Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton Partner Richter Dies
By a MetNews Staff Writer
George R. Richter Jr., the last surviving name partner and founding member of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, died Sunday.
He was 92.
Friends and colleagues re-membered Richter as a “lawyer’s lawyer” who could answer just about any question you threw at him.
“He really liked the law and he liked lawyers,” Don T. Hibner Jr., a partner in the firm’s Los Angeles office, said.
While Richter always had time to answer a question or help guide a young lawyer in the right direction, anyone wanting his advice better be prepared when you knocked on his door, Hibner said.
“As a matter of professionalism and pride, you wanted to be prepared,” he said. “We would no less be unprepared than we would be for class.”
Richter was renowned for his dedication to the legal profession and his expertise in labor law and financial institutions and bankruptcy, as well as his commitment to education.
“A lot of us lawyers think we’re pretty good,” retired Sheppard Mullin partner Merrill Francis said. “Well everyone thinks we’re good, but he was really good.”
Francis also recalled Richter’s talent at condensing things, remembering a 10 page opinion letter he had handed over to Richter to review.
“He summarized it in about a third of a page and I thought he did a much better job,” Francis said.
Richter’s intellectual abilities were unrivaled, Francis said.
“He won people over not by arguing, not by yelling at them, but with his intellect,” Francis said. “He was so bright sometimes you just couldn’t argue with him.”
Richter started his legal career in 1933 as an associate with Mathes & Sheppard, but left two years later to serve as in-house counsel for Security First National Bank. He later returned to Mathes & Sheppard in 1936, where he became a partner of the firm in 1941. The firm changed its name to Sheppard, Mullin & Richter in 1945.
Known as an expert in labor law and financial institutions and bankruptcy, Richter was most recently of counsel to the Banking and Finance Department in the firm’s Orange County office.
Richter played an integral role in the success of the firm, colleagues recalled, concentrating on the practice of law and mentoring young lawyers while leaving the administration responsibilities to Stan Mullin and firm growth to Gordon Hampton.
When the firm moved from 485 S. Spring Street in 1974 to the building then known as the Security Pacific Building, Richter was horrified that they would be so bold to think they could possibly use all of the two floors Hampton had acquired for the firm, Hibner recalled.
“I remember him saying ‘Gordon, we’ll never have 80 lawyers,’” Hibner remembered.
The firm soon grew to be one of the most prominent legal institutions in Southern California.
Richter held many leadership positions in both local and national legal associations, including chairing the American Bar Association’s Corporation, Banking and Business Law Section and the Ad Hoc Committee on Class Actions.
Richter has a longstanding involvement with the Uniform Commercial Code, starting in 1948 when he was appointed chair of the first State Bar committee to the study the UCC.
In 1951, Richter became Commercial Code editor of the Personal Finance Law Quarterly, which also began to publish his Commercial Code Section.
Richter served as president of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, a national body of lawyers appointed by individual state governors to represent their states from 1959 to 1961. He also chaired the California Commission on Uniform State Laws from 1960 to 1973. He had also been a member of the Permanent Editorial Board, Uniform Commercial Code since 1953.
In addition to his role in business law, Richter also sat on the boards of a number of community organizations, including the Newport Harbor Art Museum and St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Richter was born on July 8, 1910 in Blue Island, Ill, the son of a druggist who immigrated from Germany and a homemaker. His father, George Richter Sr. owned two drug stores in Blue Island and a third in Chicago.
He attended public school in Chicago and graduated from Culver Military Academy in Indiana before he family moved to California when he was 16.
Richter graduated from the University of Southern California in 1930 with degrees in economics and psychology and went on to earn his law degree from USC law school three years later.
In 1998 Richter gave an unrestricted gift of $1 million in stocks to the law school, and the following year the school named the front of the school, the George R. Richter Jr. Commons, in his honor.
He is survived by his wife Betty, son Craig, daughter Georgeann, and several grandchildren.
Services will be held Friday, at 9:30 a.m. at Pacific View Memorial Park, 3500 Pacific View Drive, Corona del Mar, CA 92625.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company