A majority of partners of Holland & Knight support the law firm’s managing partner, despite his promotion several weeks ago of an attorney disciplined for sexual harassment, said a Holland & Knight spokeswoman.
Also, the continued coverage of the issue by the media, while disruptive, isn’t having much effect on the 1,250-lawyer firm, said Martha Barnett, chairwoman of the firm’s directors committee. The committee sets policy for Holland & Knight, a nationally prominent law firm with roots in 19th century Tampa.
Barnett said an e-mail from a Holland & Knight partner in Chicago urging Howell Melton, the managing partner, to step down speaks for a “distinct minority” of partners. The St. Petersburg Times reported Tuesday about the e-mail, which the newspaper said Holland & Knight partner Charles D. Knight sent to Melton three weeks ago. Knight’s e-mail, which the Times described as seven pages long, asks Melton to resign or risk being voted out as managing partner.
“It does not reflect the views of a majority of the firm,” Barnett said. “In fact, I believe it is just his views – one lawyer’s views.”
The case “does not define [Melton] or the firm in a majority of people’s minds. … I look at him and judge him based on the multitude of contributions he is making.”
Knight’s e-mail was in response to Melton’s handling of Douglas A. Wright, a partner with Holland & Knight in Tampa. Melton promoted Wright in March to the No. 3 post at the firm, several months after reprimanding Wright for violating the firm’s policy on sexual harassment.