Richard Levick Esq. is Chairman & CEO of LEVICK, a crisis communications and public affairs firm, representing countries and companies in the highest-stakes global matters – the Venezuelan crisis; Qatar; the Chinese trade war; the Gulf oil spill; Guantanamo Bay, the Catholic Church and many others.
He and his firm have represented more than 300 of the world’s largest law firms, hundreds of companies and over 30 countries, providing heads of state with communications, access and insight into Washington.
Mr. Levick has been honoured multiple times on the prestigious list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the Boardroom” and has been named to several professional Halls of Fame for lifetime achievement.
He is the co-author of four books including two on litigation communications, hosts daily podcasts for a variety of publications and is a regular commentator on television and in print.
Under Richard Levick’s leadership, LEVICK has grown to one of the world’s leading firms in crisis, litigation, and public affairs, representing companies and countries in the highest-profile matters.
This podcast is a masterclass in crisis communications. It discusses the following:
Welcome to the second episode of 'The Online Bodyguard' and today, I'm absolutely thrilled because I have with me, a man who is a genuine legend in his own lifetime, and that's Richard Leveck. And before I introduce him as his proper title, etc, I wanted to just say thank you to Richard, because as much as being a mentor and a friend recently, when I decided I wanted to start this podcast, the first person I contacted was Richard, and I said, What the hell do I do? And when you understand how busy he is, and you understand his stature, and the fact he said to me, "I'll ring you in an hour" and he did ring me in an hour, and he said, right, this is what you do, this is who you speak to, this is who's going to do it for you, he's going to manage it all for you. It says a great deal about the man. So first and foremost, I wanted to thank you, Richard, for your, your support and your generosity, because it meant a huge amount to me to it. So really, to get this off the ground, and I probably couldn't have done it without your support. So thank you.Richard Levick:
Well, Phil, Phil, thank you so much. And I would say that with that kind introduction, let's just end the show, because it doesn't do any better than that.Philip Grindell:
So So let me give you your proper announcement. So Richard is the chairman and the CEO of Levick, a crisis communication and public affairs firm, representing countries and companies in the highest stakes, global matters. The Venezuelan crisis, Qatar, the Chinese Trade War, the Gulf oil spill, Guantanamo Bay, the Catholic Church, and many, many others. He and his firm have represented more than 300 of the world's largest law firms, hundreds of companies, and over 30 countries. Providing heads of state with communication, access and insight into Washington. Richard's been honoured multiple times on a prestigious list of the 100 most influential people in the boardroom, and has been named to several professional professional Halls of Fame for lifetime achievement. He's also the co author of four books, including two on litigation communications, hosts daily podcasts for a variety of publications. And he is a regular commentator on television, and in print. And when you when you listen to all that, and you realise just how busy you are, you know how privileged we are to have you on our podcast today. So thank you again.Richard Levick:
Well, Philip, again, thank you so much. Great to be here.Philip Grindell:
So I guess, you know, my, my first question, to you is crisis. You know, when we hear when we hear the word crisis, it means obviously different things to different people. But in the current age, where we wake up in the morning, and a crisis has happened, and it's almost over before you even get to work in terms of its run away with you through social media, through internet through multi media worldwide. How do you? How do you claw back that? How do you take ownership of that crisis?Richard Levick:
So first of all, Phil, thank you so much for having me and love working with your firm in the great work that you do. Let me answer that in two ways. First, let's start with the existential definition of crisis. And I think that's changed radically. You know, I started this firm about 25 years ago, I was doing other law firm and law firm related work for years prior to that, which meant, of course, litigation and crisis work. But it was really largely in its infancy, you know, We of course know the Tylenol crisis nearly 40 years ago, when cyanide was injected into capsules, Tylenol capsules, mostly in Chicago, and that resulted in seven deaths. We, we, you know, crisis goes all the way back to Adam and Eve certainly don't eat that apple. But I do think that crisis has changed a lot. One, the speed with which not only occurs, but it also passes is remarkable now. And the other is how often it happens everywhere. You know, 25 years ago, there weren't very many firms on the planet that did crisis and litigation work. Now. I even see advertising firms talking about oh, we do crisis, too. And