The #MeToo campaign has had a number of brushes with the legal industry but nothing like the shock news today (20 March): the head of the world’s highest-billing law firm Latham & Watkins has stepped down after a series of ‘voluntary disclosures… relating to personal conduct’.
Latham today issued a statement confirming that Bill Voge had offered his resignation after a series of disclosures to its executive team. Latham’s official statement notes that: ‘[Voge’s] conduct involved the exchange of communications of a sexual nature with a woman whom he has never met in person and who had no connection to the firm. Mr Voge’s conduct did not involve the firm, any of its clients, or its personnel. Mr Voge engaged in subsequent conduct relating to this matter that, while not unlawful, the executive committee concluded was not befitting the leader of the firm.’
Current vice-chairs Ora Fisher and Richard Trobman have assumed responsibility as interim co-heads of the firm.
Voge, one of the most respected figures in the global legal industry, himself added within the statement: ‘It is with great sorrow that I step down as chair and managing partner. I made a personal mistake for which I bear considerable fault and humiliation. I deeply regret my lapse of judgment and I am sorry for the distress and embarrassment I have caused my family, friends, and colleagues. My conduct falls well below the personal and professional standards I have tried to uphold throughout my entire career. My disappointment in myself is all the more acute because this lapse does not represent who I am and what I believe, and because I have let down our firm and its people, all of whom I so deeply cherish and respect.’
The project finance specialist joined the firm in 1983 and had previously headed its finance practice as well as served for eight years on Latham’s executive committee. The London-based lawyer in 2015 took over from Latham’s celebrated veteran leader Bob Dell, who had headed the Los Angeles-bred giant for 20 years.
While the profession has seen a string of reports of inappropriate behaviour towards women in recent months, that such disclosures are now impacting the head of arguably the world’s most influential global law firm will send a jolt through the industry.
If such conduct can reach this high in the profession, lawyers will wonder: what next?
For more on Bill Voge and Latham’s ascendancy to the top of the Global legal profession, read ‘The firm most likely – can anything halt Latham’s global rise?’ (£)