A recently resigned professional responsibility counsel at DLA Piper has publicly declared her support for partner Vanina Guerrero, who recently accused a fellow partner at the firm of sexually assaulting her.
In an Oct. 10 open letter, Leah Christensen said Guerrero had “told the truth” about the firm’s “culture of intimidation and oppression” and about partner Louis Lehot, whom Guerrero alleges sexually assaulted her on several occasions and then retaliated against her.
“My firsthand experience with Mr. Lehot included him yelling, cursing, and making demands upon me or those with whom I worked on a frequent basis,” wrote Christensen. “Until taking the job at DLA Piper, I had never experienced such behavior from another attorney.”
Christensen said she left the firm primarily because of its culture. “I felt I wasn’t respected and my opinions weren’t valued,” she told Bloomberg Law.
Lehot, who was considered a star attorney at the firm, left DLA Piper on Friday, according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg News.
A firm spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on the letter or Lehot’s reported departure, but the memo from three executives stated the firm is treating Guerrero’s claim with “the utmost seriousness.”
Guerrero, who is based in Silicon Valley, alleges that Lehot assaulted her on several business trips and in Palo Alto. She filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Oct. 1 and publicly asked the firm the next day to release her from a mandatory arbitration agreement so that she can bring her claims publicly in court.
Guerrero’s allegations prompted law students from top universities to protest DLA Piper’s use of mandatory arbitration agreements, which they believe allow employers to hide misconduct like sexual assault and discrimination.
Christensen told Bloomberg Law she was happily surprised to see that the firm had parted ways with Lehot, but added, “if they are truly behind their junior partner then they will waive the arbitration clause.”
“It’s a condition of employment at the firm,” Christensen said.
Christensen resigned from DLA Piper in July and is currently a professor of legal writing at the University of San Diego.