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Over the past 50 years, through hard work, intellect, and a lot of charm, George R. Corey has built a reputation and a law firm renowned in San Mateo County and beyond. He is a remarkable lawyer, partner, mentor, and friend.
George Corey at his “Very Important Meeting” Bench, where he goes every morning for coffee. The bench was put in on his 65th birthday.
The same courage and dedication that paved the way for a successful and illustrious legal career also made George a legend in his hometown of Ambridge, Pennsylvania. When he was inducted into the Ambridge Hall of Fame in the 1990’s, local shopkeepers still remembered his greatest high school football plays. He went on to play football for the University of Michigan and after serving his country as a Lieutenant in the Air Force, he entered Hastings College of the Law.
With a wife and four children at home, George worked his way through Hastings as a janitor, alongside former Mayor Willie Brown. During his janitorial duties, George unwittingly pushed his broom into Joe Cotchett’s shoes, igniting a scuffle and friendship that has lasted to this day.
The day after George passed the bar exam in 1964, he opened his first office in Millbrae with Jack Bible. Shortly thereafter he read a call for volunteers to represent defendants charged in the sit-in demonstrations in San Francisco car dealerships. Demonstrators were protesting discriminatory hiring practices and demanding integration of the sales force. And so, fresh out of law school, without a dime to spare, a career of advocating for the rights of the average citizen began.
Part of a legal team that defended 500 protestors in the car dealership sit-ins, George was in the trenches with some of San Francisco’s finest trial lawyers. There he learned the true meaning of advocacy. George has the uncanny ability to sway his opponents by crafting unique and well-reasoned arguments that make adversaries forget why they disagreed with him in the first place. Though George fights tirelessly for his clients, he is always courteous and kind. He earns the respect of his clients and opposing counsel. Quite often, former adversaries call him for advice. George does not lose clients – people from five decades ago return to his office.
As renowned as his legal career is George’s commitment to his community. As the senior partner in his firm, he leads by example that lawyers owe a duty not only to the community but also to the legal profession. George’s longstanding commitment to advocating for the rights of the average citizen extends to the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, where he continues to act as Chair Emeritus. A fixture in San Mateo County, George served as Mayor of San Bruno from 1972 to 1973, served on the San Bruno City Council and founded the Peninsula Bank of Commerce. He has acted as a director of a myriad of community service and non-profit organizations, most recently as a director of Shelter Network.
Those who have had the privilege of knowing George know that he is far more comfortable in his Michigan sweatshirt than a shirt and tie. George’s ability to relate to everyone and see people for who they are means that he is equally comfortable chatting with his buddies over cigars and coffee at his “very important meeting” at the bench that sits outside Safeway across from his office as he is taking Fortune 500 companies to task. George’s bench was officially dedicated to him in 1998 along with a plaque which bears his name, a gift from his partners. The same crowd and a few others join George for Monday Night Football at the office where they laugh, swap stories, and trade off preparing amazing, home-cooked meals.
Working with and knowing George Corey is truly a privilege. He teaches young lawyers not only that they must give back to the community and the profession, but also about the business of the law, prioritizing the importance of reputation and fostering lifelong relationships. When people come, lawyers and staff included, they stay. George and his partner Steve Luzaich have worked together for 38 years. His former bookkeeper retired at age 87 and his longest standing current employee has been with him for over 36 years. The lawyers in his office know that his door is always open, drafts are marked up with his characteristic black sharpie pen, and that George’s perspective and mentoring are invaluable. He fosters a congenial work environment, where hard work is expected but so are smiles and laughter. A meal shared with George is a joyful, educational pleasure. Those of us in his office are better lawyers and people for having worked with George.