Image 01 Image 02 Image 03

At Big Law Firms, Voicing Disfavored Opinions And Inconvenient Facts Is Dangerous to Your Career

At Big Law Firms, Voicing Disfavored Opinions And Inconvenient Facts Is Dangerous to Your Career

Hogan Lovells fires retired partner for stating hard truths about abortion in the black community.

Legal practice isn’t immune from the currents of speech suppression sweeping across the United States. If a professional conduct rule promoted by the American Bar Association is upheld in federal circuit court, suppression of unpopular speech may become even more common.

Robin Keller might as well have stepped on a land mine when she joined a “safe space” call for women at Washington’s Hogan Lovells law firm to discuss the Dobbs abortion decision. Keller, a retired equity partner still serving clients, made the mistake of expressing her honest opinion.

I noted that many jurists and commentators believed Roe [v. Wade] had been wrongly decided. I said that the court was right to remand the issue to the states. I added that I thought abortion-rights advocates had brought much of the pushback against Roe on themselves by pushing for extreme policies. I referred to numerous reports of disproportionately high rates of abortion in the black community, which some have called a form of genocide. I said I thought this was tragic.

Whoa! A woman defended the legal merits of Dobbs, criticized the politics surrounding abortion, and correctly noted that abortion rates in the black community were disproportionately high.

The response was, sadly, predictable:

The outrage was immediate. The next speaker called me a racist and demanded that I leave the meeting. Other participants said they “lost their ability to breathe” on hearing my comments…

Someone made a formal complaint to the firm. Later that day, Hogan Lovells suspended my contracts, cut off my contact with clients, removed me from email and document systems, and emailed all U.S. personnel saying that a forum participant had made “anti-Black comments” and was suspended pending an investigation. The firm also released a statement to the legal website Above the Law bemoaning the devastating impact my views had on participants in the forum—most of whom were lawyers participating in a call convened expressly for the purpose of discussing a controversial legal and political topic. Someone leaked my name to the press.

I filed my own complaint with the firm’s general counsel’s office alleging that the firm and those who had attacked me on the call had violated the company’s antiharassment policy by publicly labeling me a racist. Hogan Lovells hired another firm to conduct an outside investigation. Three weeks later I received a letter stating that the firm had concluded that my reference to comments labeling black abortion rates genocide was a violation of the antiharassment policy. Never mind that this view has been expressed by numerous mainstream commentators, black and white, including in these pages. My complaint was dismissed…

Let’s recap: for expressing facts and her honest opinion in a “safe space,” a woman – a semi-retired partner, no less – was branded a racist who made “anti-Black comments” that “violated the company’s antiharassment policy.” She was then fired from her firm.

This type of ideological persecution isn’t unique within the legal community. After triumphing in a Supreme Court case involving Second Amendment rights, Paul Clement and Erin Murphy were forced out by their now-former firm. Kirkland & Ellis told them to stop representing Second Amendment plaintiffs or find another firm. They set up their own shop instead.

Other firms have received massive pushback from associates for taking on or continuing to represent the politically incorrect. These new lawyers question the idea that every person is entitled to legal representation, the very foundation undergirding our adversary system. Remember how the bar praised itself for bravely taking on the U.S. government to represent purported terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay? Those days are done.

Keller wasn’t pushed out for representing the wrong people, but for expressing the wrong opinions and facts. In particular, her factual statement that abortion rates within the black community are disproportionately high earned her the title of an anti-black racist.

Instead of being the adults in the room, the legal establishment has been jumping on the ‘anti-racism’ bandwagon. Several states have adopted an ABA Model Rule (8.4) prohibiting lawyers from “conduct” (read, “speech”) that’s discriminatory or harassing. Several states followed the ABA’s lead and adopted the rule into their rules of professional conduct for attorneys.

One of them was Pennsylvania. A Pennsylvania lawyer filed a federal lawsuit, claiming it violated his free speech and due process rights. The judge agreed and held the rule unconstitutional. The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which enforces professional conduct rules, appealed the ruling, and it is currently before the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

LIF filed an amicus brief in support of the lawyer challenging the rule. As we noted in our brief:

In the name of “protecting” community members from so-called discrimination or harassment, universities have sanctioned faculty merely for discussing racial classifications and hate speech. For example:

  • Princeton University castigated its now-former professor Joshua Katz as a “race-baiter” for publicly opposing a set of DEI demands that included race-conscious admissions and faculty hiring. Ultimately, Princeton fired Katz after resurrecting a misconduct matter for which he had already served a disciplinary sanction…
  • University of Pennsylvania Law School Dean Theodore Ruger is trying to discipline, if not sack, Professor Amy Wax because of her public critique of what she characterizes as the contemporary “obsession with race, ethnicity, gender, and now sexual preference.” Ruger characterized Wax’s statements as showing a: callous and flagrant disregard for our University community—including students, faculty, and staff—who have been repeatedly subjected to Wax’s intentional and incessant racist, sexist, xenophobic, and homophobic actions and statements. Ruger also complained that: Wax’s conduct inflicts harm on them and the institution and undermines the University’s core values. Wax has made these statements in the classroom and on campus, in other academic settings, and in public forums in which she was identified as a University of Pennsylvania professor.

