About Our FirmParker Milliken has deep roots in Los Angeles history.
On October 1, 1913, Claude I. Parker packed up his files and moved into a small office space in a building on the corner of Temple and Spring Streets in downtown Los Angeles to set up his own practice, an event that would mark the founding of the present-day law firm of Parker Milliken. During the preceding eleven years Parker had served as the first Collector of Internal Revenue for Los Angeles, having been appointed to that position by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1902. With a change of administration in Washington, D.C., however, Parker’s term of service with the IRS was coming to an end, and he was eager to venture out on his own. With his wealth of important contacts, long experience as the top IRS man in the West, and 1909 admission to the California State Bar, the success of Parker’s endeavor seemed assured.
The timing for Parker could not have been better: 1913 brought forth ratification of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and with it the first-ever personal income tax in the United States. Parker was a fixture at parties attended by local business leaders as well as the stars of Hollywood’s early heydays, and his tax and legal advice would be in high demand by those who most needed it: the rich and famous. A friend of Parker’s once reflected that “Claude had as clients every prominent movie star in Hollywood,” and with Clark Gable, Mary Pickford, Tom Mix, and Fatty Arbuckle all on the list of clients, this was not much of an exaggeration.
With the only tax office west of the Mississippi River, business would flourish as referrals from law offices across the country poured in. By 1919 four additional accountants, including Parker’s brother Ivon and his nephew Theo, and an additional attorney were on board, and in 1925 they moved into larger offices further down Spring Street, on the corner of 7th Street. Also by this time Parker had opened offices in San Francisco, Denver, and Salt Lake City. Claude Parker, though, was never truly interested in empire-building. His focus was always on giving his clients hands-on, personal attention, and the inability to directly interact with clients in the satellite offices went against the grain of Parker’s philosophy. He “just closed them up and gave them away,” said Theo about these other offices. Claude Parker’s insistence upon maintaining strong personal relationships with his clients and close oversight of their legal affairs, even at the sacrifice of territorial expansion, became an integral component of the firm’s philosophy that has endured to the present day.
By the fall of 1929 Parker, ever the masterful salesman, would accomplish perhaps his greatest feat of salesmanship: convincing John B. Milliken to leave the bench of the U.S. Board of Tax Appeals (the first incarnation of the U.S. Tax Court) to join him. During his term on the bench Milliken had decided cases which gave original or supplemental meaning to critical tax concepts that still survive, including depreciation and fair market value.
Judge Milliken brought with him to the firm great prestige and legal expertise, as well as widespread connections within the national legal community. And owing at least in part to its high-end clientele, the firm would continue to grow and even prosper through the years of the Depression. After spending almost two years in the nation’s capital nurturing business for Parker’s organization, Milliken came west in 1931 and the firm of Parker Milliken took root as the prominent Los Angeles law firm we know today.
As he had from the beginning, Parker continued to purposefully foster a climate of congeniality and camaraderie throughout the firm. His favorite venue for firm parties was his own home: a 64-acre ranch situated on a bluff high above the Pacific Ocean a few miles north of Santa Monica. Here he raised and bred race horses – Parker was a lifelong racing fan and horseracing industry leader – and here, on the mansion grounds surrounded by lush hillside vegetation and tropical gardens, he relished in hosting parties profuse with food, drink, and laughter. His parties were eagerly anticipated, and always appreciated, by the entire staff. Ultimately, in the early Forties, Parker would sell his ranch to one J. Paul Getty, and on that site Getty would set about creating what would become one of the world’s greatest art museums. Yet today a simple search on Google for “Claude Parker Ranch” shows the property as that upon which sits the famous Getty Villa museum at Malibu.
