. None of it proves that Lehot was a sexual harasser taking advantage of his power in the law firm to intimidate and abuse women for his own enjoyment, or that DLA Piper’s management  enabled him by applying the King’s Pass, concomitantly creating a toxic culture at the firm, so everything still has to be followed by the magic qualifier, “alleged.” Still, the signs are ominous: Continue reading

Never Mind, Ms. Guerrero: Hillary Clinton Says You Should Just “Get Over It”

Vanina Guerrero, a junior partner at mega-law firm DLA Piper, has alleged that a rainmaking partner who recruited her to the firm pursued and groped her, and then retaliated when she rejected his advances.

“I experienced such horrific conduct at the hands of a senior male partner and deserve to openly litigate my claims,” she wrote in a letter. The problem is that she is bound by her agreement with the firm to submit the dispute to binding arbitration.

A “rainmaker,” eh? That rang a bell…YES! Here’s a post, “Tales Of The King’s Pass: The Rainmakers,” I wrote last year about the typical attitudes on major law firms when protecting female staff against sexually abusive partners who make a lot of money for the other lawyers. I wrote in part, in revulsion over an ABA Journal article about how a sensible firm with a harassing but lucrative partner had to “balance’ considerations…

[T]he consultant begins quoting another ethics-lite law firm consultant. Apparently they are all like this. He says that…

“…most firms tolerate rainmakers’ abusive behavior unless it threatens something essential in the firm’s culture. Peters says firms must draw a line when the “fabric of the firm” is at risk. “The firm must win. No one, not even a rainmaker, can be allowed to destroy the fabric of the firm.”

That’s the standard? Destroying the firm? I think what this Authentic Frontier Gibberish means is that when a rainmaker does so much internal damage to the organization that even all the money he or she brings in won’t make up for it, that abusive rainmaker has to go. Talk about a low bar! “We’ll let you get away with just about anything since you make us so much money, but just don’t destroy the firm.”

It sound like DLA Piper’s management read the ABA Journal’s “How to justify keeping harassers around when they make you a lot of money” guide. Guerrero says she reported the situation to Sang Kim, one of the leaders of DLA’s Northern California offices. He said that it sounded like a he-said, she-said situation, and she should “talk it out” with four senior partners, including the partner she accused. That’s a common dodge. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Astounding Yet Predictable Hypocrisy Of Connecticut Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty

The abuser and his enabler, who is also a devoted champion of protecting women in the workplace for male predators unless the particular predator is useful to her.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn) was quick to demand the Rep. John Conyers resign when the facts surfaced of his habitual sexual harassment of staff and other women. She backed the shaming and eviction of Minnesota Senator Al Franken, another Democrat, based on allegations of sexual misconduct. She has been a vocal  champion of the #MeToo movement on Capitol Hill.

But it has all been posturing, for Esty doesn’t embrace the actual principles of It’s Time or #MeToo. Like so many other employers, businesses and cultures, like NBC, CBS, Hollywood, the Weinstein Company, the Metropolitan Opera, the Trump White House, and, of course, the Catholic Church, Esty believes  that sexual harassment and sexual abuse are unacceptable and a reason to point fingers and level accusations when someone else does it, enables it or ignores it, but when the abusive employee is your own and is a “high performer,” as in “a star,” it’s different somehow.

When she learned that her own valuable Congressional aide, chief of staff Tony Baker, had engaged in harassment and abuse of Esty’s own female staff members, Esty moved to protect Baker rather than the women. He was not dismissed from his position until three full months after his wrongful and illegal conduct was known to her, continuing to work with the same women he had threatened.  Then she signed a non-disclosure agreement and paid him $5000, while also writing a glowing recommendation so he could be free to harass women someplace else. Baker got himself employed  by Sandy Hook Promise, a gun control group, which dismissed him after the full story of the reasons behind his leaving Esty’s staff came out last week.

“You better fucking reply to me or I will fucking kill you,” Baker had said  in a voice mail message to Estes aide Anna Kain. Kain was granted a restraining order against Baker after she signed a sworn affidavit that the Esty chief of staff punched and threatened to kill her. This and more was still not enough for Rep. Esty to see her way to firing him. Woke is apparently not the same as “awake.” Or sincere. Continue reading

Tales Of The King’s Pass: The Rainmakers

Are you also an asshole? Because if you’re enough of a rainmaker, you can be as big an asshole as you want!!!!

Wow. You don’t get much more cynical than this.

Here’ s Karen Kaplowitz, the founder of The New Ellis Group, and a business development strategist and coach for over 20 years, essentially denying the existence of ethics and integrity in law firms as a business necessity.  In a piece on the ABA Journal titled Abuse of power within law firms: The rainmaker dilemma, she begins,

Despite their obvious economic value to their organizations, Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein were quickly sacked. Law firms by contrast have often tolerated bad actors who are major rainmakers. Can law firms tolerate abusive rainmakers in the current business climate? Do firms need to be more aggressive about confronting abuses of power?

Can they tolerate abusive rainmakers, in this or any other business climate? Sure they can. Should they? Absolutely not. “Do firms need to be more aggressive about confronting abuses of power?” What? Does this question have to be asked?

Kaplowitz goes on..
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