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Saturday, Jun 15, 2024

Special Report: Who’s Who In Law – Ken White


BROWN, WHITE & OSBORN LLP, Founding partner


Ken White, one of the founding partners of downtown-based Brown, White & Osborn LLP, doesn’t just practice law — he often writes about it, too.

After riding the early wave of internet blogging (under the moniker Popehat), White would pivot to radio in recent years for a show, “All The President’s Lawyers,” on KCRW during the Trump Administration, and later to podcasting with “Make No Law” and “Serious Trouble.” On top of blogging, his writing has also been published in The Atlantic, National Review and Reason.

Before entering private practice, White was an assistant U.S. attorney and was involved in the investigation of the Los Angeles Police Department during the Rampart scandal, in which officers with the anti-gang unit at the Rampart Division were found to have engaged in corrupt activities and more than 100 prior convictions were overturned.

How did you discover your interest in law? And how did you arrive at your specialty?

My father was a lawyer, and I grew up aspiring to be one without a clear idea of what I would do. In college I did an internship for the district attorney’s office and became convinced I wanted to be a prosecutor. After six years at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I realized that I had misgivings about the system. I became a defense attorney and never looked back and developed my love of free speech issues into a parallel First Amendment practice.


Tell us about the most noteworthy or interesting case (or cases) that you’ve been involved with.

Some of the best ones I can’t talk about. But I’ve been lucky to deal with deserving clients and fascinating issues. Some of my favorite tasks are responding to a bumptious defamation threat (defamation being an allegation damaging someone’s good reputation) with a letter that terrifies the potential plaintiff away, winning an anti-SLAPP motion (which asks to dismiss a lawsuit deemed to be a frivolous attempt to silence or chill a defendant’s speech) and getting a censorious defamation case dismissed.

I became a defense attorney and never looked back and developed my love for free speech issues into a parallel First Amendment practice.

Ken White
Brown, White & Osborn LLP

Are any new regulations or pieces of legislation in Los Angeles or California creating new or more work for you and your practice?

I expect many pandemic issues to dominate white collar criminal law for years — pandemic loans and loan programs, medical equipment, etc. I remember that in the second half of the 1990s, the U.S. Attorney’s Office was dominated by government fraud cases arising from post-Northridge earthquake relief. We’ll see similar trends with people who defrauded the government to get pandemic loans.

What do you envision as your next step, career-wise?

I’ll be doing this for a while; I have two kids in college and one more to come. But I can see, as I get older, trying to write more, teach more and transition to something less hectic and demanding than litigation practice, or maybe narrowing my focus to First Amendment issues.

How did the pandemic affect your career, and what do you think is on the horizon for the legal industry?

The pandemic was devastating in many ways. Many people could no longer afford lawyers, work dried up, government functions that produced litigation slowed dramatically, and yet we had to continue making things work, and people kept having legal problems. Working from home was also a very significant challenge to bringing on new lawyers, involving them in firm culture, and training them — established relationships struggled along, but new ones were hard to build. The silver lining was a very strong movement towards remote video appearances for hearings, depositions and meetings, which is a dramatic time-saver for lawyers and adds value for clients.

What is the biggest challenge that comes with your job?

It can be very challenging to balance putting out fires in emerging things in cases, and going from big challenge to big challenge, with the need to do long-term strategic work and planning work. It’s hard to sit back and think long term when you have hearing-after-brief-after-deposition-after client arrested. Creating a workflow plan is a constant trial.


On top of your legal work, you also discuss law on radio programs, podcasts, columns and blog posts. How did that come about, and what motivates you to be so prolific?

I started by writing a blog for years, and gradually growing an audience. Around 2018, with the Special Counsel investigation of President Trump, I started getting calls to speak and write on federal criminal justice issues, and parlayed that into my first show, “All the President’s Lawyers” on KCRW. When that ended, we launched “Serious Trouble,” the new show. I enjoy taking complex, intimidating legal topics and breaking them down so non-lawyers can appreciate legal issues and understand disputes. Law dominates our society, and yet we too often treat it as a mysterious secret for a priest caste; demystifying it and making it even entertaining is a fun way to feel I’m participating in something worthwhile.

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