Since its inception, Claude Parker’s firm had been made up of both lawyers and accountants, organized and operated by Parker as a sole proprietorship. Also in existence since 1925 was the law firm of Parker and Smith, which Claude had formed with Ralph Smith to handle probate matters. However in 1943, in the midst of the war years, U.S. Congress mandated an across-the-board wage freeze that would precipitate a split between the accountants and lawyers. Judge Milliken, attorney Ralph Kohlmeier (another nephew of Claude’s), and other staff members determined that the a way around the wage freeze would be the establishment of two separate partnerships – one comprised of attorneys and one comprised of accountants, and the following year Claude ultimately gave his blessing to the split. The accounting firm of Parker and Parker, under Theo and Ivon D. Parker, split away from a partnership of lawyers bearing the new name of Parker, Milliken and Kohlmeier. The accounting firm would over time lose its name and identity through various mergers, but the law firm would persevere, perpetuate, and prosper.
Parker Milliken’s strength was not sapped by World War II. “Our business was so broadly based that we weren’t affected by the war,” said Judge Milliken. “We had hundreds of clients, most of them in the Los Angeles area, who kept the business growing.” After war’s end the firm received back into its fold a handful members who had been in military service and added new attorneys as well, none of them more crucial to the firm’s future than Frank W. Clark, Jr.
Frank W. Clark, Jr., the son of a highly-placed California government official and friend of Claude Parker’s, was to become a pillar of the firm, a strong leader who would emulate Claude Parker’s style of aggressive client development. He would lead the firm’s expansion into business transactional representation, as the firm began to provide planning and drafting services to businesses and their owners.
In the late 1940s Claude Parker fell ill to the point where by 1950 he was unable to continue working. Finally, on September 1, 1952, after the last of three strokes and a concurrent bout of pneumonia, Claude Parker passed away at the age of 81.
Shortly after there came about a case that would prove to be a milestone for the firm Parker had founded. The IRS would attempt to levy an enormous tax on Jack Benny, one of the most beloved radio and television comedians of all time. The IRS asserted that a stock sale between networks that had included Benny’s contract had resulted in ordinary income for him. Judge Milliken and Harry Harkins successfully argued the case for petitioner Benny, and the Tax Court’s 1955 ruling in his favor still stands as one of the nation’s most significant capital gains rulings.
One of Judge Milliken’s most important client relationships was with developer Del Webb. Webb had owned the New York Yankees since 1945, and in 1964, with the firm as his counsel, he would sell the storied baseball franchise to CBS for $14 million, many times more than the price he had paid. But it was in Las Vegas that Del Webb made his real mark (and his real money), and with the firm’s legal assistance became a major force in the development of modern-day Las Vegas. Parker Milliken attorneys played important roles with the Del E. Webb Corporation, with two attorneys on its Board of Directors, and many of its important construction, labor and tax matters handled by the firm.
Frank Clark Jr., who had been admitted as a partner in 1951, continued throughout the Fifties to emerge as a strong leader in all respects: technically, administratively, and as a forceful business-getter. In 1959 Matt Grossman and Mark Townsend joined the firm. Mark Townsend’s mastery of tax law, which had its origins in the years he was with the Chief Counsel’s Office of the IRS, would prove vital to the firm, as he served as Judge Milliken’s right-hand man while fostering good relations with clients and staff.
Matt Grossman, too, would become instrumental to the firm’s success. As a student at Columbia Law School he took every tax law-related course available, and was being recruited by law firms with strong tax practices. While on a visit to assess the appeal Los Angeles firms might hold for him, Matt’s interest was diverted from Beverly Hills firms to a certain downtown firm: the one which had handled the famous Jack Benny case, with which he was well-acquainted from his studies. The interest was mutual, and in 1959 native Bostonian and Harvard/Columbia-educated N. Matthew Grossman joined Parker Milliken. Over time his legal expertise would grow beyond tax law to encompass a broad spectrum of areas and would prove indispensible to the firm’s growth in its business and estate planning practice. In 1965 Matt began doing legal work for the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, and a few years later would become a director of the Golden Nugget and its principal legal counsel. Eventually Matt would also serve for eleven years as a Commissioner of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and would be President of the Commission for three of those years.
