GEORGE KIEFFER, 61
FIRM: Mannatt Phelps & Phillips LLP
LAW SCHOOL: UCLA
CLIENTS: AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Toyota Motor Sales Corp., Burlington Santa Fe Railway, Forest City Development, Applied Materials Inc.
George Kieffer has presented arguments in front of the Los Angeles City Council, California Coastal Commission and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Los Angeles County, among other agencies. But the toughest crowds he said he’s faced actually came at gigs while a struggling singer-songwriter.
“I remember playing the Troubadour club and being so nervous,” said Kieffer, who in 1976 at age 28 took a year off from practicing law to attempt going full-time as a musician. “Music has been the only competing interest to law in my life. I always felt comfortable practicing law in front of front of judges following some objective framework, but in art, it’s all subjective and there aren’t laws.”
Kieffer has been with Mannatt Phelps & Phillips since graduating from UCLA law school 36 years ago. Hired when the firm only had eight attorneys, he is now a partner in a West Los Angeles firm that has grown to 300 lawyers. He serves as chairman of the government and regulatory policy division.
Manatt has allowed him to take periodic breaks for, as he puts it, “good behavior” to write a book, study musical theater, and serve as chairman of one of two committees responsible for revising the Los Angeles City Charter in 1999 – the first such reworking in 75 years.
“That’s my proudest moment, seeing something I helped craft approved by the voters to help the government function better,” Kieffer said. “When I was a kid I was always fascinated with the U.S. Constitution, so this was, in a very small way, getting to live the process myself.”
Although he’s a Democrat, he maintains ties on both sides of the aisle. This summer, Kieffer was appointed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the University of California Board of Regents. It wasn’t entirely surprising: Kieffer has been a personal attorney for Schwarzenegger’s wife, Maria Shriver, both before and since she became the first lady.
The UC post has special meaning for Kieffer, who did his undergraduate studies at University of California-Santa Barbara before going to law school at UCLA.
Kieffer marched in rallies opposing hikes in tuition in the 1970s but now is set to vote in November on possible fee increases amid the state’s economic crisis.
“It’s a little ironic but I know what’s like to be on both sides of the issues the university system is grappling with and I care about its well-being,” he said. “That’s the perspective I’m hoping to bring in.”
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