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Women’s Advocate

Title: Founder, owner and trial lawyer Company: The Bloom Firm Born: Philadelphia, 1961 Education: Bachelor’s from UCLA; law degree from Yale Law School Most Influential People: “I’ve long been inspired by the work and words of Martin Luther King Jr., Justice Thurgood Marshall and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” Career Turning Point: Winning an $11 million jury verdict in a sexual harassment case in April 2019. Personal: Bookworm since age 2; reads a book a week; vegan and animal activist. Braden Pollock, husband; Sam Wong and Sarah Bloom, children; foster mom to Daniel, now a college student. Hobbies: Trail-running with my rescue dogs – loves Mulholland dirt road, Chatsworth’s Stony Point, Calabasas Peak, Malibu’s Solstice Canyon and Escondido Falls; international travel to places as far away and as different from home as possible (Nepal, Ethiopia, Namibia and Greenland are some favorites); lifetime effort to become proficient in Spanish (still trying)! Lisa Bloom, owner and trial lawyer at The Bloom Firm in Woodland Hills, has been an advocate on behalf of women and minorities for roughly 33 years. Bloom has won upwards of $50 million for her clients, most recently $11.1 million for Chasity Jones in April against billionaire Alki David. She also represented victims in sexual harassment cases against Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly. Bloom is the second in three generations of strong female lawyers, with mother Gloria Allred famously representing Norma McCorvey, or Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade, and Lisa’s daughter, Sarah Bloom, is a lawyer at her mother’s firm. The Business Journal sat down with Lisa Bloom at her Woodland Hills office to discuss her time as a Court TV anchor, her involvement with Harvey Weinstein and her advice for companies facing discrimination accusations. How did your time on Court TV influence you? I had eight years of hosting my live show on Court TV, two hours a day, five days a week. It was a lot of fun. What it really helped me with was to translate the law into plain English so that people could understand. We don’t use words like bars judicata or resp loquitur. I’d have to explain that “the judge threw out the case,” because everyone will understand that. When I speak to a jury, I have to do the same thing. Many lawyers cannot do that. It’s very important to me to be a good communicator and talk to people in a way that they can understand. You counseled Harvey Weinstein, before stepping down after the New York Times article. Looking back, would you have made the same decision to advise him? Absolutely not. I’ve called it a colossal mistake and I stick to that. At the time that I agreed to counsel him, there was no lawsuit, there was nobody publicly accusing him. There were journalists reaching out to him with stories about unnamed women who said that he had said some things that were inappropriate, basically sexual language. Also, they were not his employees. These were people in the industry that he had made inappropriate comments to. I counseled him to apologize, and that is what he did on the day the story broke. I thought that was a good thing. I’m a believer in apologies. I discovered that not that many people are believers in apologies. The other thing I discovered was a lot of women immediately came out and accused him of sexual assault, which is entirely different. I immediately resigned. The rest of his legal team stayed on for a while and then they eventually resigned, too. He got a new legal team. Did that experience change how you run your firm? At the time, two years ago, we were representing about 95 percent victims and 5 percent people accused of workplace misconduct. The ones we represented that were accused were people who I thought were accused of very minor wrongdoing, like verbal misconduct. After the Harvey Weinstein fiasco, we made a decision that we’re not representing anybody who is accused. Now we are 100 percent victims’ side. I think that was the right decision for us. What did you learn from that whole episode? That people looked up to me as an advocate for women’s rights, and they felt very upset that I could represent someone who is accused. I had to hear that. I’m not just an attorney picking whatever case I want to do, which is kind of how I thought of myself. I had to learn that people were very hurt that I had made this decision to represent him. The great thing about having a failure is you really learn something. You don’t really learn from your successes; you learn from your failures. What sticks in your mind about your high-profile cases? Wendy Walsh is a friend. She came to me and said there was going to be an article about Bill O’Reilly sexually harassing a lot of women, and the reporter from the New York Times had reached out to her and asked her if she had been sexually harassed. All these other women can’t go on the record because they have confidential settlement agreements. Wendy said she talked to all her friends and they all said don’t do it. I told her, “Wendy, what do you think I’m going to tell you? You have to do this. We’re good friends, we’re both in our fifties, we both have daughters, we both talk about how we have to change the world for women, and if women like us don’t stand up, who’s going to do it?” I said, think about your daughters. She has two teenage daughters. She talked to them and they told her “Mom, you need to do this.” How do you represent people the public doesn’t like? I represented the White House party crashers in 2010. There had been this story that they crashed a party at the Obama White House. When I talked to them and I saw the evidence, I realized they didn’t crash the party – they were on the list. They were on one list but not on another list, which led to the misunderstanding. I don’t mind representing despised people and bringing a different perspective to it. In fact, I relished it. If everybody is going one way, I like going the other way. What about the most extreme case you’ve ever taken? Probably Chasity Jones versus Alki David, which is the trial that we just did. Alki David is a