Bigotry Upends L.A. Law Firm Startup

Thom Weidlich 06.08.23


Talk about a debut! Last month, about 130 lawyers left a major Los Angeles-based law firm to launch what they called “the largest law firm startup in U.S. history.” But now the new firm is under fire because of the unearthing of shocking emails by the two name partners, who have already been forced to resign.

John Barber and Jeff Ranen led the mass exodus from 1,600-lawyer Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP to open the new outfit called Barber Ranen. Last weekend, emails by Barber and Ranen started coming out from their time at Lewis Brisbois, some going back more than a decade, that contain truly vile racist, misogynistic, homophobic and antisemitic language. We won’t repeat any of it here. Take our word for it: It’s bad. Really bad.

On Monday, several news outlets reported that Barber and Ranen had agreed to resign from the new venture — you know, the one with their names on the shingle.

‘True Values’

It’s a crisis that several factions have to deal with. Obviously Barber and Ranen will have to do something to try to rebuild their reputations. “The last 72 hours have been the most difficult of our lives, as we have had to acknowledge and reckon with those emails,” the pair said in a statement Monday, according to the New York Post. “They are not, in any way, reflections of the contents of our hearts, or our true values.”

Two mistakes in that statement. One, it’s not about how difficult your actions have made your lives, so don’t even mention it. Two, given the extensive vile comments going back years, very few people will believe they don’t represent your “true values.”


We will form a new firm.

     — Barber Ranen CEO Tim Graves

As for the new law firm, its launch garnered some pretty good press over the past month. That’s wasted now. Obviously, it needs to change its name — and even so, it will take a lot to rebrand from “the law firm started by two bigots.” Perhaps it should double down on the pro bono work.

Disappointment, Disdain

“We will form a new firm,” its CEO, Tim Graves, said in a statement on its website. He said the remaining partners “express their disappointment and disdain for the language Mr. Barber and Mr. Ranen used.”

Finally, there’s Lewis Brisbois. Yes, the partners in question have left, but the despicable behavior occurred while they were there. Many of the emails were reportedly sent to others at the firm. What does that say for its culture? It told the Forward it’s reviewing correspondence between the two and interviewing employees who interacted with them. “We are deeply troubled by their use of prejudiced language and racial and cultural slurs,” Lewis Brisbois’ leader said in a statement, according to the Forward.

The New York Post broke the story of the emails on Saturday, June 3, and the Forward did its article June 5. Both reported that they got the emails from Lewis Brisbois. That was a bold if risky move. A dish of revenge served hot?

Photo Credit: GoodFocused/Shutterstock

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