I think the crisis is defined differently by different providers. I think for a lot of people, it's slip and fall, there's an accident, you know, how do we handle this? We have to fire an employee and a high profile matter. Most of those disappear pretty quickly. And I think that our firm and I'm grateful for it has its imprimatur from those kinds of systemic existential crises that you spoke about the Gulf oil spill, Guantanamo Bay, the Catholic Church, the Boko Haram, kidnappings, the blockade between the Saudi Emiratis and Qatar and the list goes on and on. But the kinds of long standing long evolving situations where life or liberty or certainly significant amounts of capital, are its are at stake. And, you know, for us in doing a lot of international work, we have to file fair, a foreign agent Registration Act, and a lot of firms just aren't willing to do that, because it requires a certain level of transparency. It also usually means it makes you a target, particularly in this day and age. And I think back and I'm sort of jumping stories here, but when we represented President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria, on the kidnappings, the 247 young girls, young women and girls who had been kidnapped, out of school by the Boko Haram, the terrorist group, it had worked its way into a political issue in Nigeria, the price of gasoline had plummeted, Goodluck Jonathan had far less money for the military, and therefore also for the government and for his own campaign for re election of President, that issue and our hiring became part of the political machinations within Nigeria. And the result was multiple death threats, protest outside our offices. To this day, there are journalists who repeat the attacks by the opposition candidate supporters. And I know I think back to that moment and think, Wait a minute, here we are on the good guys, right? We're trying to get these kidnapped girls back. And it makes it look like we were on the side of the terrorist. And I think that's just part of the price you pay when you're working on these really high profile crises. You have to be willing to take the bullet, you have to be willing to go into countries where it's war torn, you're under bodyguards, you know, Yemen, certainly been followed by spies in the Middle East, when they deliberately want you to know you're being followed, have been the recipient of that sort of I Spy stuff, I'm sure you have as well, you know, the the manila envelope folded inside of the newspaper that's left at the coffee table. And yes, it was a Starbucks just in case they're thinking of sponsoring this podcast. But you know, all of those kinds of things that are pretty high profile. And I remember I remember when I was married, and we just started working on Guantanamo. I, my now ex wife asked me one night how I was feeling and I said, you know, we're moving as quickly as we can. And this was the result of multiple Supreme Court cases. And we would ultimately be successful, but it was taking time. And I said, you don't want I lose sleep because there are it was the Kuwaiti detainees, virtually all of whom would be ultimately rendered and found to be innocent. And I said that every night that I'm here sleeping in this lovely house in this beautiful home there in Guantanamo as a detainee. I should also tell you that I'm a pretty strict constitutionalist. I am a Professor of Law at Fordham University, used to teach the politics of US constitutional law. I don't think as malleable as the Constitution is, its principles are not malleable, and to know that the detainees were incarcerated without due process. Really, and I know most Americans, I don't think most people around the world really care much about the process, but the process is really important. So you know, a crisis is anything that is a threat to individuals to their liberty to their brand, to a company to a country but where the norm is unsettled. And you know, we have a saying and Washington here. Never kick a man while he's up, it's too much work. But once he becomes a target, when she becomes a target, once others are piling on, that it becomes a Bloodsport.Philip Grindell:
It's what I took from that was really interesting. And it probably, despite me knowing you as I do, it was surprising how, how, if I understood what you said, kind of how emotionally involved you became with in terms of the Guantanamo the injustice of Guantanamo, how that affected you emotionally and how you really, you know, you it's not just a business deal, this was something you cared about, on an emotional level on a personal level, it wasn't just about the Constitution it was here I am enjoying the freedom of of lying my my own home, and here they are, clients of mine with the injustice of what they're going through. And that's, that's, for me, that's, that's quite inspiring, how much you clearly cared on a personal level about that.Richard Levick:
