The fall from grace of one of Big Law’s biggest lawyers – Bill Voge – the chairman of global legal giant Latham & Watkins LLP, is a sexting scandal that demonstrates the ease with which one can fall from great heights for reasons of ground-level dumbness.
The WSJ recently catalogued the fall, from the time Voge left his $5 million Solana Beach, Calif house last March to check through the shaming and sympathetic messages on his phone, about the sexting affair with a married woman he had never met.
It was a business trip last November when Voge spent two nights sexting the woman, explaining to the WSJ “I was irrational, I was stupid and I was reckless.”
An Iowa farm boy-turned-top attorney, Voge had earned up to $6 million from his firm prior
to his departure.
The scandal was odd on a number of fronts, apart from the fact that the two had never met and the fact that it could happen at all in those circumstances, but also because it was Voge’s complaint to the Police over alleged harassment from his victim, Andrea Vassell, which included allegations of untruths being told about him, along with the truths.
The lawyer and suburban mom left behind a long record of their electronic relationship—a monthslong cascade of emails and texts that tracked a roller-coaster path from courtesy to intimacy to anger, according to exchanges viewed by the Journal.
Mr. Voge and Ms. Vassell say they feel betrayed by the other. They continue to obsess over what happened, facing strained marriages and humiliation. They accuse each other of lying. Both say they will be vindicated when the complete set of text exchanges is revealed by police or in court.
The contact originally arose through the New Canaan Society, a national group of Christian businessmen and originally involving Voge as a mediator attempting to resolve issues between a leader at the Society and Ms Vassell, who had experienced a “Christian awakening” at the age of 23.
The sexting occurred some time later while Voge was preparing the annual financial updates
for his 700 partners.
“The steamy back-and-forth went on for more than an hour. Going to bed around 11 p.m., Mr. Voge said he recalled thinking, “What the heck did I just do?” Later in the week, he did it again by text. They also emailed and spoke briefly by phone. They talked about meeting in person but never did.
The beginning of the major #Metoo movement had begun by November with the accusatations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which had triggered similar reports against other men. As more women came forward, corporate America began to contend with allegations of misconduct by men in positions of power, including senior attorneys like Bill Voge.
Despite warnings and threats from Bill Voge and his lawyer, Ms. Vassell continued sending emails about Voge to New Canaan Society members, Latham partners, the head of a competing law firm and, later, to a few media outlets. She also emailed Jami Voge, Voge’s wife.
In mid-March, the law firm’s leadership gathered in Virginia and called Mr. Voge in California. They said they had decided to accept his resignation and asked him to retire immediately.
The firm issued a statement on March 20, saying Mr. Voge’s “lapses in personal judgment made continued service as chair untenable” and that the conduct, while unrelated to the firm, was not befitting a Latham leader. Law360 reported that day on the texts between Mr. Voge and Ms. Vassell, as well as those with Ms. Vassell’s husband.
Ten days after losing his job, Mr. Voge sent Latham’s partnership an email: “For those of you who had the courage to tell me of your disappointment, I want you to know that your disappointment in me will never exceed my own disappointment in myself.”
And their endeth the lesson of foolishness, and a stellar legal career.