Heidi Timken and Marvin Starr

Heidi Timken and Marvin Starr

Published in 2011 Northern California Super Lawyers — August 2011

Heidi Timken joined Miller Starr Regalia as a law clerk in 1990 and stayed for 16 years, learning real estate law under the tutelage of Marvin Starr, who is a transactional lawyer. In 2006, Timken founded Timken Johnson Hwang. She fondly remembers having Starr, now 83, as a mentor.

How do I describe Marv? He’s a force. When he walks into a room, he commands a presence but he doesn’t demand it. He’s the guy who always, at any firm event [when Timken worked at Miller Starr Regalia], would be the featured host, the toaster of the evening. … There would be something nice said about every person, from staff on up. He treasured people, so whenever anybody new came into his sphere, he just engulfed them.

He was very humble, for being an icon in the real estate industry. Marv was the founder and author of Miller & Starr California Real Estate—a multivolume treatise that he and Harry Miller started writing back in the mid-’60s. He pioneered 1031 exchanges, [which] allowed taxable-gain deferrals in selling income property.  He did these monumental things, and yet you could sit down and talk with him about your struggles of being a new mom.

Next to your family, real estate means more to people than anything. He really taught me the human side of the law. The book side, you can learn. Marv was a little bit more of a sage. He was the guy that was a sounding board—“Does that feel right? Does that make sense to you?”—because the law, above all else, is supposed to just make sense.

He was a transactional lawyer and I was a litigator. That’s why I think my relationship with him was so special. He was the guy I would go to and talk concepts with; he’d always have something, not only invaluable, but sort of larger to say: the bigger picture.

This is a favorite memory: When I told him that I was leaving the firm, that I wanted to go do what he and Ed [Regalia] and Harry [Miller] had done 40 years earlier—which was to start my own firm from scratch, and that they were the inspiration for me doing it—he said: “You are not leaving bad for good. You are leaving good for better.” He understood the need and the desire for me to go—and that he was the inspiration for that.

That speaks to how he’s defined—his connection to people.

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