After seasoned labor and employment attorneys John Barber and Jeffrey Ranen left 1600 lawyer Lewis Brisbois, taking nearly 140 attorneys with them in May 2023, Lewis Brisbois got the last laugh by releasing emails between Barber and Ranen over the last decade consisting of racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and highly misogynistic comments about others with whom they worked contrary to the advice they give their own clients.
From experienced California employment attorney Lisa Sherman, here’s what to know about what happened with these attorneys.
Employment Attorneys Used Company Emails Used for Racist, Sexist, and Other Offensive Emails
The emails released revealed a plethora of offensive terminology from the attorneys.
Women were repeatedly referred to as “c*nts;” a judge was dubbed “sugar tits;” an email about a baby shower used the n-word spelled out as its subject line; men were denigrated as “f*gg*ts;” in discussing an employee who requested overtime, Barber wrote to “kill her by anal penetration.”
In 2012, Ranen wrote that they would not hire Jewish people and described how he “almost only” emailed opposing counsel, an observant Jew, on Sabbath, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to answer. In that same year, Ranen noted to Barber that another partner had huge tits; the female partner has since joined them at the new firm. Incredibly, Ranen emailed his partner, “you need to be way more careful with what you put in writing,” to which Barber replied, “I’m sure you’re right. Pot-Kettle-Black.”
Even more embarrassing is that they extolled their “no jerk” policies and emphasized that their new law firm will focus on culture and excellence.
As soon as these emails were released to the world, a firestorm was ignited.
What Backlash Could These Employment Attorneys Receive?
Barber and Ranen immediately resigned and will likely face discipline from the California State Bar which may result in disbarment, and the firm has now renamed itself Daugherty Lordan.
The emails also show that over the years a few lawyers were copied on the offensive emails, which begs the question why a bunch of employment attorneys did not respond as they would advise their own clients. Perhaps the power imbalance between these subordinate lawyers and these two powerful partners made it difficult to do so.
Lewis Brisbois reports that the firm had received an anonymous complaint about their behavior which launched the investigation that uncovered the emails. The Management committee stated that it felt it had a moral obligation to be transparent about the emails as soon as possible, after consulting an ethics expert who advised them to go public and retain a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant. Significantly, Lewis Brisbois did not just dump a decade full of emails; they took the time to index the highly offensive ones so reporters could find them quickly.
Will Barber and Ranen claim that they have been defamed and their privacy violated by the release? It is hard to imagine a case where they used firm email – which they know was not private – and advise their clients the same thing.
Contact California Employment Attorney Lisa Sherman Today
For additional information or wish to seek employment counsel, please contact Lisa Sherman for a free consultation at (323)488-2087 or at Lisa@sherm-law.com.