By Dave Andrusko
You might think (naively, of course) that politely disagreeing with the office’s consensus that the Dobbs decision overturning Roe was a disaster would get you stern looks and fewer request to have lunch but nothing more. Especially when the office is a global law firm which in theory is open to a “diversity of opinion.” And especially if the dissenter—in this case Robin Keller—had an “unblemished 44-year career” with Hogan Lovells.
But obviously there can be “No Dissent on Abortion Allowed at Hogan Lovells: The global law firm fired me for defending the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.”
It’s a fascinating account of how her fellow female employees responded to Keller’s defense of Dobbs when the company “organized an online conference” for women. Here’s how it begins:
As a retired equity partner still actively serving clients, I was invited to participate in what was billed as a “safespace” for women at the firm to discuss the decision. It might have been a safe space for some, but it wasn’t safe for me.
Everyone else who spoke on the call was unanimous in her anger and outrage about Dobbs. I spoke up to offer a different view. I noted that many jurists and commentators believed Roe had been wrongly decided. I said that the court was right to remand the issue to the states. I added that I thought abortion-rights advocates had brought much of the pushback against Roe on themselves by pushing for extreme policies. I referred to numerous reports of disproportionately high rates of abortion in the black community, which some have called a form of genocide. I said I thought this was tragic.
A reasonable and well thought out defense of Dobbs by Keller, who formerly headed up the “U.S. business restructuring and insolvency practice at Hogan Lovells.” The reaction?
Well, it started poorly and went south from there.
The outrage was immediate. The next speaker called me a racist and demanded that I leave the meeting. Other participants said they “lost their ability to breathe” on hearing my comments. After more of the same, I hung up.
But the backlash would end there, right? Noooo.
Somebody made a formal complaint; later than day Keller was effective cancelled: “Hogan Lovells suspended my contracts, cut off my contact with clients, removed me from email and document systems, and emailed all U.S. personnel saying that a forum participant had made “anti-Black comments” and was suspended pending an investigation.”
Her firm issued a statement “bemoaning the devastating impact my views had on participants in the forum—most of whom were lawyers participating in a call convened expressly for the purpose of discussing a controversial legal and political topic.” And, of course, Keller’s name was leaked to the press.
She filed a complaint; the general counsel’s office hired an outside firm to investigate, and—surprise, surprise—
Three weeks later I received a letter stating that the firm had concluded that my reference to comments labeling black abortion rates genocide was a violation of the anti-harassment policy. Never mind that this view has been expressed by numerous mainstream commentators, black and white, including in these pages. My complaint was dismissed, my contracts with the firmware terminated, and other firms, wary of the publicity, blackballed me—all after an unblemished 44-year career.
Privately, some colleagues—female and male alike—contacted her to express their support for her right to express her opinion. But while a source of solace, it didn’t get her job back.
She ends with a sobering reminder:
If this could happen to me, anyone who expresses a disfavored opinion—even on a matter of law—can expect the same treatment: immediate cancellation without concern for client interests, due process or fairness.