Aldous Huxley’s revered satire, Brave New World, features a character who eschews the grave inequity of the novel’s premise, instead reasoning that after death, all are equal: “Every one works for every one else. We can’t do without any one.” As readers bear witness to a morally marrowless hierarchical order, it’s ironically evident that the statement is a byproduct of thought control. Fact remains, in life—regardless of what comes after the curtain falls—many have it so much harder than others.
Brave New World was published 90 years ago. Since then, we’ve become very accustomed to inequity—and its turbo-powered engine, egoism—in business, technology, climate, resources, and culture. Even basic fairness is seen as the stuff of fiction. So, what insight might Huxley’s “cautionary tale” reveal about the nonfictional New World bluntly encountering us at the moment? Maybe—just maybe—that everyone working for everyone else ought not be the scoffed-at-stuff of soma-induced autocracy, but a reminder of the value stake on which democracy was founded.
Enter Weinberg Gonser Frost LLP, a law firm strategically situated in the manifest scramble and bramble of Los Angeles. How might WGF be said to borrow from Huxley’s futuristic
foretelling? With the notion that mankind ought gracefully ascend the animalistic behaviors that give cause to the lopsidedness cited above. Because it’s better to control (and mimic when necessary) one’s doberman than be controlled by it. “We care about our clients as people, not just profit centers,” asserts Christopher Frost, a Pepperdine alum, Chair of Litigation, and newly-appointed Name Partner at the firm. “We also care about each other in the same way.”
This ethos finds even firmer footing when speaking to the firm’s Co-Founder, Tye Gonser, a former college baseball player, who began his career in Los Angeles at a marketing agency for the NFL before pursuing law (Florida State). Indeed, Gonser comes across as a coach you want to work hard for, and not because you’re afraid of him, but because your win is his win. “Curiosity and wonder are the starting point of empathy,” he says. “I think our society needs that right now, but I think, particularly in our industry, there’s so much fighting. You get into something and it’s a zero-sum game of, ‘We win, you lose.’ It’s a scarcity mindset, and I don’t share that mindset or attitude.”
Gonser’s perspective doesn’t seem to align with the cut- throat stereotypes that conjure when considering the representation and in-betweens of LA’s high-stakes fame and business deals. You know, the Audi’s and attitude buzzing around Sunset Blvd. “I’d like to believe that it does add to the bottom line,” shares Co-Founder Lee Weinberg—a Yale alum who has enjoyed quotations by outlets as varied as Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, and The Los Angeles Times—on his firm’s people first mentality. “It’s especially true if you’re thinking longer term, because people will work closely together and enjoy working with each other.”
Weinberg’s specialties are extensive, but his background founding a startup and raising capital during the dot com boom of the 90s sees him intrinsically drawn to the start-up culture of Los Angeles, much of which interweaves technology and entertainment. “I grew and learned a ton actually doing that,” he shares on this catalyzing phase of his career, “and that made me a better lawyer to represent these kinds of clients.”
This begs numerous questions about how legal strategy, some of which is upheld by a hundred plus years’ worth of laws, is keeping up with the chronically lane-changing nature of tech and entrepreneurship. “The law struggles,” says Frost, “to keep up sometimes with the emerging technologies, and everything else that’s new and different from what we’ve seen before—like NFTs and Bitcoin and Crypto. It would be pretty boring if we were just taking a sterile situation and applying a set of logic to it. But it really is the legal spiel that is constantly evolving, constantly adapting, and constantly growing, by necessity, at the same pace as society. It’s a fascinating experience.”
I ask if rising WGF star, Kylee MacArthur—a Pepperdine alum and former athlete whose expertise anchors in wellness entrepreneurship—is similarly compelled by the tension Frost speaks of between the rules of the land and a land in constant shape-shift. “The law is kind of the structure within which society operates,” she considers, “and therefore it is understandable for this industry to sometimes be slow. I think, especially living in LA, you see how fast-paced creatives can be and how the entertainment industry can be. They need to move fast. So we need to be able to maintain stability and structure for these people, as well as ebb and flow with the needs that they may have.”
As the mental health conversation gains gravitas in culture, what is the role of attorneys—who not only have to maintain the pace in question, but also absorb the emotional roller coasters of clients? I ask Charanjit Singh, a Loyola alum who specializes in intellectual property and business litigation, about the emotional tight-rope he’s chosen to toe on a daily basis. “People always have to defend their position,” he offers, “and sometimes, they get really personal and feel personally attacked. But as a lawyer, you have to take the emotional side of it out and think about it objectively—this is the weakness in my point, this is a strength, this is how we’re going to overcome this. It can be tiring, but I like the critical thinking.”
Throughout these conversations, the bridge between the elder practitioners and the firm’s brightly burning future is palpable. “Our industry can be pretty toxic in my opinion,” shares Gonser, “where we train young women and men that are really bright, hard-working 25-year-olds that there’s only one way to be successful. To me that’s bullshit. I think the first step is self-awareness and determining what success means to you.”
We pivot to Weixuan Cai—another rising star at WGF who holds law degrees from Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing, and USC (and passed both the New York and California bar). Wei personalizes Gonser’s sentiment, “I started at a small firm where I did not receive systematic training,” she recalls, “and I felt litigation was extremely difficult. I was thrown an assignment to draft an appeal brief, without knowing much detail of the case, when I was just a law clerk (before I passed the bar exam) and looking back, I don’t think that was the right thing to do—it only makes young lawyers feel scared of practicing law, and exhausted, before officially entering litigation practice. Building interest is important at the very beginning.”
Of course, despite the grim gravity, there are tremendous— hell, even inspirational—takeaways from Brave New World. The most timeless interpretation, perhaps, is that of the power of words to upset social “equilibrium”—or in the case of the novel’s plot, oppression and control. We might have many ideas about attorneys—they’re baked into the TV subconscious as much as villains or doctors—or we’ve been outwitted by them, clung to them in the dour hour, or enjoyed the odd game of golf or mezcal Negroni at their side. But as for this unique collective of legal eagles? They’ll continue to soar in a category of their own, with their romantic and stubborn embrace of language— what it means, where it can lead, and how it might fulfill our dreams of collectivity.
Photographed by Andi Elloway
Styled by Mui-Hai Chu
Hair: Tracy Moyer
Makeup: Lisa Chamberlain
Stylist Assistant: Justice Jackson
Written by Matthew Bedard