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When Robert Moore McManigal gave up a chemical engineering career with Standard Oil of California to attend Boalt Hall School of Law, he made a leap of faith that he would enjoy the legal profession. That was about 75 years ago. And ever since, McManigal has either dabbled or specialized in areas of law ranging from probate and intellectual property to tax and patent. And he has no regrets. “It keeps me active,” he says, “and it’s enjoyable, and it’s a challenge.” On Feb. 4, one day after his 100th birthday, McManigal — who still practices law from his South Pasadena, Calif., home — was handed a certificate by State Bar President Palmer Madden honoring him as “the oldest active member of the State Bar.” The certificate bore the signatures of both Madden and California Chief Justice Ronald George. About 200 guests, including family members, friends and longtime clients, attended the birthday celebration. And McManigal charmed them all with stories going back decades. “He is a man of considerable intelligence and wit,” Madden said afterward. McManigal, who now speaks in a hoarse whisper, graduated from Boalt Hall in 1928, after sharing classes with, and befriending, Bernard Witkin, who went on to become a legal icon before dying in 1995. “Bob recalls how Bernie infrequently attended classes and then would write a summary of the law to prepare for exams, including the bar exam,” McManigal grandson Dwight Stirling, who just got his bar license in December, said in a two-page biography about his grandfather. “One of Bob’s most-prized possessions,” Stirling continued, “is an early copy of Bernie’s outline.” McManigal, who has lived in the same South Pasadena house since 1940, began his legal career by practicing solo in Los Angeles. He then joined R.W. Whann in the mid-’50s to form Whann and McManigal, which specialized in IP and probate law. McManigal, now solo again, has several longtime clients, including Adams Right, which is a lock-making company, and Vemco Drafting Products Corp., which manufactures a variety of dry goods. His son, Robert Craig McManigal, is now chief executive officer of Vemco, and he says his dad still has his thumb on the pulse of the San Dimas, Calif.-based business. “We were selling one of the companies, and the lawyers said we needed a copy of the merger agreement filed in 1983 with the secretary of state,” recalls the younger McManigal, who is 68. “And I called my father and he had it on the fax machine in 10 minutes.” Stirling, who said he went into the law after a teaching career partly because of his grandfather’s example, says McManigal is known for spending more time in the L.A. County Law Library than just about any other lawyer in Southern California. “They will have to lock up the law library downtown to get him to retire,” says Stirling, who is 31. McManigal agrees, but says he only works when he’s up to it these days. And he’s a bit wistful for the earlier days. “You could rely upon the other fella’s word, and now you have to get everything in writing,” he says. “And we have so many rules on everything. It’s a different world.” Even so, he’s proud of his legal legacy within his own family. There are Stirling, who’s an associate at Los Angeles’ Jeffers, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro, and the younger McManigal, who graduated from UCLA School of Law before pursuing a business career. But there are also nephews Gerald Lawrence McManigal, who’s in private practice, and James Kenneth McManigal Jr., with the CHEC Internal Revenue Service; grandson Phillip Stirling, with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office; and grandniece Judi McManigal, with San Francisco’s immigration law firm, Munro, Nelson, Pearl & McCown. “They say they went into law because they saw how I enjoyed it,” the elder McManigal says. Dwight Stirling says his grandfather likes to call the law “a jealous lover,” in regard to the time he has devoted toward his work over the decades. But over the years he has also found time for four other loves. One was his former wife and high school sweetheart Evelyn, who is deceased, and another is his current wife, Claire, who was his secretary for more than 30 years. The remaining two loves might better be described as strong passions — one for bridge and the other for baseball. “He likes to point out that President Eisenhower would tell his Cabinet to hurry up with meetings so that they could get to bridge,” grandson Stirling notes. As for baseball, Stirling adds, McManigal adores the L.A. Dodgers and the New York Yankees, but McManigal, in an interview, declares his love for the San Francisco Giants. “[Manager] Dusty Baker has made a great team out of the Giants,” he says. “They don’t have near the stars that the Dodgers do and, yet, the Giants won the division last year. The Dodgers do stupid things.” McManigal’s health is OK. He had a pacemaker put in last September and he takes things a bit easier now. But he feels fortunate about his career and even offers some advice to up-and-coming lawyers. “Take it easy and don’t litigate. I settle most of my cases,” he says. “And stay away from juries.”

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