So my first thank you for that. Thank you very much. I don't think I've ever been asked that question. Let me say this from the age of, I know eight, nine, ten, I remember drawing pictures to address the farming crisis, you know, as much as a 10 year old can imagine it. But I was thinking about urban farming and something that we started moving to. And I became an environmentalist who, you know, in the late 60s, early 70s, I remember the first Earth Day in the United States, I would get a master's degree in environmental advocacy, before my law degree. I would work with Ralph Nader based networks for years and years was my first career, I always wanted to do good. And when I switched over the years, and you know, here, I am a lawyer at this master's degree, and I'm doing communications work. At some level, deep level, I knew I didn't want to do brand work. And it's not that brand work is not very important, but it just doesn't float my boat to be increasing sales of subsets, you know, it just doesn't do anything for me. And I think being a protagonist to history really, really does. When we have two choices in life, we can either be a spectator to history, or we can be a protagonist, and I wanted to be a protagonist. I do believe that having been under fire ourselves as a firm, having represented so many clients around the world, in so many different environments, certainly makes me a better crisis counsellor, I will also say this from the Zen Buddhist side, which is, and I've already mentioned, my my ex wife, you know, it has been a treacherous, multi multi year divorce. And it's really hard to be spiritual about that. But I think that it's lessons which have been, you know, devastating financially, have taught me even more about facing existential, and I use that word, deliberately. And although I've used it repeatedly, the kinds of crises where everything is threatened everything that you have, and you know, one of the supreme said on Ed Sullivan, when she was without Diana Ross, it's all been asked, What have you learned being now a famous star, and she said, "you can never be too rich or too thin", and I think that, you know, when you face something that threatens your company, your country, my case, you know, all of my net worth, you can never have enough money, you can never have enough protection, you can never have enough friends. And you sit there and you look in the mirror and you say how could this possibly happen to our company? How could this possibly happen to, you know, I remember being in Sana Yemen, and you're looking at the collapse of the country. And it's the realisation of the threats, as much as it disturbs your sleep often operates at a slower level, and the decisions required in a crisis, you really need to move much more quickly than even your emotions allow you. And for all the tragedies I've gone through, personally, the deaths the horrid divorce is that if you allow it, and if you allow all your experiences with your clients, you those tragedies become a gift, it allows you I mean, when I can sit there and talk to a CEO who last year was on the list in whatever state or nation as you know, one of the top CEOs, and now they're facing jail. And you can look at them and figuratively hold their hand, look in the abyss, it just makes you more empathetic, it makes you a better counsellor. And I think half of what we're doing in crisis is saying, I've been there. I've seen greater threats to other companies, other entities. We will get through this. And we may not know how, but we will. And I think the skill of a great crisis counsellor and you know, I mentioned I teach at Fordham Law on last night, I teach every week and these were all older students. And one of the things I said it's so important, and they were doing their own war room exercises sort of picking apart a crisis. I said, I want you to look down the road. You know, and yes, you know, if you're going to do soundtracks now, this is when the Wizard of Oz music you know about the yellow brick road and looking down the road is the appropriate cue. But you need to look down the road as to what's next. And I think a lot of companies have a really hard time doing that. AIG another matter we were involved in, are you going to pay the bonuses or not? Because if you do in this changed environment, look down the road a week. This is what's going to happen if you're United and the doctor, the famous Dr. Dow social media videos of him being violently extricated from the plane by the Chicago Transit Authority about five six years ago. What's going to happen in China if a Vietnamese doctor is being violently removed from a plane? People don't think that way they don't think what's what's next? What's going to happen if we don't act. And I think one of the most important skills you can bring to crisis is the crystal ball that helps you see the future. You know, you can't see it entirely. Lamar to Arthur, that was a 15th century French novel on the written by the monks, on the life and death of King Arthur and the Berlin live backwards, his his his history was our future. And we need to bring as much of Merlin to a crisis to see the future as we possibly can. And King Arthur, if you're listening, do not marry Guinevere, it ends badly.Philip Grindell:
but is that ability to be that strategic? Is that based on pure experience, or intellect? Or what's where does that come from?Richard Levick:
