The resignation of Latham & Watkins global chairman and managing partner Bill Voge was reportedly related to his involvement with a Christian support group which aims to help men deal with the temptations they face in their professional lives.
Voge, who resigned from Latham on Tuesday after admitting to “communications of a sexual nature” with a woman unconnected to the firm, is a former member of the board of directors of U.S. faith-based group the New Canaan Society, which describes itself as “a group of men who gather together to encourage each other in friendship and faith and to support each other to be better husbands, fathers — and better men.”
Law360, which first reported on the circumstances surrounding Voge’s departure from Latham, details how he first contacted the woman in question with an offer to help her engage in “Christian reconciliation” with a member of the society.
Voge’s profile is still listed on the group’s website, although Law360′s report states that he resigned from the group’s board in November.
The New Canaan Society’s website states: “Men, especially those working in the marketplace, are isolated and alone, distracted and often overwhelmed. They are looking for more from their limited and superficial friendships. The pressures and temptations for men are great.”
The website also features this quote in a section describing the group: “If guys spent more time in friendship with each other and could discuss their temptations, they would need to spend less time asking for forgiveness.”
The Law360 report explains that after Voge’s initial contact with the woman, their communications became sexual, although they never met in person. It states that although the relationship was initially consensual, the woman felt Voge “took things too far” by trying to get her to come to his hotel room.
Once the relationship faltered, Law360 said the woman contacted Voge’s lawyer, partners at Latham, lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis and Voge’s family. In a conversation with Law360, Voge reportedly described her as a “cyberstalker.”
According to Law360, Latham became aware of the situation late last year. Voge tendered his resignation after voluntarily disclosing details of the episode to the firm’s executive committee, which decided his “lapses in personal judgment” made his continued service as chairman untenable, and accepted his resignation.
In a statement, the firm said: “Voge’s conduct involved the exchange of communications of a sexual nature with a woman whom he has never met in person and who had no connection to the firm. Voge’s conduct did not involve the firm, any of its clients, or its personnel. Voge engaged in subsequent conduct relating to this matter that, while not unlawful, the executive committee concluded was not befitting the leader of the firm.”
In a personal statement, Voge, who has led the firm as chairman and managing partner since 2015, added: “It is with great sorrow that I step down as chair and managing partner of Latham & Watkins. I made a personal mistake for which I bear considerable fault and humiliation. I deeply regret my lapse of judgment and I am sorry for the distress and embarrassment I have caused my family, friends, and colleagues.
“My conduct falls well below the personal and professional standards I have tried to uphold throughout my entire career. My disappointment in myself is all the more acute because this lapse does not represent who I am and what I believe, and because I have let down our firm and its people, all of whom I so deeply cherish and respect.”
Latham vice-chairs Ora Fisher and Richard Trobman will take interim responsibility as co-chairs of the firm while a replacement is selected.
Allegations of misconduct have emerged at a number of major law firms in recent months, as more and more women come forward to report examples of inappropriate behavior, with partners at Herbert Smith Freehills, Baker McKenzie, Mayer Brown and Dentons all leaving their firms in the wake of various allegations.
Law firms are also facing increasing scrutiny over the way they are responding to sexual harassment claims, as well as the systems they have in place for reporting such incidents.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority recently warned U.K. law firms not to use nondisclosure agreements to prevent the reporting of professional misconduct, while in December the Equality and Human Rights Commission wrote to all five Magic Circle firms to confirm that it could take legal action if they fail to take appropriate action to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in the workplace.