What happens when a Big Law partner spouts off on a blog on issues that may offend some of the firm’s clients? At Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, it means a flurry of apologies and a rethinking of the firm’s social media policies.
According to The Careerist, an online sibling of The National Law Journal, the trouble began when Paul Mirengoff, a Washington-based employment partner at Akin, posted his thoughts on the memorial service for the victims of the recent shootings in Tucson, Ariz. In particular, Mirengoff criticized the prayer delivered by Carlos Gonzales, a member of an Arizona Native American tribe.
Mirengoff wrote on the conservative blog Powerline, “It was apparently some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to ‘the creator’ but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.”
Usually law firms don’t mind when their lawyers post their thoughts online. But in this case, Akin happens to have a large Native American practice.
The firm fired off several apologies and James Meggesto, a partner in the Native American practice at the firm, posted the following on Akin Gump's Web site:
As an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation; as an attorney who has dedicated his life and law practice to the representation of Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and tribal interests; and as a partner in the American Indian law and policy practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, I was shocked, appalled and embarrassed by a recent Web posting by another Akin Gump partner, Paul Mirengoff....As soon as I and the firm became aware of this posting, the firm took immediate action to deal firmly with this unfortunate situation. Accordingly, Bruce McLean, chairman of the firm, issued the following statement: “We sincerely apologize for the blog entry posted by Akin Gump partner Paul Mirengoff on his personal blog, powerlineblog.com. Akin Gump is neither affiliated with, nor a supporter of, the blog. We found his remarks to be insensitive and wholly inconsistent with Akin Gump’s values.
Mirengoff also issued an apology.
The Careerist reports that the firm is now reviewing its social media policy. Read the full story here.