Great question. And thank you, Philip. But I think one of the challenges for big data right now is that people look at big data, and they look at the numbers. And you know, when I'm in Korea, which is what we call a shame, culture, Japan, China, they will often look in social media and see one or two complaints and say, do we need to respond to this. And they have a tendency because of the shame, culture, cultures which I'm enamelled of those cultures, I've just mentioned the Vietnamese culture that I understand, and I'm inspired by the desire to respond because you're shameful. And you want to apologise, we have to hold them back and say, look, it's only one or two people. And here's a detailed analysis. They're not an influencer, they don't have a lot of followers ignore this. On the other hand, in the United States, in the UK, sometimes our hubris gets in front of us, and we say, we don't need to. And, you know, we don't need to react to this. And I mentioned the situation with United, which I think is such an interesting example. And I hope we get a chance to sort of decompose it. And by the way, I'm a huge fan. And he's a former client when he was with CSX, Oscar Munez, the former CEO, and then Chairman of the Board, or board member, pardon me of United. And yet, you know, here's this brilliant crisis guy who had handled so many crises for CSX, including toxic spills, being a ham fisted on that on that tragedy. But to your question, no one was monitoring Sunday night when Dr. Dow was pulled off the plane violently. And when they when they do pull it up Monday, no one thinks, one to report truth to power. Two is they're not looking forward, and three, I think they're looking at it like, well, these videos only have a few 100 followers right now. And so they didn't ring the alarm bells. I think the skills that you need to bring to your question to a situation is one you do need, of course, to bring the big data analytics. But you also need to bring an understanding of history of politics of culture, because when I'm in Korea, versus when I'm in Dubai versus when I'm in Doha, versus when I'm in Washington, DC, the cultures are very different, they're gonna respond to things differently. That understanding of history, this period of time that we're in, you know, reminds me very much of 1930s, Germany, it reminds me very much of 1860, United States 1856 1860, I think, you know, we can go on and on with these parallels. And it's not that the that history necessarily repeats itself. But as the old saying, goes, history may, in fact, at least rhyme and that we need, we do need to understand history, we need to understand how people are thinking, I think the Buddhist lessons here are really important, which is we need to spend our time inside the centre of the forehead of the people we're speaking to, how are they going to respond? We need to look externally and understand this is a much different environment. You know, Philip, when you and I were first starting our careers in the last century, and just to clarify, I'm talking about the 20th, not the 19th. In case people were confused, but which I'm sure some are. But I think that you, you need to understand we're in a very, very different time companies used to be trusted. So the natural inclination for a company in a crisis to set you could roll out almost any CEO, who could say in the first days of a crisis, we're going to do the right thing, but we're focused on our shareholders and our customers or you know, you want to get creative, our customers and our shareholders. That was your holding statement, and you were fine. And you know, the wink wink was our institutional shareholders. We care about the handful of people who have the largest number of shares in our company? It was pretty easy. You had an am paper and a pm paper strategy was pretty simple. Do we do do I call the reporter I trust? Or do I do a press conference? Do I leak it? I mean, there weren't that many options. Now, as you say, the speed of things is so extraordinary. The options are so remarkable. I would say the biggest shift is this. who acted more quickly? Was it Tony Hayward and the BP Gulf oil crisis of 12-13 years ago, or was it Jim Burke and the Johnson and Johnson Tylenol crisis 39-40 years ago, and everyone's gonna say, of course, Jim Burke, because it's the gold standard, but late Jim Burke, and he was brilliant. But you know, Jim Burke didn't respond for four and a half days, the FBI wouldn't allow him. And he finally decided to override the FBI. And said, we're pulling all our over the counter pain medications, not just Tylenol, it was a brilliant move, when we could spend a whole show just doing you know, the analysis there. Tony Hayward, by contrast, when he got that call, was at about 11 o'clock at night. And UK, he said two things. I mean, three if you count the expletive but he said two things, right? One, we're going to be transparent. And two, we're going to fix this name another company in the history of capitalism that spent $60 billion and gotten no credit, no credit, for the cleanup. And nope, no credit for trying to take responsibility. And I think that what that means for companies is, we have spent the last 70 years being prepared to react. And reaction is too slow, we have to be proactive. And that's why we need to look at the analytics, we need to