Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, October 10, 2023


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Harry Hathaway, Ex-LACBA President, Dies Following Decades of Service to Profession


By a MetNews Staff Writer




Harry Lee Hathaway, who served as president of the County Bar in 1989-90 and was a leader of a successful reform movement that put up a slate of candidates in 2016 opposing those who were on the leadership ladder, asserting that they were steering the group into bankruptcy, has died at the age of 86.

Meticulous in his speech and his attire, Hathaway was known for his affability and his effectiveness in conveying his positions.

He was licensed to practice on Jan. 10, 1963, and went on inactive status 55 years later, on Jan. 26, 2018.

Hathaway was a leader among lawyers from the time of his youth—serving as chair of the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) in 1972-73—up to his later years, co-founding the Senior Lawyers Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association (“LACBA”) in 2008 and chairing it in 2009-10.

In between, in addition to serving as the president of LACBA, he was president of Public Counsel from 1984-85, president of the American Bar Endowment from 1987-89, and was a member and officer of innumerable bar groups and committees including the ABA House of Delegates.

He was a leader of the reform movement in 2016 which opposed most of the Nominating Committee’s candidates for officer and trustee positions, with its independently nominated candidates (by petition) succeeding in every contested race. The bar leader was a litigant in 2017 as one of the plaintiffs in a Los Angeles Superior Court writ proceeding that ended with LACBA’s president, Margaret Stevens, certifying election results which she had refused to do.

Managing Partner

Hathaway became managing partner of a prestigious firm, Hill, Farrer & Burrill. Hathaway had clerked for that firm while in law school—at USC—and joined it as a lawyer in 1965 after returning from duties as a captain in the U.S. Army in which he was aide de camp to the commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps in the District of Columbia.

 While with that firm, he did work for the Texas law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski in its California matters. The “Jaworski” in that firm was Leon Jaworski who served as ABA president in 1971–72, with Hathaway having contact with him, through his ABA involvement, during and after that stint.

In 1990, the Texas firm opened a Los Angeles office and Hathaway was solicited to oversee it. He agreed to do so, remaining with the firm—now “Norton Rose Fulbright”—until his retirement.

He was a descendant of “Light Horse” Harry Lee, a Revolutionary War general and father of Civil War General Robert E. Lee—accounting for his middle name of “Lee.”

Idea for Book

LACBA had, in 1959, published a book, “Lawyers of Los Angeles” by historian W.W. Robinson. In 2009, Hathaway had the idea of a sequel to that work covering doings of the legal profession in the county in the succeeding years.

The Senior Lawyers Section provided impetus to an effort to bring about the publication of such a work and, at Hathaway’s suggestion, handed over to then-Deputy District Attorney Kathleen Tuttle (now retired) the task of writing it.

A committee was formed, chaired by Nowland C. Hong of Best Best & Krieger LLP, to come up with financing. Hathaway, Hong, and Patricia Phillips, a past president of LACBA, got the job done.

Hong recounted:

“It was amazing that during the enumerable predicaments we faced, Harry always appeared calm, following a few verbal obscenities, then a constructive plan of action and a promise to do something which he always performed.

“I recall that we had difficulty finding an author for the book who didn’t require a huge advance. Harry had received a book written by Kathleen Tuttle, a Chancery Club member, on well-known architect, Sylvanus Marston. Harry had actually read the book and passed it on to me, insisting I read it as well. I did and was impressed with it. We engaged Kathleen and she even helped us find a replacement publisher after the one we selected went out of business.”

Phillips related that “the most fun that Harry and I had, together along with Nowland Hong, was raising money and promoting, the book,” noting:

“Harry was instrumental in this and in soliciting others to obtain funding from their law firms.”

The book, “Lawyers of Los Angeles, 1950-2020,” was published in 2020.

Patrick M. Kelly, who immediately succeeded Hathaway as LACBA president, said that bringing to fruition his vision of a sequel to the 1959 book, in tandem, with Hong and Phillips, was perhaps Hathaway’s “greatest service to our community.”

Kelly Comments

Kelly, who later became State Bar president and is now a mediator after decades of law practice, also remarked:

“It was my honor to know Harry Hathaway for over 40 years as an accomplished lawyer, a bar leader, a husband, a father and a friend.

“As officers of the LACBA we developed a close bond of friendship and respect that has lasted through the years—so much so that I frequently called upon Harry‘s tremendous legal talent and impeccable judgment as a business and corporate lawyer to assist my friends and clients.