billionaire who ran a company, still runs companies, including Hologram USA near Hollywood, and he is accused of sexually harassing a lot of women. I represent two of them. Chasity Jones was the first one to get to trial. Alki David came at me very personally. He had three outbursts during the trial, stands up, screams and yells at me, he said, “Do something with your life, woman!” I guess woman was the worst thing he could call me. Where did you grow up? Burbank, I went to Burroughs High School in Burbank, and lived there for my childhood, then I went to UCLA, lived at home, and then eventually moved to Westwood. I moved to the East Coast when I went to Yale Law School, and then I worked in New York, and as an adult I’ve been back and forth, New York and L.A. What’s the earliest recollection you have of wanting to be an attorney? In college I was on the debate team at UCLA, and I worked very hard on that for 3 years. We won the national championship my junior year, and I won top speaker in the country, so I had the sense that this was probably something that would make sense for me. Being a lawyer, arguing, putting together a persuasive statement. Also I’ve always felt passionately about civil rights, especially women’s rights, LGBT rights, racial discrimination cases. I thought I would have something to contribute. I did also think about becoming a social worker or a therapist. My mother – who you may have heard of – felt very strongly that I should go to law school, and she ultimately persuaded me to give law school a try. At that time, there were not that many women going to law school, so we were definitely in the minority, but that was alright. How did your mother’s career impact you? My mother showed me what was possible in law. She really forged a path of representing women and doing it her way. She used the media a lot. She insisted on pushing the law forward for women. If there was an injustice and there wasn’t a specific law that would provide a remedy, she would argue for a change. Do people compare you to your mother? I’d be honored if they did, because she’s terrific. My mom is all work and no play, really. She doesn’t like to take vacations, she does not like to take a break. I do like to take vacations. I believe in living a balanced life. Last weekend, Memorial Day weekend, my adult kids and my husband and our dog and I drove up to Paso Robles, wine country. We had a wonderful holiday weekend up there. My husband and I are going to Portugal in a couple weeks. I’ve traveled, I think, to 76 countries. And your mother? She does not like to travel. She is a work droid, and she’s helping a lot of people, God bless her. But, I think it would be good to get her to take some time off. Why do you like the Valley? I like the diversity. There are parts of L.A. where everybody is very wealthy, or everybody is really struggling and in the Valley I think we have a good mix of different kinds of people. That reflects our clients in the law firm; they’re just regular people, often assistants or waitresses. Why did you plant your firm in Woodland Hills? My home and my office are only about a mile apart, which makes life easy. If I have to go to court downtown it’s a long drive, especially to get there at 8:30 or 9 a.m. Most of our clients are regular people. They don’t need to go to Beverly Hills or Century City. You don’t have to pay $40 to come up and see me. What about your personality makes you good at your job? I’m a pushy broad, I’m bossy, and I think those are compliments. On the victim’s side, we have to push. The other side will be slow as molasses in January, as my grandmother used to say. I call it polite persistence. I think my personality is pretty pushy, but I found a career where that’s a plus, you see. In my personal life I have to dial it down a little, but I have a lot of energy and this is a good place where I can channel it. As a lawyer, how do you manage other lawyers? We have 15 lawyers and another dozen staff – paralegals, assistants. I think it depends on the employee. I’ve certainly learned to respect business owners, now that I am one. Some people you can give constructive criticism to, and they will really listen and improve. Others will lose their minds and get very upset, defensive and angry. That latter group can be very hard to work with. When people are really new, we are on them, giving them a lot of feedback, a lot of reviews, which is good for them and it’s good for us. I would say I like managing people if they are open to hearing constructive feedback. I don’t like it if they are angry and defensive, or burst into tears, which happens. How do you recharge? I’m a big hiker. I can go north and go up to Stony Point in Chatsworth and it’s about a 15-minute drive up and absolutely beautiful. My dog is my hiking buddy. I go trail running probably four or five mornings a week with my dog. That is my therapy. My husband and I do a lot of international travel when we can. And I’m an avid reader. I read about a book a week. I’m finishing up Sandra Day O’Connor’s biography. What advice would you give to a company accused of sexual harassment or some type of discrimination? First of all, you need to have preventative measures in place so you don’t get to that point. It’s not just good advice, it’s the law in California. Every employer has to take steps to prevent sexual harassment. If there is an accusation, you have to take immediate corrective action. Businesses should immediately remove the accused person from the workplace. You do an immediate investigation. You interview the accuser, you find out who witnessed it, talk to them. Review the emails, texts, videos, whatever there may be. If you find that it did happen, if it’s minor, you could counsel the person, reprimand, discipline up to termination. The hard thing for a company is when it’s somebody who is really integral to the company. Someone who brings in a lot of money, somebody who is the chief executive. I would advise businesses, think about how this is going to play out in front of a jury of 12 employees. Think about how all of your little technical arguments are not going to fly. Do the right thing.

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