have people multidisciplinary teams that understand the history, the geography, the culture, the external and internal issues where shareholders are, where customers are, where influencers are a whole category, you know, stakeholder capitalism, a whole category we didn't used to concern ourselves with. And we need to have a sense of where they are and what they're thinking. If you look, we've handled over 200 food recalls, including, you know, obviously human food, but also pet food, baby food and whatnot. If you look at some of the best leading plaintiffs firms in that space, I'm thinking MARLAR Clark here, among others, the plaintiffs firm, they're eight states and we're usually on the defence side. But there's not a word that you can own search engine optimization, Search Engine Marketing, a key term in food, that MARLAR Clark and other leading food law firms plaintiffs law firms don't always can already control, which means when there is a recall, most of the media, most of the consumers, when they type in whatever the food product is, or airborne pollutant airborne toxin in the food, you go to the plaintiffs firm, their website, they're right on the top of search, they're controlling the narrative. So if you are not thinking in anticipation, what happens if what happens when who are third parties, you know, there's no one more lonely than someone in a crisis, because suddenly all your friends are gone. You have to be thinking, you have to be tracking, you have to be anticipating, I mentioned the blockade with the Saudis and the Emiratis. We used to represent the Emiratis years ago than we were representing the Kuwaitis. And this is all before, you know, they had their issues. So how ironic we would be go on the opposite sides of what were once to fairly close allies, but now, I wouldn't call them adversaries, but competitors probably would be a better name. But we were able to see unusual digital activity that informed us that a blockade probably was in the offing. And that allowed Doha to anticipate and prepare in a way that they wouldn't have otherwise. And that's, I think, the kind of intelligence insight that you have to bring to strategy or otherwise, when our phone rings at 11 o'clock at night, it's almost always too late.Philip Grindell:
So taking taking all that, and kind of strategic mindset of it. When we're talking about nation states, and we're talking about global brands, as commercial entities, how do we transfer that then to deal with high profile famous prominent individuals who are subjected to this kind of modern day cancel culture where they wake up in the morning, and they work in the morning, and all over the media is something that they may or may not have said. And let's assume they have said it. Let's say they made a mistake. They said or did something that they that is regrettable, you know, can they recover from it? How do they recover from it?Richard Levick:
So first, let me say you to the closing statement I made a moment ago about you know, it's almost too late. It's never too late to do something. You can make it better, but it's too late. It's often too late by the time we get the call to control things. And I would say That's use your peacetime wisely. It is never easier as difficult as it seems it is never easier than today to address the challenges that that you have. And, you know, one of the things I would suggest for companies that will move out individuals is blow up your silos. For most of a century, we've had human resources, investor relations, crisis, brand legal, outside, legal, all different buildings, different cities, different countries. The key people amongst them have to know and trust each other. And that allows for the interdisciplinary approach, which I mentioned earlier, it's so important. And that that will help you make a decision about, well, if we need to sacrifice something, what is it? Is it our exposure in court? Because well, that's only 10 million, but the brand exposure is 100 million. Is it a regulatory fine? Is it an individual, is it a product line, you get to make the decision of what you get to sacrifice to make it go away. And that gets to your point about we're living in an age when there's so much anger, so little trust, where there's a war on pronouns, where you can be criticised for raising an eyebrow. And it's really, really hard. There's, you know, we're not in an age of forgiveness. And I think that is an emotional issue that people really need to look at. And that's what everyone needs to look at. And we need to spend more time looking in the mirrors than in our Rose coloured glasses that make us feel perfect, and everybody else imperfect, what's the old saying, we judge others on what they say we judge ourselves by our intent. And you know, we do need, we all need to be less abusive and more kind. Having said that, it used to be that being high profile, whether you're a high net worth individual or you're a business owner, or you're a thought leader, or you're an athlete, Hollywood star, was it was almost all upside and no downside, that equation has changed. And it is there are an awful lot of downsides now. And I think that you need you know, in terms of if you're a high profile, individual, high