Bill Urquhart, Visionary Attorney & South Pas Benefactor, Dies at 72

A. William “Bill’’ Urquhart, whose “vision” transformed a small law firm into an international giant, was also, with his wife, a great giver to South Pasadena causes.
Photo courtesy of Urquhart family

A. William “Bill’’ Urquhart — a longtime South Pasadena resident who helped grow the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan from a modest downtown L.A. office to an international legal giant — has died. He was 72.

Urquhart, who with his wife Mary Urquhart was also known for his generosity in supporting many charities, died Oct. 4 from complications following a bone-marrow transplant at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, his family confirmed.

As an attorney, Urquhart was known for his recruitment skills, business vision and litigation prowess, according to an Oct. 7 news release from his firm. His “vision, bonhomie and flair for recruiting fueled the growth” of the firm from one with 15 lawyers “into a global litigation juggernaut,” the firm said.

Offices of the firm are now in 23 locations worldwide, with more than 800 lawyers on four continents.

“The word ‘visionary’ is used a lot,” founder John B. Quinn said on his firm’s Facebook page. “Bill was really a visionary.”

In a news release, Quinn went on to say, “That vision could not have been accomplished without his skills with people — his judgment, his affability and his caring.”

Urquhart was “indisputably the driver” of the firm’s transformation and international growth, Quinn said.

As a litigator, Urquhart was best known for his work with major technology companies, including Nokia and Qualcomm in the 2000s, according to the online publication Law360.

Over the years, Urquhart was named “One of California’s Most Successful Business Lawyers,” “One of the Most Influential Attorneys in California” and one of the “Outstanding Trial Lawyers of America” by various professional publications and organizations, according to the law firm’s website.

Albert William Urquhart was from Massapequa, Long Island, New York, and attended Fordham University on a track scholarship. He attended Fordham’s School of Law at night while working full time.

In 1988, after practicing law for a decade in New York, he joined the firm that became Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

Urquhart met his future wife in 1987, when she was running a cheese company, Lorraine Cheese. She was preparing for a culinary media conference in New York. The two had a whirlwind romance, Mary Urquhart said, and were married within six months. They had been married for 32 years at the time of his death.

“He was kind to everyone,” Mary Urquhart said. “He was the most humble person I have ever known.”

Bill Urquhart was the driving force behind the growth of his small law firm into a worldwide legal powerhouse. Photo courtesy of Urquhart family

In South Pasadena, the Urquharts were well-known for hosting fundraisers for numerous nonprofit organizations and political campaigns. They did so at their South Pasadena estate, where they resided for more than 20 years. Their home, which was designed by famed Pasadena architects Marston and Van Pelt, was featured in the Spring 2018 issue of The Quarterly, which is published by Gavilan Media, the publisher of this newspaper. It was a Pasadena Symphony Showcase home in 1980, Mary Urquhart said.

Local organizations that have benefited from the Urquharts’ generosity include The Help Group and the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. They also hosted events at their home for the Huntington Library Series; Ability First; Planned Parenthood; Pasadena Art Alliance; Rotary Club of South Pasadena; the Boys & Girls Clubs; Music & Mansions; and Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Activism.

Dan Watson, former South Pasadena police chief and local Rotary Club member, said he got to know Bill Urquhart when the Urquharts hosted fundraisers for his service organization.

“Bill always attended our Rotary events in his customary Hawaiian shirts,” Watson said. “Always soft-spoken, humble and witty, he was a warm and friendly person I very much enjoyed.”

In addition to his wife Mary, Urquhart leaves six children: Edward, Alison, Elizabeth, Abigail, Brian and Christine. Another son, Glenn, died earlier this year. Urquhart also leaves eight grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 19 at Holy Family Church at 1501 Fremont Ave. in South Pasadena. Mary Urquhart said that all who want to honor her husband are invited to attend.

The family requests that donations in Urquhart’s memory be made online to the Evening Division of Fordham University’s School of Law through