Charles Lew is a multifaceted humanitarian and business leader who is deeply immersed in Los Angeles culture. Not only does he direct The Lew Firm, he also serves as a Los Angeles Small Business Commissioner and is a board member of the nonprofit Mental Health America Los Angeles. With a bevy of high-profile clients, including Metta World Peace, Nick Fouquet, Gabriel Rosado, Omari Hardwick and Trejo’s Tacos, Lew’s entrepreneurial pursuits are numerous and varied.
In addition to practicing law, Lew owns several successful technology and hospitality businesses: As a restaurateur, he has founded several establishments, including Boomtown Brewery and Stout Burgers & Beer. He also co-founded a contemporary fine jewelry and engraving house in 2013 with Jason Hoehn called Huckleberry Ltd.
Raised in both Scotland and Florida, Lew is a graduate of Florida State University. In 1995, he moved from Florida to Los Angeles to attend Loyola Marymount Law School. Present day, he serves on the Board of Directors of Loyola and credits the school’s diverse environment for ingraining progressive values in him, as well as the belief that professionals have an obligation to give back to their community.
While in LA, Lew founded both Hello Esquire and HRmony. The two web applications help address the needs of attorneys, who as a group experience disproportionate rates of depression and suicide. The Hello Esquire platform works in partnership with the nonprofit Mental Health America Los Angeles and enables both budding and experienced lawyers to build easy-to-use websites through fully customizable, code-free design templates. The HRmony app aims to improve workplace environments and prevent business lawsuits by providing anti-harassment training and a forum for employees to voice concerns to their employers.
By creating platforms that support mental health for professionals, Lew’s influence in the community is deep and enduring, even as he inspires Angelenos to dream big. “Take advantage of the city we live in. Los Angeles, it’s a city of dreamers. It’s a city where you can wake up and do whatever you want, whenever you want. I’m grateful to be here and for the opportunity to make an impact.”
MAKING TECH SIMPLE
Charles Lew: Hello Esquire initially came about because I worked with a client of mine who sold a company that did template photography websites. What I realized after watching this company transaction was that photographers were unwilling to build their own website, similar to lawyers who are usually not artistic but would spend hours attempting to make one. I tried to build a website once for about four hours and then gave up. The idea for this company was to make building websites very easy for both new and experienced lawyers to have an affordable solution to building a professional website.
On top of the unique tech aspects, we wanted to create a system where lawyers could go and get health advice. We wanted to make sure that attorneys seek and have the ability to get assistance if they are struggling with mental health.
Charles Lew: HRmony is another company that I would group into this legal technology sector. I call it a litigation mitigation application. I know it’s a mouthful, but what that really means is very simplistic. It’s a geo-fenced app that an employer would put in their place of business. When an individual employee leaves that business and they clock out, it would present them with seven to 10 questions which would address the workday and provide a forum for that employee to voice or vocalize any hostile work environment that they had been subjected to. Issues such as their inability to take their break, injury that they’d been subjected to, or anything of a negative nature would now have a platform for timely and detailed tracking. It would not only notify the employer of such incidents, but also allow the employer to mitigate potential liability from one of these acts not being addressed over a prolonged period.
CHARLES LEW: AdoptTogether is an organization that was founded by Hank Fortener. The story of Hank’s family is one of the most heartwarming, endearing and altruistic stories you’ll ever hear in your life. Hank grew up on a farm and his biological parents fostered 36 children, adopting eight from six different countries. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear it, it never grows old. It’s absolutely beautiful.
My brother was adopted, so it was something personal to me. I was thinking about what my life would have been like without my brother in it. It’s such an unimaginable thought that I’ve always been a huge proponent of adoption. Just the basic idea of adoption is to take a child that doesn’t have a family and place them with a family that wants a child. It just seems so rudimentary but so powerful. I always loved that. While families have the love in their hearts to adopt, most do not have disposable income to the tens of thousands of dollars to cover all the fees that may be associated with the adoption process. AdoptTogether is a crowd-funding concept that raises money to cover those costs so families with open arms can focus on what’s important: bringing children to their forever home. It’s been incredible serving on the board of directors because we’ve raised tens of millions of dollars and assisted and or completed thousands of adoptions. It’s been an eye-opening journey that we continue to be actively involved in and I hope we’ll be able to continue this forever.
EMBRACING THE MENTAL HEALTH CONVERSATION
Charles Lew: I think we all deal with mental health issues and the maintenance of mental health. We all go through difficulties and seasons. There are summers where everything in the garden is rosy, and everybody’s happy, then there are winters where things are a little bleak and dark, and we struggle a bit more. I am certainly not immune to it but I’ve found solace for myself in family and friends.
Metta World Peace is a basketball player that’s been an inspiration for me from a mental health perspective. When people who are known for their athletic endeavors and physical strengths come out and they say, “I have weaknesses,” it makes it easier for all of us to talk about it.
I don’t feel embarrassed to talk about mental health. I am grateful for being involved with incredible organizations such as AdoptTogether, Mental Health America Los Angeles, Project Paperbag and Stout’s Sip and Chew, to name a few. Being surrounded by supportive people is where I find comfort and peace, and the unconditional love of pets is always a beacon of light when all else may seem lost. In times where solitude is needed, I’m also a huge advocate of meditation, reading, and writing.
FINDING YOUR VOICE, TAKING RISKS
Charles Lew: You know, a lot of people have a voice but with no audience, and a lot of people have an audience, but no voice. Very few people have both a voice and an audience. That’s where this moral obligation to have a positive impact comes in. You must come to the realization that we all actually have an audience; maybe through multiple degrees of separation, but we all have an audience. For the span of our lives, how do we reach out and interact with that audience? I think that’s it. The telling part is how you live your life and the legacy of your life.
We all find ourselves in difficult situations daily. However, we delve into this very comfortable place. I think sometimes we grow so accustomed to such comforts that we don’t really push ourselves anymore. This is something that I continue to work on.
Charles Lew: Strive to be your best. I love the idea that it’s a moral obligation to make the world a better place and continue to look out for each other. Take advantage of the city we live in. Los Angeles, it’s a city of dreamers. It’s a city where you can wake up and do whatever you want, whenever you want. Someone will tell you that no dream is too big to start and curate today, and you’ll come across that statement many times in the books you read and the podcasts you hear- because it’s absolutely true. I’m grateful to be here in LA and for the opportunity to make an impact.