William Gates III, chairman of Microsoft, jetted into Chicago with most of the family Monday to see his father, attorney William Gates II, receive the ABA’s highest honor, the ABA Medal.
“It was a very special occasion to come and hear his remarks,” the younger Gates said. “I know it’s a big day for him.”
The elder Gates, who is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told the House of Delegates, an assembly in which he once served, that he was honored to receive an award that had also been bestowed on former Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and Sandra Day O’Connor, among others. “I’m in awe of the men and women who won this medal before me,” Gates Sr. told the crowd. “I’m not altogether convinced that I belong in this grand company.”
For his part, the younger Gates said he had considered following his father into the profession, but skipped the idea when he didn’t finish college. “I didn’t finish my undergraduate career so I never got there,” he said in an interview. “I went to a lot of bar meetings when my dad was on the bar association. I thought law was a great profession, but I got sidetracked before I did it. I certainly paid a lot of legal fees though.”
Gates the father is a founding partner of the Seattle firm Preston, Gates & Ellis, which merged with Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham to become K&L Gates in early 2007. He's been a lawyer for 57 years, he said.
His son said he was always impressed by his father’s “sense of hard work, integrity and justice,” and remembered as a youngster seeing his father get up early in the morning to do pro bono work.
“He devoted his life to the legal profession, and I’ve always been proud of his work,” his son said.