The name of late legal legend Howard Weitzman will no longer be on the door of the firm he co-founded, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. It’s a move that his family feels is an attempt to erase his legacy.
Weitzman, whose work for infamous automaker John DeLorian made him a household name in the mid-1980’s, spent decades representing some of the biggest names in entertainment including Michael Jackson, O.J. Simpson, Marlon Brando, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Justin Bieber and Chuck Lorre. He died in April 2021 after quietly battling cancer.
The firm, which will now be known as Kinsella Holley Iser Kump and Steinsapir, reached out to Weitzman’s family over the holiday weekend to let them know the change was coming. Its new domain — khiks.com — was registered back in March, according to ICANN.
“The reason why this hurts so much is because having my father’s name on the firm was, for us, a way of keeping his legacy alive,” Jed Weitzman said in a statement to THR. “What they are proposing to do appears to be an attempt to erase that legacy. Honestly, we don’t understand why they would make such a move. Howard Weitzman, my father, co-founded this firm and built it into the powerhouse that it is. He’ll always be remembered as one of the great lawyers of his time — whether his name is on a door or not.”
It’s unclear why Weitzman’s name is being removed now — as this isn’t the first rebrand since his death. In July 2021, the firm added Shawn Holley’s name to the door and removed Gregory Aldisert, who had left to run his own shop in Agoura Hills. That moniker not only acknowledged Holley’s achievements and contributions to the firm, but honored Weitzman’s legacy as a legal icon and co-founder.
Jonathan Steinsapir, who became a partner at the firm in 2011 and worked closely with Weitzman on matters for the Michael Jackson Estate, now joins the masthead — and Holley’s name moves into second position.
With firms that include a long list of names those first two slots are coveted, since they become shorthand for the business. (See: Hansen Jacobson, Jackoway Austen, Greenberg Glusker, and countless others.) Naming and renaming becomes a balancing act of respecting history and legacy while acknowledging that practices change and some individuals improve their stature in the industry and attain more widespread name recognition than others as time goes on, and leveraging those names can boost the business.
Moving Holley and adding Steinsapir makes sense, but dropping Weitzman is unusual. THR asked a few managing partners if they could recall a similar situation where a co-founder was removed after his or her death and they couldn’t definitively say it’s never happened in the greater Hollywood legal community, but no examples jumped out to any of them.
Howard’s widow, Margaret Weitzman, on Wednesday (July 5) also shared a statement with THR. “What’s in a name? Everything if it’s a law firm. It’s bittersweet news that Kinsella Weitzman is changing their name once again,” she said. “Why take Howard’s name off? How does it help the firm? Taking my feelings out of it, all I can come up with is WHY? He co-created the firm and certainly put it on the map. I think many of your readers would agree Howard Weitzman was a legendary lawyer and human. Why take his name away?”
There’s nothing to stop a firm from continuing to use an attorney’s name after their death, and the default seems to be for them to do so. Martin Gang and Norman Tyre of Gang Tyre Ramer Brown & Passman died decades ago, as did the third founder Hermione Brown — Harold Brown’s mother who is the one referenced in the firm name. A few other examples of deceased name partners across the spectrum of biglaw and boutiques are: Dana Latham and Paul Watkins of Latham & Watkins; William Sidley and Edwin Austin of Sidley Austin; Philip Glusker, Bertram Fields and Stephen Claman of Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger; Mel Greenberg and Robert Traurig of Greenberg Traurig. The list goes on.
When it comes to the Kinsella firm, there’s no question Weitzman had, and still has, name recognition beyond Hollywood. Outlets across the country — The Hollywood Reporter, Washington Post, The New York Times, Billboard and The Associated Press among them — and several overseas published obituaries acknowledging his work.
THR has asked the firm why Weitzman’s name was removed as well as the reason for the timing of the decision.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.