William Godward, who was once the name partner of Cooley Godward Kronish before the firm rebranded as Cooley, has died.
Godward died at his home in San Francisco on Feb. 24. He was 105.
Though he had retired from Cooley, he maintained close ties with the firm. Godward saw the firm where he spent more than 70 years of his career transform to a small practice in San Francisco to, currently, one with over 900 lawyers, more than $1 billion in annual revenue and 14 offices across the United States and abroad.
He began his legal career at small Santa Rosa firm, Barrett & McConnell, in the late 1930s. He moved to San Francisco in 1941 to join what was then Cooley, Crowley & Supple, as the firm’s sixth lawyer.
“Bill set the tone and standards for the culture of the firm. And for Cooley, its culture is perhaps the most important thing about it,” said Patrick Gunn, partner in charge of Cooley’s San Francisco office. He emphasized that Cooley’s culture is built on Godward’s value of “teamwork, collegiality, concern for the well-being of others, and respect for others.”
Gunn, who joined Cooley’s San Francisco office in 1999, said Godward continued coming to the office for years after he formally retired. “He would arrive every day in the morning in his three-piece suits, would greet every single person that he saw,” Gunn said.
“He was a friendly person,” Gunn added. “But he was also an old-world gentleman.”
Soon after he joined Cooley, Godward spent some time away from the legal profession, serving in the U.S. military in World War II. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Godward was enlisted as an intelligence officer in the Navy and served in San Francisco, Hawaii and the Philippines for the duration of the war.
He returned to Cooley in 1945 and became a partner in 1947. While at Cooley, Godward counseled clients in the banking, media and manufacturing industries. Some of this decades-long relationships include Frank and Antonia Bartholomew, who started a foundation to preserve historic winery estate Bartholomew Park, and The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, which The New York Times bought in 1985.
“Bill was very passionate about his interest in helping those clients, his passion was infectious,” Gunn said. “If you saw Bill was interested in something, focused on something, you tended to take it seriously.”
In a push to capture the growing needs of emerging technology clients, Godward established Cooley’s Palo Alto office in 1980. He served as managing partner of the firm upon its move to the Alcoa Building in 1964 and served in that role until the mid-1980s, when he was succeeded by Jim Gaither.
In addition to his work at the firm, Godward also had a passion for music, which he found as a young boy, when he saw Sergei Rachmaninoff play at the Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Later in his life, he went on to serve in various leadership roles at the opera, including vice chairman of the board and president.
Gunn said the most valuable lesson he has learned from Godward is “the importance of respect.” He cited a toast Godward would offer at the firm’s holiday parties: “From each of us to all of us, from all of us to each of us, for all the help and indulgence and kindness shown throughout the year and into the future.”
Cooley will continue to make the same toast the firm’s holiday parties, Gunn promised.