Wednesday, January 20, 2021
HARRY LEE HATHAWAY
He’s Been an ‘Ace Lawyer’ and a Bar Leader Who Made a Difference
By Sherri Okamoto
he late wife of former Los Angeles County Bar Association President Harry L. Hathaway once accused her husband of trying to run every organization he ever joined—and she wasn’t far off from the truth.
From the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association to LACBA’s Senior Lawyer Section, Hathaway has had a hand in heading them all.
Washington, D.C. attorney Steven Pfeiffer of Norton Rose Fulbright—Hathaway’s firm prior to his retirement in 2016—says it’s easy to see why people were attracted to Hathaway as a leader.
Pfeiffer worked closely with Hathaway when they were the managing partners of their respective offices of Fulbright & Jaworski, which became Norton Rose Fulbright on June 3, 2013, and were on the firm’s executive committee. During that time, Pfeiffer says, Hathaway was “always a cheerleader for others,” willing to share ideas and to support everyone around him.
While Hathaway “was not afraid to take the gavel and be the center of attention,” Pfeiffer, says Hathaway was “never a ball hog” and made sure credit was always shared among the deserving.
People are just “comfortable with him, and trust him,” Pfeiffer remarks, “and even those who disagreed with him would still respect him.”
Born in 1937
Hathaway was born at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena on May 8, 1937. He was the second of two sons born to Austin and Mary Hathaway.
Everyone called Mary Hathaway by her maiden name, “Fletcher.” She was from Mississippi, and Austin Hathaway had met her on a business trip while passing through the state as a lumber salesman.
Austin Hathaway was “a self-made guy,” his son recalls. He had to drop out of college to work on the family orange farm in Porterville, so he was insistent that his sons pursue higher education. It was Hathaway’s mother who specifically dreamt of him becoming a lawyer and encouraged him.
Fletcher’s father had been a prominent attorney in Mississippi, and Hathaway says he had that career path in mind from a very young age.
Hathaway’s mother was the daughter of Condie Lee Tubb, a prominent lawyer from Central Mississippi, who claimed to have genealogical connection to “Light Horse Harry” Lee, Revolutionary War general and father of Robert E. Lee.
As a child, Hathaway says, he was a “good student,” not earning straight As. He was active in the student government while also playing football and other sports, he notes.
“I was well-rounded, as my mother always used to say,” Hathaway claims.
He was recruited out of South Pasadena High School to play football at UC Berkeley in 1955.
“Back then, there was room for small guys who could run really fast,” Hathaway says, adding:
“I went to Cal thinking I was going to be this great football player.”
After he began playing college ball, however, Hathaway discovered there were others who were tipping the scales at 200 to 300 pounds, and just as quick as he was.
“I stuck it out about two years, and then I realized, if I kept this up, I was never going to make it to law school,” he reflects.
Although Berkeley, from which he graduated in 1959, had a law school, Hathaway decided to head to the University of Southern California to pursue his law degree.
That decision, he relates, was influenced by a woman in Berkeley. The woman, Hathaway says, “was nice, but kind of possessive,” disclosing:
“I figured if I stayed up there, she’d have me on the sidelines in a hurry, and I wasn’t quite ready for that.”
At USC, Hathaway says, he was a “really serious student.” His only social activity was student government and he was elected as the president of his third-year class.
“The rest of the time, I was studying,” he says.
Politics almost lured him away from law school though. The campaign for a presidential candidate, then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon, contacted him, asking him to make some speeches for television spots endorsing the 1960 Republican Party nominee.
Hathaway was offered a permanent job, but he didn’t want to abandon his dream of a legal career, so he turned down the position.
He also took a break from studying long enough to attend a party in 1961. Hathaway then met Betty “Betsy” Falkenburg.
Betsy and Harry Hathaway after a day of fishing on the Owens River in 1969.
Falkenburg had grown up in San Marino, and she was home on a break from UC Berkeley. She and Hathaway hit it off, and they got married in 1962.
Meanwhile, Hathaway passed the bar exam in January 1963, then he went into the U.S. Army.
He had participated in the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps while at Berkeley, so he came in as a commissioned officer, a first lieutenant.
Hathaway rose to the rank of captain in 1964, and he became the aide de camp to the commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps in the District of Columbia. Betsy Hathaway helped manage the official’s social calendar.
Although the general asked Hathaway to remain when his tour of duty was up, he was ready to start his legal career.