Three years after Matt Grossman and Mark Townsend came to the firm, another future mainstay would join the firm, also from the IRS Chief Counsel’s Office – Karl M. Samuelian. Karl’s superlative acumen in corporations and business law would attract highly placed contacts and clients throughout the remainder of the 20th century and keep the firm at the forefront of the Los Angeles legal community.
Parker Milliken’s expansion would take another significant leap forward in 1963 when John F. O’Hara, a law school friend of Frank Clark’s, brought his labor and related litigation practice to the firm, at which time the firm’s full name became Parker, Milliken, Kohlmeier, Clark & O’Hara. O’Hara brought along his associate Tony Oliver and a substantial portfolio, and the firm was then poised to handle the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements, labor strikes, and representation before the National Labor Relations Board. For many years he would represent the Del E. Webb Corporation in connection with a wide range of labor-related matters and would eventually serve on the Board for the Webb Corporation.
Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s Parker Milliken would continue to grow, substantially expanding its corporate and litigation capabilities far beyond Claude Parker’s “tax office” of the century’s earlier days.
Richard A. Clark, whose grandfather was Frank Clark Sr.’s brother, came to the firm in 1967 as an associate working under partner Bill Camusi, a flamboyant, spectacularly successful trial attorney who had practiced with John O’Hara. As time passed, it became clear that Dick Clark himself was also possessed of outstanding litigation talents. He was also possessed of an enormous affability, a trait enhanced by a gift for imparting profound legal wisdom in the context of easy conversation. He has chaired the firm’s Litigation Department for more than a decade.
Perhaps the best remembered event in the firm’s history is the 1979 sale of the Belridge Oil Company to Shell Oil Company: at $3.635 billion the largest corporate transaction in history at that time. The deal was consummated on December 10, 1979 -- Judge Milliken’s 86th birthday. Milliken would pass away 18 months later, but the Belridge transaction remains one of the great milestones in the history of the firm that bears his name.
During the 1970s the role of Karl Samuelian, who had been admitted as a partner in 1966 along with Matt Grossman and Tony Oliver, began to expand as his influence and standing in the legal community grew. The extensive and complex legal work required by the Belridge Oil transaction was performed largely under Samuelian’s direction. And as Frank Clark, in his capacity as the May Co.’s Executive VP, General Counsel and Director, began to devote much of his time to matters specifically involving the May family and its business affairs, Samuelian assumed an ever more active role in firm leadership. In 1981 he succeeded John O’Hara as the firm’s Chairman of the Executive Committee.
In the mid to late 1970s the firm’s practice continued to expand at a rapid pace. Claire D. Johnson came to Parker Milliken with a significant banking and insurance law practice, and under Floyd “Bud” Lewis’ chairmanship the firm’s Probate and Trust Department became a dynamic and vital aspect of the firm’s overall makeup. In addition, Tony Oliver’s importance to firm steadily increased. He had become Chairman of the Labor and Employment Department in 1967, and throughout the ‘70s Tony was on the move much of the time, immersed in labor arbitrations and the negotiation and administration of collective bargaining agreements both close to home and across the country.
The next generation of leaders that would set the firm’s course into the 21st century would begin to emerge in the 1980s.
Rick Robins arrived from Boalt School of Law in 1977, specializing in corporate and tax law while working closely with partner Mark Townsend. Rick’s aptitude for business administration, broad legal knowledge, and fundamental capacity for dispensing sound advice and just plain hard work made him a natural candidate to someday head up the entire firm, and indeed for well over ten years he has served as the Chief Executive Officer and is a current member of the now two-person Administrative Committee.
