Two litigators who have been outspoken in the #MeToo movement, Roberta Kaplan and Tina Tchen, are launching a new business to help organizations learn how to stop sexual misconduct before it happens.
The name of the new entity, HABIT, is an acronym standing for Harassment, Acceptance, Bias and Inclusion Training. Among its listed services are anti-sexual harassment training, bystander intervention training and unconscious-bias training.
It was born out Kaplan and Tchen’s experience as they saw a need for a more tailored approach to addressing workplace equality and inclusion issues, Kaplan said in an interview Thursday.
“Given the flood of allegations and instances that are coming out in the wake of #MeToo and Time’s Up, one thing I think that is abundantly clear is that the old methods we used to try to prevent that kind conduct didn’t work,” said Kaplan, who has been partnering with Tchen since they launched the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.
While traditional training programs focus primarily on avoiding litigation, Kaplan said, HABIT’s team will create custom-designed programs that aim to reshape each company’s workplace culture. The end goal is a safer, more productive working environment for the employees, she said.
“What HABIT intends to do is to first go in understand the culture of the companies we are working with, and redesign what we are doing and training based specially on that company’s culture,” Kaplan said. “So, for example, the same kind of training does not work for a tech company in Silicon Valley as [would] work for a bank on Wall Street.”
“The problem with the older model is this kind been a one-size-fit-all model, and one thing we realize from TIMES UP, #MeToo is that that doesn’t work,” Kaplan added.
Kaplan is the founder of NY-based litigation boutique Kaplan Hecker & Fink, which she established in 2017, leaving Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to do so. While she has represented a number of high-profile clients, she is perhaps best known for successfully arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.
Tchen is a partner at Buckley, where she manages the Chicago office and leads the workplace cultural compliance practice. Prior to returning to private practice at Buckley in 2017, Tchen served as an assistant to President Barack Obama, chief-of-staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. Before that, Tchen practiced law at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for over 23 years.
The day-to-day operations of the business will be led by Helena Cawley, HABIT’s president. Cawley, a former corporate lawyer at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett before that, has founded or co-founded multiple businesses in the New York area.
Tchen and Kaplan previously co-founded the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which provides support to people who have experienced sexual misconduct in the workplace and helps them get legal representation. The fund launched in January 2018, soon after the revelation of sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein ignited a more active national conversation about sexual misconduct.