Hathaway had clerked for the law firm of Hill, Farrer & Burrill during law school, and partner William Farrer offered him a job as soon as he returned with his wife to Los Angeles County in 1965, taking up residence in San Marino.
Unfortunately, the move involved a salary cut. Back then, Hathaway says, U.S. Army captains made more than new lawyers did.
Still, Hathaway says he has no regrets, and he was grateful that Farrer took on the role of mentor to him. One piece of advice from Farrer was to “find someone successful and clone him,” and Hathaway chose to model himself in the image of Farrer.
He says he joined the Chancery Club in 1971 (by invitation) because of Farrer, and he also became active in the American Bar Association at his urging.
Meeting on Oct. 5, 1964 are, from left, Venezuelan Army Major Arturo Rodriguez, First Lieutenant Harry Hathaway, U.S. Army and Major General Richard Collins, Commanding General, U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Holabird.
Hathaway joined the Young Lawyers Division of the ABA, then its board of directors, and he went on to head the division in 1972. He became a member of the ABA House of Delegates, ABA Journal Board of Editors, and the ABA’s Finance Committee and Board of Governors.
He was president of the American Bar Endowment and the ABA Retirement Fund and a chair of numerous committees over the years.
Meanwhile, Hathaway had also risen to the position of partner, and then managing partner, of Hill Farrer.
Attorney James Bowles met Hathaway when he joined Hill Farrer in 1979.
Hathaway “is a great guy” and “a mentor to all of us younger attorneys,” Bowles says.
“He was such a hard worker, who really cared about his clients,” Bowles recalls. “He taught us to always put the client first.”
Hathaway had a way of explaining things in a way that was understandable, and he was adamant about always communicating with clients, making sure they knew everything that was happening with their cases, Bowles says.
He adds that Hathaway “encouraged all of us to get involved in the community and professional organizations,” because “that’s the way you give back to the community—but also make contacts and generate business, too.”
Cared About Clients
Scott Gilmore, the current managing partner for Hill Farrer, recalls being hired by Hathaway 42 years ago.
During their time together, they had adjoining offices, and Gilmore says Hathaway always stressed the “care and nurturing of clients.”
“He’d say the client you have is much more important that the client you’re trying to get,” Gilmore recalls.
Hathaway also stressed the need to return every call from a client that same day, Gilmore says. To his knowledge, he remarks, Hathaway never left the office for the day without returning every client call first.
Hathaway’s skill was not just with cultivating relationships with clients. He also began developing a relationship with the law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski, as it grew and expanded out of Texas. The lawyer worked with that firm on its California matters.
In 1988, Fulbright, of which 475 lawyers were members, merged with the 100-lawyer New York firm of Reavis & McGrath, which had a small office in Los Angeles—destined, with that merger, to grow more. Fulbright asked Hathaway to oversee that office, and he accepted the post in 1990—and remained with the firm for a quarter of a century.
Texas attorney Howard Wolf met Hathaway during the merger and relates that Hathaway is “an ace lawyer.”
He says that “if you want someone who knows how to get things done, analyze a problem, come at it from different directions, come up with an answer, and then explain it in a way that everyone can understand, you want Harry Hathaway.”
Wolf relates that he has been practicing law for more than 60 years, and he has met thousands of attorneys in that time, but has “never known anyone more capable than Harry Hathaway.”
Former State Bar of California President Patrick Kelly also sings the praises of Hathaway as “a talented lawyer” whose greatest strength is his “practical approach to dealing with complex business problems.”
Kelly and Hathaway met in the early 1980s when both were members of the ABA House of Delegates, and their paths continued to cross in the years that followed.
Both became regional managers for their firms, both served as presidents of the Chancery Club. They also served back-to-back terms as presidents of LACBA.
Kelly and Hathaway started working on cases together, and referring clients to each other.
Hathaway “has definite views, but he is willing to work with others to compromise when it is necessary to reach a result,” Kelly says. “Through thick and thin, as the years have passed, Harry and I have always remained friends.”
Presidency of LACBA
Hathaway became president of LACBA in 1990, back when the group was the largest local voluntary bar association in the nation. Since then, Hathaway notes, the membership numbers have generally been in decline.
He reflects, with regret, that many lawyers today are “not as concerned with the well-being of the collective, of lawyers as a community in service to the public and the bar.”
President Richard M. Nixon meets with Hathaway at the White House on April 4, 1972.
