Nossaman LLP

Firm Founders

Our roots were firmly planted in California in 1942 by Walter Nossaman. For more than 70 years, the Firm has been home to some of the brightest legal minds and most creative thinkers. We recognize the founders of Nossaman Guthner Knox & Elliott LLP (now Nossaman LLP) and honor their accomplishments. We are privileged and lucky to call them colleagues and friends.

Walter L. Nossaman has been the Firm's name partner since 1942, when he partnered with Joseph Brady in the heart of Los Angeles to create the firm Brady & Nossaman which specialized in tax law. Walter became an authority on trusts, literally writing the book on it in 1953 - "Nossaman on Trusts Administration and Taxation". In 1962, Joseph Brady retired and Nossaman and his colleagues (including Bill Guthner) joined with an accounting and tax law firm, spending the last two years of his life at the new firm – Nossaman, Thompson, Moss, Scott & Riordan.

William E. Guthner II earned his J.D. from the University of Michigan in 1956, along with fellow name partner, Warren Elliott and long time partner Alvin Kaufer. Bill specialized in corporations and securities law. Perhaps more importantly, he served as the Firm's leader, initiating the merger with Thompson, Moss, Scott & Riordan through discussions with Richard Riordan (who later became a two-term mayor of Los Angeles). Two years after Walter Nossaman's death, Laughlin Waters joined the Firm, adding his name to the roster after he served as a Member of the California State Assembly and as the U.S. Attorney for the Central District, and before his appointment as a U.S. District Court judge.

Bill was very proud of the Firm's growth and served as Managing Partner for more than a dozen years. His fellow partners described him as a gracious leader, building long term relationships within the firm and displaying a great deal of generosity. He set the tone for the Firm's culture, which Al Kaufer described as "providing good service to clients and not working so hard that one misses the enjoyment of life."

John T. Knox began what has become Nossaman's strong legislative and public service capabilities. Jack was elected to the California Assembly in 1960 and served for two decades, including as Speaker Pro Tem from 1976-1980. He was one of the most prolific and respected legislators of his generation, successfully authoring key bills and revisions in areas including health care, environment, water, local government and corporate law.

He is best known for authoring the Knox-Keene Act which established a regulatory framework for the previously chaotic field of prepaid health plans (HMOs), "LAFCO" and numerous other landmark local government acts, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in 1970 and 1972, the Corporate Securities Act of 1968, and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission Act (BCDC).

After 20 years in the Legislature, and with three children in graduate school, he said, "I could no longer afford to be an honest politician – I had to go out and make some money." Former name partner Harold Marsh recruited Knox to Nossaman. Jack was keen to join the Firm but reluctant to move from his home in Point Richmond to Los Angeles. So in 1980 he successfully expanded the Firm by recruiting lawyers and lobbyists into newly opened offices in his beloved San Francisco and in his professional home of Sacramento. For many years Jack helped to grow the Firm and served as a mentor and inspiration in things law and life to a generation at Nossaman.

Warren Elliott complemented Jack Knox's state legislative experience with strong legislative experience in Washington, DC. Warren had served as the powerful legislative assistant to the three-term Colorado Senator, Gordon Allott, who established massive water projects essential for Colorado's economic development in the 1960s.

He moved to the private sector after Allott retired in 1973, and served as Associate General Counsel of the American Council of Life Insurance and then as Vice President and General Counsel of Aetna Life and Casualty Insurance Company. He returned again to Washington, D.C. where he worked as lobbyist, bringing his unique strengths and insight to bear on a full spectrum of appropriations, insurance, tax and healthcare legislation.

Bill Guthner recruited Warren – another Michigan alum – to join the Firm and establish the Washington, DC office in 1980, giving the Firm a national presence, and in 1983, a new name – Nossaman Guthner Knox & Elliott.

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