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Firm: Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP


CLIENTS: Beckman Coulter Inc., California Steel Industries Inc., Rheem Manufacturing Co., Pacific Wood Preserving, Exide Industries Ltd., Olin Corp., Sony Industries

Randolph C. Visser has been at the forefront of the development of California's environmental laws.

While still in law school, Visser interned at the now-defunct Center for Law in the Public Interest, which helped usher in some of the state's seminal environmental laws after the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill.

He credits his initial and continued interest in environmental law to mentor Mary Nichols, who was a staff attorney at the time and is currently chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board.

"I saw her as a sage and wise, experienced lawyer," he said. "But she was only about three years older than me."

Visser started his career at Lawler Felix & Hall, mostly handling cases involving the California Environmental Quality Act. From there, he moved to Morgan Lewis & Bockius, where he became chairman of the firm's West Coast environmental practice and transitioned into regulatory compliance.

Visser now handles mostly air quality and water quality matters at Sheppard Mullin.

In 2007, Visser convinced the California State Water Resources Control Board to drop a requirement that a company handling metals and chemicals provide bottled water to nearby residents due to perchlorate levels in the drinking water. His argument was that the concentration was below the state's minimum level.

He says today's young environmental attorneys are dealing with many more cutting-edge issues than he did starting out.

"I can't think of a more exciting place to do environmental law than in California," he said. "We do it first. We're kind of the test lab for these issues."

Though Visser enjoys his legal work, he enjoys writing, too. He writes film reviews for his firm's newsletter and has aspirations to write the great American novel some day, or even a John Grisham-type legal thriller with an environmental angle.

He also enjoys less serious fare: Visser has a collection of 10,000 comic books.

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