Hathaway says he was “brought up with the view that his survival as an attorney could depend on a healthy bar,” but “somewhere along the way, we’ve lost that, with the younger generation.”
While Hathaway doesn’t have a silver bullet solution, he is insistent that “LACBA desperately needs to continue, and continue its role as a force for good.”
In 2008, Hathaway teamed with fellow past-presidents Patricia Phillips (LACBA’s first woman president) and David J. Pasternak (since deceased) to establish LACBA’s Senior Lawyers Section to maintain the involvement of older attorneys in the organization.
“It’s been very successful at that,” Hathaway says.
Section members provide mentorship to new attorneys, and the group has also dedicated itself to preserving the legal history of Los Angeles.
“The legal world is fascinating—what we do, and what we did, was fascinating,” Hathaway says. “It is still fascinating if we continue to make it that way.”
During his lifetime, Hathaway notes, the practice of law has shifted dramatically. When he was in law school, there were four women in his class; now, there are more female students than male students pursuing law degrees. Firms also went from primarily local practices to mega-firms having national and international practices with hundreds or thousands of attorneys, he observes.
The Senior Lawyers Section took on the task of bringing about publication of a second volume of “Lawyers of Los Angeles.” The original book, authored by historian W.W. Robinson, was published by LACBA in 1959.
The idea to bring the story to the present day was Hathaway’s. Fellow 2020 METNEWS Person of the Year Nowland Hong headed the committee to bring the concept to fruition, and Hathaway, joined by Phillips, led the fundraising effort. Deputy District Attorney Kathleen Tuttle (now retired) was hired to write the book.
“Harry is very humble about it, but he is a great fundraiser,” Hong says.
Phillips agrees that there was a lot of work, but says it was “truly my pleasure” to work with Hathaway, Hong and Tuttle. “We just had a fabulous time together,” she recounts.
Phillips adds that “Harry is a wonderful man,” and once she got to know him, it felt as if she had known him for decades.
It wasn’t entirely a labor of love, Hathaway says. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears involved in bringing “Lawyers of Los Angeles, 1950-2020,” into being, he notes. The 320-page book is bursting with photographs and vignettes about notable attorneys, trials and events that shaped the practice of law.
The end result “is an inspiration, history, and some of it is just fun,” Hathaway says.
LACBA past-president Michael Meyer says Hathaway’s ability to get along with others is particularly noteworthy.
“He taught me the art of being able to disagree without being disagreeable,” Meyer reflects.
Additionally, even though Hathaway has primarily been a transactional attorney, Meyer says he definitely has an advocate’s ability to persuade.
There was one time about 20 years ago, when Meyer and Hathaway traveled to Canada together for business. Meyer says Hathaway either hadn’t realized that he needed a passport to cross the border, or he had forgotten to bring it.
“It was so unlike him because he’s always so meticulous,” Meyer recalls, but Hathaway was removed from the line of people entering Canada and placed in a room off to the side. Meyer says he could see the immigration officials talking to Hathaway, but he couldn’t hear what was said. Somehow, Hathaway was able to convince the immigration officials to let him in.
Former LACBA President Charles Michaels says Hathaway is always “very dapper” in his attire. At a Senior Lawyers retreat, Michaels remembers being clad in jeans and a casual shirt when he met up with Hathaway, sporting a navy blazer and ascot.
Bowles also remembers a day when Hathaway showed up at the Hill Farrer office in a brand new shirt with French cuffs and a monogram. That occasion was memorable, he says, because a pen exploded in Hathaway’s pocket, ruining the shirt.
Hathaway is always “well-spoken and articulate,” Bowles says, but there was one time he demonstrated the command of a vocabulary that “would not be fit for publication.”
While Hathaway’s impeccably tailored suits are the trappings of a successful corporate lawyer, Michaels says, Hathaway is more than what meets the eye.
“How I judge people is by their sense of compassion and willingness to help others, Michaels says. “He could have just sat back and been part of a big firm, [but] he’s never been that kind of guy.”
Hathaway has “always left room in busy schedule, heart and pocketbook to give back to the legal community. He has always been willing to step up and do that which needs to be done.”
LACBA past-president John Carson similarly says that Hathaway’s energy seems boundless, and “he is very giving of time, energy, intellect and wisdom.”
According to Carson, Hathaway is “one of those guys that if you ask anything of, he’ll do it.”