net worth individuals are a little bit different. You and I know can talk about this in great detail. But one, what do you want your brand to be? What what is it? Do you want your brand to have some political ramifications or not? What's your history? What have you put up there over the years that now that you're famous could be misinterpreted or used against you? What's inappropriate scrub, what can use scrub, you know, because as they said, the internet, unlike relationships, the internet is forever, right? So you want to be careful about that? Three, who your allies who are the people, you know, there's nothing like most of us aren't, Einstein said he had two original ideas. In his life, I'm presuming he was talking about his two theories of relativity. But if Einstein only had a couple of we need to be really thoughtful about our points of view or opinions. But one of the things that happens early in a crisis is because most of us don't really have the time to read, we scan and we watch, but we don't really read that we look for tribal indicators. Well, if what Phillip thinks is always influences me or George Will or you know, Winston Churchill or whatever, who is it that you look to that influences thought leaders are permanent that thought followers, people who are customers, shareholders, whatever, who are the people who are influencers, you want to be friendly with as many of them as possible, because when a crisis heats up, you know, the Joe Rogan, Joni Mitchell crisis and Neil Young crisis, I should keep going with artists, Nils Lofgren, that the you know, he came out with an apology pretty quickly. You saw the Wall Street Journal right after support that apology and others, the more that you can have others supporting your point of view, the more people say, Oh, maybe this is a reasonable point of view. And so you want to know who those third parties are, who your allies are right now? What's your search engine optimization, your search engine marketing, who is your crisis firm? A lot of your you know, the PR, the great PR firms that are the right for the brand may not be and are often not the right firms when things are going the other way because all the rules are upside, or upside down. Videos are incredibly powerful. We make decisions about right and wrong. Visually, the ear defers to the eyes. So what do we see what do you see in terms of photos? What do you see in terms of videos that can have a huge influence. And I think the other thing for individuals is, you really need to decide what is your brand? And how can you be consistent with that brand. You know, if you and I decide, I'm not going to recycle my plastic because it actually is plastic so hard to recycle. And this is just an example. Look, I've been recycling for 40 years long before it was cool, but you know, just for a moment. Well, if I'm a celebrity, and I don't recycle my plastic, that's probably never gonna see the light of the day. If, however, I'm a celebrity, who also also often talks about green, suddenly, that's a huge threat, that they see me with a plastic bag or drinking out of a plastic water bottle. And so we really, we really need to understand what's our identity as perceived by our key target audiences.Philip Grindell:
But is there a way back from it if you are subjected to that, that cancel culture if you have done something arguably, or even if it's a malicious campaign against you, once you've been effectively cancelled Once all your brands have stopped sponsoring you, once you the contracts have all dried out? How do you recover from that? Or is are we at an age now where you just don't recover from that?Richard Levick:
Well, first of all, let me say about cancelled culture, I find cancel culture extremely threatening. And look, I grew up reading Saul Alinsky Rules for Radicals. I was a community organiser. I know a lot of the cancelled cultural rules whether people or strategies whether people realise it or not come from that famous book Rules for Radicals, you know, 60 years ago, and from the Saul Alinsky school, I was trained in, you know, Midwest Academy and other you know, as an organiser by other organisations who were built around the Saul Alinsky model. So I understand its value and its power. And, but I also understand its responsibility. And that is cancel culture has become prior restraint. And I know in the UK in the US, we have different free speech rules for different liability rules. But we need to have an epistemology that is we need to be able to have debate that allows for people rising to wisdom, and coming to decisions. And I fear that we don't because we're not readers, because we tend not to be thinkers, because we tend not to discuss anything anymore. It becomes tribal, even the word tribal now is becoming a loaded word. But we are we're tribal. And, you know, you can look at the history of abortion and Lawrence tribe, the great constitutional scholar in the US wrote about this 45 years ago, abortion was not a political issue in the 1800s. And really, quite frankly, not until the Southern Strategy under the Nixon administration begins to make it a political issue. And now of course, it's hard and fast and becomes a litmus test for Supreme Court justices. But