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Robert L. Lieff
Of Counsel, San Francisco Office
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415 956-1000
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Richard M. Heimann

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 the 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 implantsilicon breast implantsFen PhenVioxxCelebrex/Bextra, and Guidant medical devices cases.

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, and New York. The New York forum is held at Columbia School of Law and is co-presented by The Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy at Columbia University. 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 Susan reside in Montecito, California and Santa Ynez, California. They operate Robert Lieff Wines LLC at Lieff Ranch in Santa Ynez, California in Santa Barbara County.

Long form bio (click to open pdf).

  • Columbia University, New York, New York
    M.B.A. – 1962
  • Columbia Law School, New York, New York
    J.D. – 1961
  • University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, Connecticut
    B.A. – 1958
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
    1956
  • California, 1966
  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1969
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit, 1972
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, 1969
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, 1969
  • U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii, 1986
  • U.S. Tax Court, 1974
  • Founder and Co-Presenter of the Global Justice Forum, Columbia University School of Law
  • Founder and Steering Committee Advisor of the Global Justice Network
  • Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy Executive Advisory Board Member, Columbia University Law and Business Schools
  • Center for Chinese Legal Studies Steering Committee Member, Columbia University School of Law
  • Dean’s Council Member, Columbia Law School, 2006 – Present
  • Columbia Law School Board of Visitors, 1992 – 2006
  • Columbia Law School Center on Corporate Governance Advisory Board, 2004
  • American Association for Justice
  • American Bar Association, Section on Corporation, Banking and Business Law
  • Bar Association of San Francisco
  • California Trial Lawyers Association
  • Consumer Attorneys of California
  • Lawyers Club of San Francisco
  • State Bar of California, Committee on Rules of Court, 1971 – 1974
  • State Bar of California, Special Committee on Multiple Litigation and Class Actions, 1972 – 1973
  • San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association
  • AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell
  • Selected for inclusion by peers in The Best Lawyers in America in field of “Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions – Plaintiffs”, 2015 – 2021
  • “Super Lawyer for Northern California,” Super Lawyers, 2005-2009
  • “Lawdragon Finalist,” Lawdragon, 2005