What Becomes a Legend Most?
Arthur Greenberg celebrates Greenberg Glusker's 50th anniversary
Published in 2009 Southern California Super Lawyers magazine
on January 21, 2009
Updated on June 11, 2009
At age 81, Arthur Greenberg is still hard at work at the same firm he helped found a half century ago. Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger grew from a small, three-man operation working out of a converted Safeway store on Wilshire Boulevard into one of California’s pre-eminent firms, a 90-strong outfit situated in a Century City high-rise.
“Yes, I am still working, although I am taking a little more time off these days. A couple of more weeks a year,” says Greenberg. “The firm is about to celebrate our 50th anniversary, so maybe I’ve earned that right.”
Not that he’s taking it that much easier than anytime during his previous 49 years. He’s still involved in litigation, dispute resolution, trust and estate issues and corporate and business transactions.
“I’ve always been a generalist,” he says. “Starting out, we only had three lawyers, so whatever walked in the door we took care of. As the firm grew we added diverse talent. I have the luxury of having a law firm full of experts, whom I work with continually.”
Greenberg has had an enviable career of pivotal cases, such as when he was asked by Barron Hilton to take the Los Angeles Chargers football team public in the late 1950s. He’d never done anything like that, but of course he said yes, and after bringing in the right people he successfully managed that public offering.
Greenberg was also appointed by the Securities and Exchange Commission and a U.S. District Court to be a receiver for two major securities fraud cases. One dealt with the sale of diamonds and coal leases and the other involved sales of oil and gas leases. He took over the operation of the businesses and defended the rights of thousands of investors.
“I was also involved with the savings and loan problems of the late 1980s,” Greenberg explains. “My client was Charles Knapp. I spent five years defending him in connection with numerous class action securities fraud cases, and at the conclusion he was vindicated. Every case was resolved or settled by insurance company money in his favor, basically. There was nothing in the way of a criminal indictment [for these specific cases] and he retained his substantial severance pay.”
Although he didn’t write any motion picture contracts, Greenberg has certainly played a role in the entertainment arena. One example includes a jury trial when he tried the first block booking case in Los Angeles United States District Court for the Central District of California involving a major motion picture that was licensed to CBS television and that resulted in a treble damage recovery in favor of his client, the producer of the film.
Born in 1927 in Detroit to Russian immigrants, Greenberg and his family moved around the country, to Cleveland and St. Louis, hoping to escape the worst ravages of the Depression. Later, his family moved to Los Angeles. “We wanted to avoid the impact of ragweed and hay fever,” he says. “Southern California was deemed to be free of those pollens. As a teenager I lived in Los Angeles, where I think I always had a fantasy of being a lawyer.”
Young Greenberg stuttered, and he found being on stage—any stage—helpful to overcome it. “As a kid I was a magician. I became a debater in high school and college. That led me into the area of wanting to become a trial lawyer,” he says.
In 1952 he was in the first graduating class of UCLA’s School of Law. After law school graduation in 1952, he practiced as an associate in a small firm and then by himself until 1958 when he decided that he wanted to establish his own firm.
“In 1958, I met Irving Hill, who was in practice already with Philip Glusker. They were extraordinarily nice people. We met over a series of lunches and out of that process decided to form a firm in April 1959.” (Two years later Hill left for the bench and became a federal judge.)
Greenberg says that nearly 50 years later he has no regrets. Although that three-person office has grown tremendously, Greenberg says it has purposefully been kept to a one-office law firm. “Though there have been opportunities to grow it elsewhere, it has been a fixed decision,” he says. “It makes it easier for someone like me to spend time transferring experience while accruing the next generation of lawyers.”
Arthur Greenberg Remembers His Almost 60 Years in the Law
“In 1952, a law school graduate could expect to make about $5,000 a year,” says lawyer Arthur Greenberg. And he should know. That’s the year—fresh out of law school—that he began practicing law. Now, better than a half-century later, beginning lawyers do a lot better. And much more than salary has changed for lawyers since the ’50s.
According to Greenberg, “The greatest changes in the practice have been with respect to the increase in women lawyers.” There were three women in Greenberg’s class of 50. “Today, women constitute half or more of law school graduates and the new lawyers hired by law firms.” Not only has the diversity of students changed, but the areas of study have as well. “The advances in technology and innovative business developments [are] requiring lawyers to learn subjects which were not taught in law school decades ago.”