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, Robert 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.
Robert 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, Robert 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 Robert 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, Robert 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. Robert 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, Robert endowed the Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein Clinical Professorship of Human Rights Law at his alma mater, Columbia Law School. Robert 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. Robert is also a member of the Dean's Council at Columbia Law School. Robert is a member of the Board of Directors of the Bellosguardo Foundation in Santa Barbara, California.
Robert and his wife Gretchen reside in Montecito, California. They operate Lieff Wines, LLC, producing wine and operating vineyards at Lieff Ranch, their ranch in Santa Barbara County.