Katz and Wax were publicly branded as racists by their own universities for their public critiques of race-conscious policy (citations omitted).

Katz isn’t a lawyer. Wax is, but wasn’t charged under the rule of professional conduct at issue in the Third Circuit case. Still, this is the kind of persecution we can expect under the rule.

Should the Third Circuit reverse the district court and conclude that Rule 8.4 doesn’t violate the Constitution, we can expect a lot more lawyers like Keller and Wax to be tagged as “racists” for stating facts and expressing opinions about current events that challenge today’s political verities. Their law firms or law schools won’t even have to lift a finger. All it will take is an offended listener snitching on them to the disciplinary board. The latter will do the rest.

DONATE

Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.

Comments

There are no merits to the Dobbs decision. Alito et al drafted a legal sylllogism that is a non sequitur, that misrepresents the rule and relevant precedent, that cherry picks and misrepresents the history and law of abortion here and in the UK, and it makes demonstrably false assertions such as 50 years of reliance is insufficient to establish a reliance interest. In due time, Dobbs will be thrown on the trash heap of wrongly decided cases along with Dred Scott and Korimatsu.

    Gooooood Job, Comrade!!

    Treguard in reply to Juris Doctor. | December 4, 2022 at 6:21 pm

    Tell me you haven’t read the Dobbs decision without saying it explicitly.

    guyjones in reply to Juris Doctor. | December 4, 2022 at 8:22 pm

    You speak of “merits” — enlighten us as to the “merits” that underpin Roe. You can’t, because Roe — like Obergefell and other rotten fruits of immodest Dumb-o-crat activists on the federal bench — isn’t grounded in even a scintilla of enlightened jurisprudence or constitutional supports, but, rather, judicial fiat, contrivance, narcissism and caprice.

    BierceAmbrose in reply to Juris Doctor. | December 4, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    The ghost of The Notorious RBG begs to differ, as she did repeatedly when alive.

    And, yes, those “Ruth Sent Us” folks were unintentionally hilarious. Ruth sent you to object to rolling back a decision she, herself had called “bad law” and a “bad decision?” Maybe get yourself a MacBook and go “occupy” Wall Street to protest corporatism?

    BierceAmbrose in reply to Juris Doctor. | December 4, 2022 at 10:21 pm

    Taking for the sake of argument — that’s a thing lawyers do — that Roe is sound in both reasoning and findings, what else can we do with that penumbral “right to privacy.” It’s been precedent for a while, with people coming to “rely on it”, so…

    — People’s vaccination status?
    — Their arbitrary electronic communications, location, whatever?
    — Financial transactions, or the other side’s records of mutual transactions?

    I, myself would like a declared “right to privacy” stated in actual words, since the Feds seem to be random about what it is and when it applies. Some clarity would be nice.

    The right to abortion is not in the Constitution: game, set, match. Everything sequitur, sorry for your effort in sophistry.

“Robin Keller might as well have stepped on a land mine when she joined a “safe space” call for women”

Suckerrrrrrrr. They told you it was a safe space, and you believed them!
Here’s a tip, princess: don’t talk to cops, either. They lie even worse than lawyers.

    Dimsdale in reply to henrybowman. | December 5, 2022 at 7:54 am

    Higher education and K-12 are festering pits of CRT, socialism and transpromotion that are turning out these mind numbed robots, these useful idiots, that are now rising into the upper levels of business, government and academia. Pile on ESG and “diversity training” (read it: brainwashing), and you have a perfect storm of the destruction of this country and the rise of socialism.

    Communist China writ not so small.

    Exactly! Hereinafter to be referred to as “Flounder, Esq.”

    Think38 in reply to henrybowman. | December 5, 2022 at 10:49 am

    A “safe place” call is one for like-minded people to vent. Intellectual debate or input is not welcome in such an environment. Of course, only certain groups and views are permitted to have a safe place call to begin with. Others, not so much.

“In particular, her factual statement that abortion rates within the black community are disproportionately high earned her the title of an anti-black racist.”

The stating of factual statements, which reveal uncomfortable truths showing leftist “favored” in negative lights, is the crime. Not the underlying truth, but the bringing out of the truth.

Dozens of examples could be given, but the treatment of Islam (a leftist favored “religion” though it is simply a harsh political system) and Muslim behavior stands out. Their core books undeniably* hold that non-Muslims can/must be held in inferior status, sometimes to the point of being killed.

* but Muslim apologists will of course deny

Subotai Bahadur | December 4, 2022 at 8:26 pm

Like in any collectivist authoritarian system [and that is what we are rapidly becoming] if invited to what are in fact what the Left calls “self-criticism” sessions, you have to be very wary. The two purposes of said sessions are to compel obedience to the party line, and to reveal those who do not automatically agree with the party line. They are marking themselves out for a purge later.

