Prominent lawyers accused of antisemitism, resign from their own, new firm

John Barber and Jeff Ranen, who led a mass exodus from the LA-based Lewis Brisbois law firm, frequently made antisemitic comments about clients and colleagues 


Part of an email thread between John Barber and Jeff Ranen, two law firm partners who quit Lewis Brisbois on May 2, 2023. Photo by Screenshot/Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith (From the Forward)

By Jacob Kornbluh, The Forward

Two prominent attorneys who recently led a mass exodus from a top Los Angeles-based law firm engaged in racist, misogynistic, homophobic and antisemitic language about their clients and colleagues at the company, according to a review of internal emails released Monday morning. They resigned later in the day at the firm’s request, according to Reuters.

John Barber and Jeff Ranen, two longtime members of the Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith management committee, made offensive remarks about Jews and Judaism in emails, which their former firm shared exclusively with the Forward. The firm released a larger tranche of inflammatory correspondence from the attorneys targeting other groups, which was first reported on by the New York Post on Saturday. 

Barber and Ranen, who served as chair and vice chair of the employment law department at Lewis Brisbois, defected last month to start their own firm and took some 140 employees with them. The pair claimed it was the largest law firm start-up in U.S. history, and that they left the company they were affiliated with for two decades without “any baggage.”  They also  expressed their desire to “build something that’s reflective of our values and our beliefs.” 

The internal emails going back to 2012, however, reveal the two cultivated a culture of bigotry and disparagement. Robert Glassman, a member of the board of directors at Los Angeles’ Stephen S. Wise Temple and a partner at Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi, said he worked on dozens of cases against Lewis Brisbois and found it appalling that “this kind of hatred still permeates itself in the Los Angeles legal community.”

Barber and Ranen didn’t immediately respond to text messages seeking comment. Their new firm, Barber Ranen LLP, formed last month, specializes in representing employers in labor and employment law cases. According to the Los Angeles Business Journal, its founding partners promised new hires a stronger salary and benefits package than they had at Lewis Brisbois. The new firm launched with four California offices and eight more nationwide.


In a Sept. 13, 2012 email, for example, Ranen wrote to Barber, “I forgot to write that we will not hire Jews” after the latter recommended a person — his or her identity was redacted by the company —  for a litigation contract. In another email earlier that year, Ramen told Derek Sachs, a former partner at Lewis Brisbois, “This is the reason why people don’t like Jews,” in response to an invoice submitted to them. In a June 2012 email thread that begins with discussing a new hire, Ranen referred to Barber as a “Jew” for owing him money.

The pair also singled out observant Jews. In a January 2014 email, Ranen boasted to Barber that he deliberately emails a Jewish opposing counsel on Shabbat after the person requested that he not be sent material related to a deposition on Saturdays. “This Jew is cracking me up,” Ranen. “I almost ONLY write to him on Saturday mornings.” Barber responded, “Jew hater.”

In a July 2014 email, Barber called Ranen a “Jew cunt” after he said he brought some bagels and cream cheese from Sam’s Bagels to the office. 

Ranen also used “Jew” as a verb when he suggested to colleagues that he could get a lower price for  a hotel room or office space. “I might be able to Jew them down,” he wrote in a May 2016 email. He also complained about society not allowing people to ridicule Jews. “Since when can we not make Jew jokes?” Ranen wrote.

Barber and Ranen also mocked an unidentified attorney of the Mintz law firm for his past service in the Israeli Defense Forces in a March 2008 email, using a slur for gay men.  

Lewis Brisbois, which has more than 1,600 attorneys nationwide, found the problematic emails after an audit triggered by a formal complaint about Barber and Ranen, according to two sources familiar with the matter. 

The company said they are now conducting a thorough review of Barber and Ranen’s correspondence and are interviewing other employees who had interacted with the pair. “We are deeply troubled by their use of prejudiced language and racial and cultural slurs aimed at colleagues, clients, attorneys from other firms, and even Judges,” the firm’s leader said in a statement.

In a press release announcing its launch, Barber Ranen called itself a “disruptive force in the legal industry” and said that it anticipates broadening its practice area within the next two years.

This article was originally published on the Forward.