William Kelly
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William "Bill" Kelly

Passed away following a brief illness on October 28th, 2013. Bill was a member of the California State Bar since January of 1962, specializing in bankruptcy practice. He attended UC Hastings College of Law on the GI bill following a tour of service in Europe in the Army. Bill graduated Cum Laude and was a member of the Order of Coif. He clerked for Justice Matthew Tobriner when he sat on the District Court of Appeals after which he went to work for the bankruptcy firm of Rothschild and Phelan as an associate attorney.


In the early 1970s, he went into private practice and eventually partnered up with another pre-eminent bankruptcy practitioner: Harvey Hoffman. Later this firm became Hoffman, Kelly, Stokes and Izmirian. In the early 1980s the firm disbanded. Bill then became a partner in Miller, Starr & Regalia, another pre-eminent California real estate firm. He later went on to Graham & James, which at the time was one of the very few international law firms headquartered in the US. He practiced in all areas of bankruptcy law and workouts, but probably was best known for his representation of bankruptcy trustees.


Bill was selected for inclusion in the very first edition of Best Lawyers in America, a peer-selected honor he justly deserved. Bill could cut to the core of an issue and get things resolved in a manner favorable to his clients.


Much to Bill's credit, he chose to befriend people far afield from the practice of law. He rarely discussed the law in conversations, much preferring to talk books, politics or sports. He was ornery and stubborn and very bright. Any conversation was likely to shed an interesting light on the subject being discussed.


Some of the things that few people knew about Bill was that during the Vietnam War he counseled anti-war draft objectors on a pro-bono basis; that in retirement he volunteered at the public library, teaching illiterate adults to read; and that he volunteered at the SPCA, bringing his beloved Labrador Retriever into classrooms to teach dog safety.


Bill enjoyed sporting events, travel, jazz music, a good book, a good meal and good conversation with friends and family.


Preceded in death by his loving wife Barbara, Bill is survived by his four daughters: Linda Green, Bronwen Kelly, Teresa Davilla and Gretchen Skaggs and his sister Patty Watkins. He is also survived by six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.


In lieu of flowers, donations to the San Francisco Humane Society would be appreciated by the family. Keeping with his unconventional nature, Bill insisted that there be no funeral or memorial service. However, the family will be having a celebration of his life party next month. Please contact gretchenskaggs@gmail.com for details.



To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Nov. 2 to Nov. 3, 2013.
Memories & Condolences
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5 entries
November 6, 2013
My condolences to Bill's family and friends on his passing. He remained steadfast during Barbara's terrible illness, and for that I will be forever grateful. I hope they are together in peace now.
Valerie Konkle
November 3, 2013
Bill was my original mentor. He hired me as a clerk to do research for him in bankruptcy law while I was in law school. I knew Bill was a natural teacher. Somehow he convinced Harv to hire me as an associate if I passed the bar. That was a great motivation because there was nowhere else I would rather begin practicing than with Bill. Rest in peace my mentor and teacher.
Jim Tiemstra
November 3, 2013
When I was a Law Clerk for Bankruptcy Judge King (80-82), I wanted nothing more than to get a job with Bill after my clerkship. But my fellow clerk, subsequently Bankruptcy Judge Ellen Carroll, beat me to it, so I never had the opportunity to work with him. But he always struck me as emblematic of the best of the late-Act, early-Code bankruptcy practice and bankruptcy community in the Bay Area, and has always occupied a very special place in my heart. I was very happy to have seen Bill, Bob Phelan and Hal Auerbach at The Ramp only a few weeks ago.
Michael St. James
November 3, 2013
I always enjoyed being around Bill and will miss him. Condolences to his family. He and Harv were quite a pair and made practcing law fun. Nobody quite like those guys today.
Iain Macdonald
November 2, 2013
Bill Kelly was my step-father. He took in a fatherless little girl and made her his. He taught me to read and he taught me to always walk tall and follow my dreams. As a 12yrs girl, he took me to my first opera and explained the workings of the theater, he loved completely and will be so very missed by so many people. I love you, Dad...Laura Kelly, Denver, Colorado
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