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A Legal Visionary and Global Champion of Justice
Robert L. Lieff founded our firm in 1972, after litigating for seven years as a name partner with the late Melvin Belli in San Francisco at the law firm of Belli, Ashe, Ellison, Choulos & Lieff.
For more than three decades, Mr. Lieff was the principal architect of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP. Under his leadership, the firm became, as described by The American Lawyer, "one of the nation's premier plaintiffs firms,” with over 60 lawyers and 200 employees in San Francisco, New York, and Nashville.
Mr. Lieff was a key player in multiple landmark civil cases including the Exxon Valdez oil disaster and Holocaust litigation. In 1996, in the national tobacco industry litigation, he spearheaded the first settlement with a tobacco company. The settlement signaled the end of forty years of success by tobacco companies in defeating health-related lawsuits. Two years later, an unprecedented $206 billion settlement was announced between the tobacco industry and the states’ attorneys general.
The cases Mr. Lieff managed at Lieff Cabraser when he headed the firm’s personal injury practice and mass torts group included the Sulzer hip and knee implant, silicon breast implants, Fen Phen, Vioxx, Celebrex/Bextra and Guidant medical devices litigation.
In the early 2000s, Mr. Lieff created an international network of lawyers that meets annually at the Global Justice Forum. The first forum occurred in London in 2005. Subsequent forums have taken place in Paris, Rome, Vienna, and New York. More than 300 lawyers from 30 countries on six continents have attended the Global Justice Forum. Mr. Lieff continues to organize and lead the Global Justice Forum. These international forums are the 21st century version of the creative energy that brought together American tort practitioners in the 20th century under the leadership of the Belli firm.
Philanthropy and Civic Activities
Through a gift of all the attorneys' fees from the firm's Holocaust litigation, Mr. Lieff endowed the Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein Clinical Professorship of Human Rights Law at his alma mater, Columbia Law School. Mr. Lieff has endowed a second chair at Columbia Law School as The Robert L. Lieff Professorship of Law; Director of the Center for Chinese Legal Studies. He is also a member of the Dean's Council at Columbia Law School.
Mr. Lieff and his wife Gretchen reside in homes in Rutherford (Napa Valley) and Montecito, California. They operate Lieff Wines, LLC, producing wine in Rutherford and operating vineyards at Alamo Creek Ranch, their ranch in Santa Barbara County.
• Super Lawyers: 2005 - 2009
Admitted: 1966, California
Professional Webpage: www.lieffcabraser.com/bios/lieff.php
Honors and Awards:
Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.