Jewish Journal

An Ethical Vision

ADL to honor attorney's efforts to raise moral standards of businesses.

by Wendy J. Madnick

Posted on Mar. 6, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Dov Seidman is used to riding a little ahead of the curve. Back in 1998, the Los Angeles-based attorney and founder of the legal research firm Legal Research Network (LRN) decided to expand his business to include an online course in business ethics.

 At the time, no one could have foreseen the coming scandals involving companies like Enron and Arthur Andersen. As soon as the wave of corporate corruption hit, Seidman became the man to call -- both by the media for quotes and by companies seeking to ensure their reputations remained spotless.

"In 1998, we were starting to write pamphlets and handbooks that lawyers could proactively give to business managers and employees to start putting out fires, so to speak," Seidman said. "That was really a shift from working with lawyers and helping them to be great firefighters to helping them produce fireproof enterprises."

Seidman, who dubbed his ethics department "LCEC," or Legal Compliance and Ethics Center, said he views sharing ethical principles as crucial to a democratic system of law. He sees the Internet as the perfect  tool to educate employees about legal ethics and "the rules of society's road."

The Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) Western regional office will honor Seidman for his vision of bringing a new ethical standard to businesses here and abroad at its Jurisprudence Award Dinner on March 12. Other honorees will include California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who will receive the ADL's Distinguished Community Service Award, and Joseph D. Mandell, UCLA's vice chancellor of legal affairs, who will receive the Stanley Mosk Liberty Through Justice Award for his many years of public service.

"The award [Seidman] is getting is usually given to someone in the legal profession who is doing something a cut above the rest of the legal community," said Barbara Racklin, director of development for the ADL's Western regional office. "Looking over what he's done in his short career, we felt he fit the bill for this award."

Seidman, 38, attributes much of his career success to the lessons he learned from his eclectic childhood. His father, Alex, a physician born in Vienna to Holocaust survivors, lived in San Francisco and maintained close ties with the European Jewish community there until his death in 1992. Seidman said his father helped shape his outlook as a "citizen of the world."

But it was his mother, Sydelle, who changed the course of his life when she took him and his siblings, Ari and Goldee, on a trip to Israel shortly after the end of the Six-Day War. Although she spoke no Hebrew and had no family there, his mother decided to remain in the Jewish state.

"My mother had a very deep sense of intuition. Her bravery and adventurism were really off the charts," Seidman said. "In Israel at that time there was a sense of euphoria and magic. All three of us kids grew up bilingual and bicultural. It's given me the ability to be creative and see things from a different point of view."

The family bounced back and forth between San Francisco, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for years, finally settling in Los Angeles. Seidman said that 11th grade at Beverly Hills High School was the first time in his life that he spent two consecutive years in the same school.

In addition to the challenges of always being "the new kid," Seidman also had to contend with dyslexia. He said he got into UCLA as a "hardship case" and ended up majoring in philosophy, because it was the only major where it was easy to get classes. In Horatio Alger fashion, he worked hard, received his degrees, studied for and earned another bachelor's degree from Oxford and eventually graduated from Harvard Law School in 1992.

Two months out of Harvard, working at O'Melveny & Myers' Washington, D.C., office, Seidman was doing research for a senior partner when he came up with the idea to create a professional legal research firm in lieu of using inexperienced lawyers for research.

"It's hard to describe what it's like to be in the grip of a vision, but I was," Seidman said. The young lawyer quit his job to build the company. The risk paid off.

Within weeks of launching LRN (now called the Legal Knowledge Company), Seidman's company drew a mention on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Soon, companies like Motorola, Johnson & Johnson, DuPont and Chevron were signing on for LRN's services. LRN doubled its revenues to more than $100 million in 2002, said company spokesman Ken Montgomery.

Determination and passion for the goal does indeed pay off, Seidman told The Journal. "I think one of the qualities that makes someone a true entrepreneur is the inability to contemplate failure," he said. "You really focus on what you have to get done."

To make reservations for the ADL's Jurisprudence Award Dinner, call Les Williams at (310) 446-8000 ext. 267.  

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