Our Zero-Tolerance Policy for Harmful Behavior
To Our Friends, Clients, and Business Partners:
Lewis Brisbois began more than 40 years ago with a belief in hiring the best possible lawyers and staff who reflect the communities in which they live and work. This foundational commitment has helped us hire, retain, and grow a diverse group of some of the most exceptional lawyers and staff in the business of law. It has earned us repeated recognition for our commitment to embracing diversity along with the trust of our longstanding clients, who share our beliefs and recognize the superior value that only a diverse team with a strong culture can deliver. We understand that a commitment to diversity requires action and continuous evolution—which we have lived out, in initiatives ranging from our pro bono representation of the family of George Floyd to our firmwide education campaign on pronouns. At the same time, that commitment has also required the firm to take swift, decisive, and transparent action when we become aware of behavior that does not reflect our values. Recently, the firm took such action in response to complaints about two former partners. Here, out of a belief in transparency and out of respect for our clients and partners, we outline what happened and what we are doing to move forward.
In mid-May of this year, our Management Committee received an anonymous complaint regarding two former partners, Jeffrey Ranen and John Barber. Pursuant to our policy and practice, the Management Committee undertook an investigation. The investigation results revealed deeply offensive emails between these two former partners pertaining to colleagues, clients, and other members of the legal community.
In an effort to act ethically, transparently, and responsibly, the Management Committee filed a complaint with the State Bar of California and released the findings of our investigation to the public. In doing so, we recognized that the disclosure would lead some to question how this conduct could have occurred at Lewis Brisbois in the first place. Despite the promise of a spotlight that no law firm would willingly seek, we felt, after much consideration, that disclosure was the most transparent and ethical course of action. We believe our record on diversity and workplace culture speaks for itself—and we have done our best to answer the reasonable, thoughtful questions that our clients and partners have raised, here and in ongoing conversations.
Some clients and partners have reasonably asked how this misconduct occurred without the knowledge of Lewis Brisbois’ leadership.
First, our investigation revealed that the offending behavior occurred almost exclusively over private correspondence between these two former partners. On the rare occasions where correspondence included others, they were either friends and family members of the two individuals or employees who are no longer with the firm. Until the recent investigation, our Management Committee had received no complaints about such behavior regarding these former partners, who had also maintained the respect of their clients and others in the legal community during their careers. Had we known about this unacceptable behavior at any point during their employment at Lewis Brisbois, we would have dismissed them with cause.
However, we are taking this opportunity to evaluate steps that we can take to help prevent such conduct from occurring in the future. This involves actively revisiting processes and protocols to detect, discourage, and mitigate this type of behavior, which we address in greater detail below.
Our Commitment and Next Steps
This has been a learning moment for Lewis Brisbois—one that we are embracing as an opportunity to demonstrate our values and strengthen our culture for the future.
Since the investigation, we have taken steps to safeguard our employees and firm culture, including:
- Appointing a firmwide ombudsperson. Chicago Partner Mary Smigielski will act as an objective advocate for fair process and administration, with an open-door policy for the entire firm. She will be a neutral party who will facilitate the informal resolution of significant concerns or conflicts of any firm attorney or staff member. The Ombudsperson will also facilitate discussions of whether policy changes may be called for and efforts to address complaints and concerns. The Ombudsperson will promote fair processes and consider the interests and concerns of both the party who reaches out for assistance and all concerned parties.
- Establishing a 1-800 call number for employees to file complaints and seek guidance through the firm's official Ombudsperson.
- Establishing a DEI Advisory Board. This board, comprising non-equity partners and associates, will act as an extension of our existing DEI Committee, expanding its range of perspectives, input, and ideas with a view toward increasing the DEI Committee’s effectiveness and enhancing its contributions to the firm’s overall DEI goals and initiatives.
- Expanding our existing firmwide DEI education initiative. We have long invested in programs and initiatives to inform and educate everyone at Lewis Brisbois regarding the values, practices, behaviors, and expectations inherent in the firm’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. These efforts have continuously evolved. To that end, the firm is expanding the DEI education program for all personnel, with new trainings on a monthly basis beginning July 24.
- Implementing software to monitor internal communications via email and chat platforms for inappropriate or offensive content.
- Retaining an independent DEI consultant to conduct a thorough, firmwide audit. This audit—which is already underway—involves extensive interviews with members of the Lewis Brisbois community from across the firm’s offices, including equity and non-equity partners, associates, and professional staff. The Management Committee is determined to learn from this audit and take any additional steps that it may recommend.
For any clients who have questions or wish to know more about these steps and efforts, please reach out directly to the partner serving you or to any of the members of our Management Committee, listed here. We will be happy to speak with you and members of your team to share more details and address any concerns.
Thank you for your continued trust and partnership.
Lewis Brisbois Management Committee
Gregory Katz: 212.232.1378 •. Greg.Katz@lewisbrisbois.com
Rima Badawiya: 909.386.3041 •. Rima.Badawiya@lewisbrisbois.com
Dana Alden Fox: 213.680.5104 •. Dana.Fox@lewisbrisbois.com
Michelle Gilboe: 612.428.5002. •. Michelle.Gilboe@lewisbrisbois.com
Charles Harris: 714.668.5501. •. Charles.Harris@lewisbrisbois.com
William Helfand: 832.460.4614. •. Bill.Helfand@lewisbrisbois.com
Craig Holden: 213.599.7818. •. Craig.Holden@lewisbrisbois.com
Alan Kaminsky: 212.232.1340. •. Alan.Kaminsky@lewisbrisbois.com
Eric Kizirian: 213.580.3981. •. Eric.Kizirian@lewisbrisbois.com
Robert Lewis: 213.680.5000. •. Robert.Lewis@lewisbrisbois.com
Steven Lewis: 213.680.5041. •. Steve.Lewis@lewisbrisbois.com
Jana Lubert: 213.680.5075. •. Jana.Lubert@lewisbrisbois.com
Michael Platner: 954.828.0350. •. Michael.Platner@lewisbrisbois.com
R. Gaylord (Bob) Smith: 619.699.4975. •. Bob.Smith@lewisbrisbois.com
Kathleen Walker: 213.680.5199. •. Kathleen.Walker@lewisbrisbois.com