News late today that a 35-year-old associate at Gibson Dunn has been indicted on two counts of promoting a sexual performance by a child and five counts of possessing a sexual performance of a child brings us back to the issue of how big law firms manage crisis situations.
“These images are not pornography…these are babies, these are toddlers and children being brutally raped, sexually assaulted and exploited by adults on camera,” said Manhattan D.A. Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
So far, the firm has removed Moshe Gerstein’s biography from the firm’s website, which was a good start. But the firm and managing partner Kenneth M. Doran missed a golden opportunity to say SOMETHING about how horrible it is to find out one of your attorneys was allegedly involved in one of the most despicable crimes imaginable.
This wasn’t about an adult shooting photos of himself in a gym and then sharing a provocative photo with young women on Twitter. It was a grown man allegedly in possession of some 5,000 images of very young children on three home computers and an external hard drive, some reportedly who were victims of violent sexual assaults.
The Gibson Dunn spokesperson was quoted as saying that “we don’t comment on personal matters.” I would advise the firm differently. The firm could have issued a measured statement and said it was cooperating fully with prosecutors in their investigation to make sure none of the firm’s computers contained any materials that Gerstein is alleged to have acquired.
Why would the firm say that? Well, if someone has 5,000 images of child porn on three home computers, wouldn’t lawyers at least consider the possibility that one of those photos ended up on his Gibson Dunn computers?
Saying “no comment” or declining comment because of “personal” or “personnel” matters only harms a law firm’s reputation further because it lets the media and others control the crisis story.
In this case, it’s even worse because Gibson Dunn heavily promotes its pro bono work for an organization called the Alliance for Children’s Rights, an organization that provides free legal services and advocacy to protect the rights of impoverished and abused children and youth so that they have safe, stable homes, health care and the education they need to thrive.
The firm’s management is proud of this pro bono work –as it should be — but that also means it’s educated about abused children. That’s all the more reason that the firm should have issued a statement today.