it's fascinating how non issues become issue. So we need to be sensitive to that. Yes. Is there a path back? Is there recovery? Most of the time there is, you know, I go back to Richard Nixon, I mentioned a moment ago after he's impeached and pardoned by Gerry Ford, his book, RN becomes a best seller and what was it a 700 page tome. But he does start the road to recovery. We are very a very judgmental generation. We're very judgmental people, you know, both the UK, the US and other countries as well. But we also tend to be forgiving, you know, there's an old saying about journalist, what is the purpose of a journalist to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, and I think we are like that as human beings. And that is at some point you feel they've been punished enough. Sometimes you need to engage employ the Betty Ford strategy, you just go away for a period of time. The good news is most people have amnesia. Most people have short memories, they do tend to forget, sometimes it's necessary to go away for a while. I'll quote Admiral Stockdale here who was the longest highest ranking pow during the Vietnam War by the US member of the military, and one of the highest ranking, he would run for vice president under Ross Perot 1980. And he went during those seven years, they said, you know, how did you survive? And he said, I wasn't an optimist. I didn't think Oh, Thanksgiving will be released, Christmas will be released. Independence Day will be released. But I did rewrite in my head where this narrative would end and whatever it was, it would make me a better person. And I think that philosophical approach is extremely helpful for people in extremis. People who are under attack, my life is going to change, it's going to be different. I may not have this revenue stream over here, but how can I learn from this and remake myself? And then how can I slowly clawed my way back? And what should that future look like? But one of the key elements, as I mentioned, oftentimes, is time. You know, there are many CEOs that we've worked with who have been and I would argue, in most cases due to overzealousness of prosecutors unfairly incarcerated, but to say, how can you get you come back? And, you know, is it a book? Is it? Is it podcasting? Is it video? Is it a rebrand? Every individual is different, but it does, it starts with honesty. And it starts with the Hippocratic Oath don't don't do any more harm when the situation is at its worst.Philip Grindell:
So one other question, I was fascinated by bearing in mind all the various clients you've represented over the decades of doing this, is how do you manage a client whose values potentially are at odds with yours?Richard Levick:
I want to make sure I understand the question, Are you saying that you don't believe in the client or that their values are different,Philip Grindell:
so your values are different? So some of the countries you've represented around the world, for instance, arguably, some of them have had different values to have the what you might enjoy in the in the US in terms of the freedom in terms of how they deal with Justice situations, or what have you. And yet you still and yet, you're still able to obviously work with them, you know, working with clients, etc. Is there that clash of values in terms of you know, which was some of the presumably with some of the Middle Eastern countries, compared to the US, particularly perhaps some decades ago, years ago? There must have been a real clash of values?Richard Levick:
You know, I would say largely, no, I mean, if I look back at our clients over the years, I would say, I'm hard pressed to think of any where I was not empathetic if not sympathetic to their point of view. Now, part of that is my training as a lawyer, because I do think that everyone deserves representation. Now. There are times when we've been asked to represent entities that are on what's known as the OFAC list, which is the third US federal government prohibition that makes it pretty easy, can't legally do it. We were approached by the Russian government a few years ago, before the Trump administration before the Russians, you know, that the before the Gerasimov doctrine, their doctrine to be able to compete, and I'll use that word as much as a military and political as economic sense. But with China in the West. I and we did not take that work. But that was one of the very few times that we said no, because look, when we did the detainees at Guantanamo. People didn't it was right after 911. It was the singularly most unpopular issue of the last 50 years in the United States. But I believe strongly in due process, and that things have to be fairly done. And most people don't most people, including Supreme Court justices are outcome determinative. Well, we want to get to a certain place. So we'll change our thinking to get there. I think, as I mentioned at the outset, I think the process is hugely important. No, Chief Justice Roberts, he's a conservative justice. I may not always agree with his point of view, but I know he's a process oriented judge stary decisis, the precedent of the decisions that have been made before they mean something and creating artificial and useless distinction simply so