Over two years ago K&L Gates founded the “Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project” which has dozens of lawyers at the firm volunteering their time, under the leadership of David Bateman, a partner in the firm’s Seattle office, and Elisa D’Amico, partner in the Miami office.
More systemic changes are in the works, according to The New Yorker, “partly in response to arguments by Goldberg and others.” Kamala Harris, the former Attorney General of California who was just elected to the US Senate, convened a task force last year of tech companies, law enforcement, and anti-revenge-porn advocates who recommended new policies which major online firms began adopting—as simple as providing an online form to allow victims to request content be deleted short of filing a formal copyright infringement claim. Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook prohibited “involuntary pornography” early last year and Instagram, Google, Bing, and Yahoo weren’t far behind. Search engines even began “de-indexing” revenge porn, meaning it can’t be found through a search on the victim’s name (though the absolute URL may still be live).
A solution? No. A good start? Absolutely.
Story #2 is The New York Times’ report, “Gun Control Advocates Find a Deep-Pocketed Ally in Big Law:”
After the Orlando nightclub massacre and a string of other mass shootings, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Covington & Burling; Arnold & Porter; and four other prominent law firms formed a coalition with gun control groups that until now have worked largely on their own. Together, the firms are committing tens of millions of dollars in free legal services from top corporate lawyers who typically bill clients $1,000 an hour or more.
This effort is highly unusual in its scale. Although law firms often donate time to individual causes, and some firms have worked on gun control on a piecemeal basis, the number and the prominence of the firms involved in the new coalition are unheard-of for modern-day big law. Other firms are expected to join in the coming months.
The coalition intends to focus on state and regulatory agencies rather than trying to mount a full-frontal assault into the teeth of very strong political headwinds at the national level. And the founders state forthrightly that they have no intent of attacking the Second Amendment directly:
“Those of us working on this effort recognize that the Second Amendment is an important part of our Constitution, and we don’t take issue with responsible gun owners,” said Brad D. Brian, co-managing partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson. But he added, “There is an epidemic of gun violence in this country, and the law can save innocent lives without infringing constitutional rights.”
Richard M. Alexander, the chairman of Arnold & Porter, called the coalition an effective way of “addressing the worsening scourge of gun violence that plagues this country.”
Brad S. Karp, the chairman of Paul, Weiss, first alluded to the coalition in an email to colleagues just hours after the Orlando nightclub tragedy: “It is in our DNA to act when we see injustice,” referring to the firm’s work on same-sex marriage.
Since it was just born, it would be pointless to predict how successful this coalition may be, but certainly the intellectual horsepower behind the effort is unprecedented.
This issue and this initiative may be new, but lawyers’ involvement at the forefront of social issues is a time-honored tradition we seem to have lost sight of lately. It’s time to restore our claim to it.
Just yesterday the death of Robert Douglass (Dartmouth BA, Cornell Law JD), a long-time advisor to the Rockefellers, was reported, at his home in Greenwich at age 85, just one year after he retired. The name may mean little to you, but he was a quintessential force for imaginative and constructive public/private engagement, something lawyers used to excel at and could well again. Among other things, he:
- Was counsel to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller for seven years (Teddy White described him as “the ablest of the Rockefeller [advisers]” in his “Making of the President” book series);
- Was General Counsel and Vice Chairman of Chase Bank;
- Chaired the Alliance for Downtown New York, the largest self-taxing business improvement district in North America;
- Was pivotal in helping revitalize lower Manhattan after the Twin Towers’ destruction on 9/11;
- and was of counsel at Milbank.
This nicely summarizes the role he played:
“Among his unusual, if not unique, attributes,” Carl Weisbrod, who was president of the Downtown Alliance and is now chairman of the City Planning Commission, said in an interview, was “his depth of understanding of how government functions and how the business world functions — and how to meet the needs of both.”
You protest? These things could be controversial? Clients might disapprove? You have your hands full, and then some, billing 2,000+ hours/year? You’re on the EC at your firm and serve your church/synagogue and your college alumni network and enough is enough?
I won’t itemize responses to those, but in my experience clients respect lawyers with backbone; and we all find time for what we choose to deem important.
But the real reason is the one Brad Karp articulated: “It is in our DNA to act when we see injustice.”
Brad was speaking in the present tense.
Update Monday 12 December: Contact info if you want to help.
Missing from the original column (because I didn’t yet have the information) was what to do if you want to help. Here’s the answer:
Contact Adam Skaggs, Litigation Director, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Adam’s background, per the “Smart Gun Laws” site:
Adam Skaggs joined the Law Center as litigation director in 2016. Before then, he served as senior counsel at Everytown for Gun Safety, where he led the organization’s litigation efforts and advocated for firearm policies designed to reduce gun violence.
Adam previously served as senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, where he worked on issues related to money in politics, judicial independence, and voting rights. He was a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York City and a law clerk to Judge Stanley Marcus of the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and Chief Judge Edward Korman of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Adam’s political commentary has been published in the National Law Journal, the New Republic, Politico, the Atlantic, ACSBlog, and the New York Times, among other publications, and he has been widely quoted by media from the Wall Street Journal and Fox News to the New York Times and MSNBC. Adam graduated summa cum laude with a JD from Brooklyn Law School, where he was a member of the Brooklyn Law Review. He received an MS in Urban Affairs from Hunter College of the City University of New York, and holds a BA, awarded with distinction, from Swarthmore College.