Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht and former partner Donald Lewis traded eye-popping accusations of racism, misogyny, drug abuse, sexual assault, defamation and extortion this week, attacking each other with such force that claims of financial mismanagement and misconduct appear as just more fragments of their crumbled relationship.

But Lewis’ financial allegations are serious. He claims founder and managing partner John Pierce built the 2-year-old firm on “smoke and mirrors,” duping incoming partners about its prospects and misusing money from litigation funder Pravati Capital to prop up the firm and to cover Pierce’s own improper expenses. As evidence of mismanagement, Lewis notes that name partner Jim Bainbridge was one of several defendants who settled with the Federal Trade Commission in 1996 for a telemarketing scheme.

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