“Harry’s life as a true and long time Angelean bears the laudable mark of a Renaissance man and community servant. All of this service has been characterized by Harry’s fundamental premise of leadership—bring out the best in those around you.

“Harry truly had a ‘life well lived’ and leaves a strong legacy of service and accomplishment to those of use that knew him and benefitted from his indomitable spirit of friendship and service.”

Phillips’s Reflections

Phillips, who in 1984 became LACBA’s first female president, hailed Hathaway as “one of the true ‘good guys.’ ” She remembers him as “an important lawyer, distinguished by a long career of successful practice.”

While she and Hathaway “did not agree politically, that did not prevent us from working together on significant county bar projects,” including “raising money and promoting” the 2020 book, Phillips said.

“Harry’s wife, Betsy, was a charming woman whom he loved dearly,” she recalled.

Betsy Hathaway died on Oct. 10, 2017. The couple had been married for 55 years.

Phillips added:

“I feel very lucky to have known Harry Hathaway, to have worked with him and to have been a part of his long and illustrious life.”

Phillips co-founded LACBA’s Senior Lawyers Section along with Hathaway and LACBA’s 1997-98 president, David Pasternak, now deceased.

Hong’s Remarks

Hong had these additional thoughts: 

“The Los Angeles legal community has had enumerable outstanding lawyers; Harry Hathaway was one of them. Highly accomplished in his active practice of law and leadership of his firm, Harry also was dedicated to overall betterment of the profession. A past president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, he brought the Association through many crisis, while holding that office and afterwards. When president of the Chancery Club, he provided the leadership to make it a legal organization in which membership was sought, along with speakers of distinction and presentations, that attracted the members and guests.

“Having been a member with Harry in those organizations and known him for some time, I started working with Harry especially in the reformation of the L.A. County Bar Association.

“Harry always had a positive attitude about everything, including his own life. He and I continued to call each other to discuss what was occurring around us and our families. In our most recent conversation, Harry said, ‘The leaves of my life are all peeling off, but I’ve had…an interesting one.’ Just as always, Harry did it well at the end: he left us in the best way possible, in his sleep.”

‘Wonderful Man’

Brian Kabateck, who was president of LACBA in 2018-19, termed Hathaway “a wonderful man,” saying that he was “one of the first former presidents of the Los Angeles County Bar Association to reach out to me as I was ascending to become bar president.”

The lawyer added:

“He was always there and he was always supportive. He loved the law, he loved the Los Angeles legal community and he loved the Los Angeles County Bar Association. His passing is really the passing of an era.” 

Former Los Angeles County Counsel Lloyd Pellman said:

“I met Harry late in his career, but I saw that he was dedicated to the profession as well as being a proud veteran and patriot. He was always willing to share his views on a subject and his views were regularly supported by information he could provide. He was a prime example of an era that is dwindling with time.”

Former Partner

Retired attorney Davis A. Ebershoff was Hathaway’s law partner for more than 40 years—first at Hill Farrer, then at Fulbright. He said:

“Harry is somewhat indescribable—he had so many different temperaments and qualities. A fine leader who was direct—you always knew what Harry was thinking, whether you liked it or not. He loved the institutions that helped shape him—Cal and the law, were at the top.”

Hathaway received his undergraduate degree in 1959 from the University of California at Berkeley (“Cal”). Ebershoff continued:

“He devoted himself to the law and his many lifelong clients, who were intensely loyal to him. He was quintessentially a Cal man who loved all Cal represents—even its piss poor football teams. Harry was also an eternal and enthusiastic optimist, always looking at the bright side-and almost always carrying a large smile. His lifelong friendships with so many folks, both around L.A. and across the country, illustrate Harry’s draw—a guy who not only was a loyal and highly respected friend, one with high standards for himself and others, but someone who knew how to enjoy life and bring you in on the fun.”

Peter Mason, also a retired attorney, recalled:

“Harry was instrumental in helping to grow Fulbright’s (now Norton Rose Fulbright) Los Angeles office in its early days. Through his general reputation in the bar, and his service as president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, he gave immediate credibility to the new office. His love for Cal (my alma mater as well) was without limits. Upon his retirement as the partner-in-charge of the Los Angeles office, his partners gave him a commissioned painting of the Berkeley campus, which he cherished.”

Hathaway, who died Thursday, is survived by three sons, Mark, Brian and David.


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