you can contort yourself to get to your outcome is not an appreciation for the constitutional process. And I feel very much the same way. Now, I will say this, how ironic, as a Jew representing any number of Arab countries. I have been in a lot of Gulf countries, I've never been to Israel. You know, shame on me. But you know, how interesting and ironic, but I also know I've been hugely trusted in within those Arab governments and being able to bring a point of view as well as some backdoor access that has been extremely helpful. I think that after 911 fighting for due process was critically important. You know, John Adams did it for the Brits right at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. If we don't stand for process at our most trying moments, then we don't stand for anything. We the Constitution doesn't mean anything free speech doesn't mean anything, the right to Association doesn't mean anything. If everything is popular. If everything is supported, and there's no conflict, quote, then you can't say I support free speech except when I don't agree with the other point of view. You know, if you look at the students from Columbia, Yale, Harvard protesting against Paul, was Paul Weiss, for representing big oil. And now going after other big law firms. I look at that, and I think, really, so you're here you are, first of all, you're going to Harvard, Yale, Columbia. Whose place did you take in order to get there? And oh, by the way, what did daddy or mommy do for a living in order to be able to get you to Harvard and Yale and Columbia? That may not be true for every student there, but it's true for a goodly portion. So here you are from in most cases from a very comfortable position. What about the right to counsel? Is that not sacred? And there seems to be just run roughshod over that. The other thing that, of course, concerns me about this self justified positioning and criticism is that not only does everyone deserve a right to counsel, but what why, why is it big oil? I mean, yes, 20 years ago, Exxon denied global warming. But there's no question that big oil has moved to you know, BP was beyond petroleum. And yet we still criticise BP for the Gulf oil spill, despite their move from way from an oil company to being an energy company. So we need you know, Dante's Inferno, right? We always need our El Diablo we always need our evildoer. No story is good without a villain. And yet, I think if we're going to get to this higher place, we need to be more open. And part of our job is to lower the temperature so that there can be those conversations. And that's why it's important for law firms to anticipate these kinds of protests today, why it's important for energy companies to have their allies and be thinking about what their green position is. It's important for critics to do their homework. And by the way, you know, a plug for Paul Weiss is they were the law firm started largely by Jews years ago, because Catholics would not let them into their law firm. We've seen that a lot with minority groups in the United States and other countries, the UK, obviously among them. Now, we're also the firm that did pro bono work for Thurgood Marshall, including Brown versus Board of Education, which desegregated schools. And and the same is true on leading LGBTQ cases and other civil rights matters. And I'm thinking, for the critics be really careful of who you attack and for the targets, anticipate in advance as much as you can. And then, you know, for me, the question you're asking, and I would ask the same question of you, Philip, is that everyone deserves representation. And you know, our job is not to spin. Our job is not to put lipstick on a pig, our job is to fix the problem. And let's lower the temperature so we can fix the problem. But lying dishonesty, ruse is not in our toolbox.Philip Grindell:
I think that's a fantastic way to conclude this podcast, one which I could have gone on for hours, listening and taking advice and guidance from you. I know every time we talk, we end up taking twice as long as we intended to because we end up chatting about all sorts of things. But I found that entire conversation fascinating on all levels, just not just your personal views, but your expertise, your experience. I've certainly learned a great deal from it. And I'm hugely grateful for your time. So thank you. Before it before I conclude, just just let me just for our listeners, introduce our next podcast, which is going to be really exciting because again, it's one of my American friends. And next month, we're going to have Michelle Calhoun and Michelle is currently working. In fact, she's the director of workplace violence for Homeland Security. And one of you know, she's a threat assessment expert. She's done a huge amount around the school shooting issues and around threat assessment for those but her her background is workplace violence and threat assessment. She's a real expert in that subject, and it's going to be again another fascinating conversation next month but for today thank you Richard so much as always it's been a pleasure and an honour to have you on our show and so thank you very muchRichard Levick:
the feeling's mutual thank you so much great to see you.