Subotai Bahadur

    BierceAmbrose in reply to Subotai Bahadur. | December 4, 2022 at 10:25 pm

    Too true. It’s worse than that, even…

    How does an experienced, senior lawyer go into a power and positioning meeting without knowing that? These things are never called that. Learn to read the room.

      Dimsdale in reply to BierceAmbrose. | December 5, 2022 at 7:58 am

      Never go by the flowery names leftists put on their programs or legislation. Like their projection, it is usually a false mask, a sting operation, for a socialist operation.

    BierceAmbrose in reply to Subotai Bahadur. | December 4, 2022 at 10:36 pm

    If you must get some inconvenient truth on the table, the game is to get the power in the room to say it. What, exactly and how are situational. And don’t bother unless you have a reason of your own — these are not about solving a problem, understanding a situation, or reviewing results.

    Whatever the event, before you walk in repeat The Modified Animal Farm Motto, The Mark’s Maxim, and The Penn Jillette Game.

    “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others (and iff you don’t know who is more equal, it ain’t you.)”

    “If you don’t see the sucker at the poker table, the sucker is you.”

    and

    “Of course I don’t play at the casinos. Why would I want to play somebody else’s game?”

If groupthink causes law firms to deliberately dumb themselves down, wouldn’t that make it easier for free thinking, non dumbed down law firms, (and others,) to win against them?

Once the killing of unborn babies is actively advocated, there cannot be any basic morality left. The rest of the world is just a series of rationalizations, favoring convience.

Only in the leftist world losing “their ability to breathe” is relevant among lawyers: it’s truly a generation of wimps.

Scott Cousins | December 5, 2022 at 8:08 am

Robin Keller is a friend of mine. She is one of the reasons I became a bankruptcy lawyer. I know the quality of her character and I know that she is not a “racist.”

Interestingly enough, I’m getting emails from others (both inside the legal community and outside) from those who are afraid to speak out publicly in support of Robin for fear of being called a “racist” and being “canceled.”

Finally, the point she was making was one made by Justice Thomas in 2019. In Box v. Planned Parenthood, the Supreme Court denied certiorari on the question as to whether “Indiana may prohibit the knowing provision of sex-, race-, and disability-selective abortions by abortion providers,” because the issue had not “been considered by additional Courts of Appeals” other than the Seventh Circuit. In his concurrence, Justice Thomas wrote:

The use of abortion to achieve eugenic goals is not merely hypothetical. The foundations for legalizing abortion in America were laid during the early 20th-century birth-control movement. That movement developed alongside the American eugenics movement. And significantly, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger recognized the eugenic potential of her cause. She emphasized and embraced the notion that birth control “opens the way to the eugenist.” Sanger, Birth Control and Racial Betterment, Birth Control Rev., Feb. 1919, p. 12 (Racial Betterment). As a means of reducing the “ever increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all,” Sanger argued that “Birth Control . . . is really the greatest and most truly eugenic method” of “human generation.” M. Sanger, Pivot of Civilization 187, 189 (1922) (Pivot of Civilization). In her view, birth control had been “accepted by the most clear thinking and far seeing of the Eugenists themselves as the most constructive and necessary of the means to racial health.” Id., at 189.

Think about the title of Sanger’s article “Birth Control and Racial Betterment.” Now tell me who’s the racist here?

    henrybowman in reply to Scott Cousins. | December 6, 2022 at 1:34 am

    “Interestingly enough, I’m getting emails from others (both inside the legal community and outside) from those who are afraid to speak out publicly in support of Robin for fear of being called a “racist” and being “canceled.”

    Anyone who wants to know why conservatives are losing the social contest, here it is.
    We are cowards.
    We are afraid to speak up, to organize, to show the left that our ideas have adherence, to take a stand for what we believe.
    It’s easy for society to infer that our beliefs are shallow, because we don’t act on them.
    Compare this to how the left does things.
    Say what you like about Sam Brinton—he may have many faults, but cowardice is not one of them.

It’s not only a problem with “big law,” but the entire legal field, whether academia, bar organizations, or government. Even in deep red states during the Trump era, everyone below the US Atty and first assistant are leftists. It is the mid-level managers who provide a list of people to the USAO on who to hire, and in the legal profession, it is very easy to rationalize why someone is better or worse than another.

Keller raised excellent and intellectually honest talking points and lost her job for it. Paul Clement defended the 2A successfully and left the firm where he was a partner as a result. It is an understatement to say that law schools have gone full tilt woke in their perspectives

kudos to the lady for stating the facts–was fortunate to be raised by a generation of men and women who settled their differences face-to-face, in person and if an agreement could not be reached only then would they resort to the decision of a “court”

were a client of keller’s firm, would dismiss them immediately–any serious business that would fire a member of her stature and intelligence(let alone character) because some participant “couldn’t breathe” as a result of hearing her opinion/take on an issue or the juvenile whinings/name calling of other juvenile “professionals” on hearing the same certainly lacks the judgment / management ability to make any critical decisions regarding MY business

Do any of the lawyers who “lost their ability to breathe” ever litigate in court? I’m sure opposing counsel would love to know…