Gary A. Meyer came to Parker Milliken in 1980 and honed his legal expertise in the Litigation Department all through the ensuing decade, and during that time period began laying the groundwork for expanding the firm’s practice into a new area. Since the “green movement” first surfaced in the U.S. during the 1970s, regulatory and legislative developments in environmental matters had become so profuse and quickly-evolving that businesses and government entities alike suddenly found that they needed counsel with a keen mastery of the entire spectrum of environmental law. Taking the initiative, Meyer has directed Parker Milliken’s Environmental Law Department into becoming one of California’s most pre-eminent, with corporate and public entities such as the County of Los Angeles relying on Meyer’s team for comprehensive advisory and litigation services. His Department’s annual seminar has become a touchstone for the industry, an event that every year is heavily attended by business leaders, environmental law attorneys, and government regulators alike.
Brent Goodrich joined Parker Milliken as a partner in 1989 with 21 years of experience since his days at Stanford Law School. Over the ensuing two decades he would vigorously expand the firm’s litigation practice, establishing a wide reputation for ADA and construction-related matters, especially in connection with the transportation industry, with representative clients including the Los Angeles MTA and the Regents of the University of California.
In the mid-1990s Tony Oliver decided to scale back his work schedule, and a search for his successor as the firm’s Labor and Employment Law Department Chairman lead to Karl A. Schmidt’s arrival at Parker Milliken in April of 1998. Karl came to Parker Milliken as a broadly experienced and skilled labor negotiator and litigator, and with a strong background in accounting, much like Claude Parker, was also an authority in pension law and practice. Not long after his arrival he officially succeeded Tony Oliver as the Department’s Chairman, and has been at the helm ever since.
Throughout his adult life Frank Clark had been a substantial financial contributor to UCLA, from which he had graduated in 1939. In 1980 he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the UC Board of Regents, and he would serve as Chairman of the Board of Regents from 1986 to 1988. He was then reappointed by Governor George Deukmejian to the Board for a 12-year term, through 2000. In 2004 he would receive The UCLA Medal. When he passed away in 2008 at the age of 90, Frank Clark left an indelible imprint on Parker, Milliken, Clark, O’Hara & Samuelian, and he also left his mark on UCLA and the entire UC system which he had served. Dr. Gerald S. Levey, Vice-Chancellor for UCLA Medical Sciences and Dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, called him “one of the most influential regents . . . knowledgeable, wise and articulate. When Regent Clark offered opinions, the regents generally listened.” Today two UCLA healthcare facilities bear his name: the Frank Clark Urology Center in Santa Monica, and the Clark-Morrison Children’s Urological Center.
In late 2006 it was announced that Parker Milliken would take another significant step forward, as the financial services law firm of Ivanjack, Shuck & Milstead would be merged into the firm. In reporting the merger at the time, the Daily Journal noted that Parker Milliken had been founded 20 years before Latham & Watkins opened, and that unlike other firms of its size, “Parker Milliken has not vanished. Instead, it’s growing.” The firm headed by Larry Ivanjack had a strong history of its own and an impeccable reputation, at one time including 35 lawyers across the state. As the Ivanjack partners began to contemplate a possible merger, Tom Shuck recalls, “The main thing we were looking for was someone who shared our desire for long-term relationships.” As the Daily Journal reported, they found that in Parker Milliken. Since the merger became effective on January 1, 2007, the firm’s new Financial Services Department has rapidly expanded and become a vital part of the firm’s practice, and Larry Ivanjack now serves with Rick Robins on the firm’s Administrative Committee.
In addition to the hands-on servicing of the needs of the firm’s clients by senior attorneys of the firm, one of the enduring hallmarks of the firm has been the loyalty and steadfastness of its attorneys. In an era where attorneys join and depart firms on a very regular basis, a great number of Parker Milliken’s attorneys have devoted their entire careers to the firm and its clients.
The story of Parker Milliken, which has endured through depressions, recessions, and two world wars, does not end here, of course. All indicators suggest that Claude I. Parker’s law firm still has a long way to go and will maintain its tradition of providing expert legal services by its well-credentialed and experienced loyal attorneys.