Becomes a Plaintiff
One thing he was asked to do, and did, was to be a plaintiff in an action in 2017 to block LACBA from invalidating the results of that year’s uncontested election of officers and trustees. Then-LACBA President Margaret Stevens refused to perform her mandatory, ministerial duty, under the bylaws, of causing the results to be certified, and she and others attempted to cause the re-staging of the election. That effort failed.
Hathaway was in the forefront of the reform movement in LACBA which was born in 2015. Detractors contended that there was an overabundance of secrecy as to the financial affairs of LACBA and its workings, and too little oversight of staff and a neglect of the interests of the membership.
The following year, LACBA’s first contested election in 25 years was held, with Meyer, the reform candidate, being elected president-elect. However, Stevens was the current president-elect, and had entitlement to the presidency as of July 1, 2016.
Boards of Directors
Hathaway has served on the board of directors for several charitable organizations and corporations over the course of his legal career. That includes membership on the board of directors of Prudential Overall Supply for more than 37 years.
Dan Clark is the chairman of that board. His father, John D. Clark, founded the company in 1932. The elder Clark had known Hathaway’s father, so the friendship between the sons “goes back jillions of years” to when they were both kids, he says.
Hathaway is “just a peach of a guy,” Clark remarks. The two have often hunted together, chasing duck, dove and turkey.
Clark admits that he’s “not a great shot,” and says that Hathaway really isn’t, either.
“It’s probably always ticked him off that he’s not as good a shot as he’d like to be,” Clark says of Hathaway.
He notes that they were never competitive with each other. But Hathaway does have a competitive streak, Clark says, but adds that Hathaway is not out to be better than someone else, but is just driven to be the best that he can be
Hathaway joined the board of directors of Prudential in 1983, and “from a business perspective,” Clark says, Hathaway has been “a great asset.”
John Thompson, the chief financial officer for Prudential, has known Hathaway for more than 28 years.
Hathaway has “a brilliant business mind,” Thompson comments. “He is very, very adept and aggressive in pushing the company’s agenda forward.”
Thompson says it is “readily apparent” that Hathaway “cares about the continued success of the company,” and he also “cares about the people he works with.”
Hathaway is “very complimentary when you do something right, and very honest when he thinks you should have done something differently,” Thompson adds.
Hathaway also “doesn’t act stuffy like a big-shot high power corporate attorney,” even though he clearly has the credentials of one. He has a “great sense of humor” and frequently tells funny stories at his own expense, Thompson says.
Even though Hathaway is supposedly retired, Thompson says, “he is not one to be sitting around in a rocking chair.” He describes Hathaway as “full of energy” and an “exercise nut,” always on the move.
With the pandemic, Hathaway’s longtime friend attorney Robert “Buck” Newell reports, Hathaway tends to be “very grumpy” about being unable to do his normal workout regimen too.
Newell and Hathaway both serve on the board of trustees of the Susan E. Riley Charitable Foundation.
The foundation’s namesake died of pancreatic cancer, and its primary function is funding research into the disease.
Hathaway had been the attorney for Riley’s estate, and he met Newell when he formed the foundation in 2012.
Newell says that he has always been impressed by Hathaway’s “clarity of speech,” “sharp thinking,” and “snazzy dress.”
Hathaway also has “an excellent memory,” Newell says, in that Hathaway has not yet let him forget how the Berkeley football team snapped its 10-year losing streak to his alma mater, Stanford University, in 2019.
Berkeley has consistently remained near and dear to Hathaway since he graduated. He has served on the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee for the Berkeley Foundation, and is a member of the Berkeley Fellows Honorary Society.
His wife Betsy was a Berkeley alumna, graduating with a double degree in English and music. The couple had three sons: Mark and Brian, who were twins, and David.
David Hathaway grew up to become a lawyer, like his father, serving as general counsel to a bank. Mark Hathaway also works in the banking industry as an executive for JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Brian Hathaway died in a skiing accident in 1991.
The charming, gracious, and articulate Betsy Hathaway succumbed to cancer on Oct. 10, 2017.
Harry Hathaway reflects that what he has accomplished, through the years, was “all with Betsy’s help.”
They were married for 55 years.
As a lawyer, bar leader, and participant in civic affairs, his legacy is notable. Through now on inactive bar status, Hathaway, 83, remains active in LACBA and in charity work, and is thirsting for new projects and challenges.
Copyright 2021, Metropolitan News Company