• 1940s
  • 1950s
  • 1960s
  • 1970s
  • 1980s
  • 1990s
  • 2000s
  • 2010s


Carr McClellan was founded in 1945, when communities along the El Camino Real corridor, including Burlingame, Hillsborough and San Mateo, were small, and suburbanization was just beginning to take hold. The open spaces of the grand, 19th-century estates were being converted into subdivisions and commercial properties, and the Peninsula’s economy was still largely tied to light industry, agriculture and ancillary businesses.

Luther Carr, a former district attorney in Jasper County, Iowa, and native San Franciscan Ed Cosgriff established the law firm of Cosgriff and Carr in September 1945. Their first space was above Miller’s Drugstore on Burlingame Avenue. One year later, J. Ed McClellan joined the firm, and Cosgriff, Carr & McClellan moved into a new building — among the first in Burlingame to have a passenger elevator.

With the addition of Frank Ingersoll, Cosgriff, Carr, McClellan and Ingersoll was formed in July 1947. A short time later, Mr. Cosgriff passed away.

In 1949, the firm moved into its new office building at Carr McClellan’s current location at 216 Park Road, and while the address has remained the same, little else of the original building has.


The firm’s growth and reputation continue to grow, with Carr McClellan powered by eight attorneys counseling clients on complex transactions.

San Mateo County witnessed tremendous growth in the 1950s. The open space between northern Burlingame and Millbrae Avenue, which had been part of the Mills Estate, was developed into housing. The airport expanded and became a catalyst for new business development in the northern part of the county, and Stanford University was having a similar effect in the southern part of the Peninsula, serving as an incubator for technology start-up talent.

Carr McClellan was working with many of the new businesses and public institutions that were developing to serve a growing population. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the firm was integral to the formation of the Peninsula Hospital District.

By the late 1950s, Carr McClellan had eight attorneys, and the firm’s reputation for handling complex business and real estate transactions was on the rise.


In the early 1960s, Carr  McClellan, was retained by Foster Enterprises which had acquired the property today known as Foster City. The firm became involved in all aspects of the development which led to a substantial practice in real estate developments. Prior to centering its headquarters in San Mateo County, Foster Enterprises had extensive experience in ground leasing which they had employed in the housing developments in Hawaii. Long term ground leasing of single family residential housing was new to San Mateo County. Carr McClellan drafted the lease documentation which withstood a challenge by the tenants when the ground rent was reset in the 1980s.

In 1968 the firm closed its largest business transaction to date when it represented Gamlen Chemical Company in its multi-million-dollar sale. Through the representation of Ames Taping Tools, Inc. in its sale, the firm was introduced to a member of the Kinney family, and a relationship was established that continues to this day.

For another client from that time, Edward Scripps, the firm first developed his estate plan then expanded this relationship, representing him and the Scripps Company on a variety of business matters as the publishing empire underwent significant changes.


In the 1970s, the ongoing commercial and residential development on the Peninsula in communities such as Foster City was keeping Carr McClellan’s real estate practice very busy. Carr McClellan’s reputation for serving privately held, often family-owned businesses continued to grow. The quantity and complexity of legal issues that clients brought to the firm was also on the rise, supplying the firm’s growing corporate, estate-planning and litigation practices with a swelling stream of engagements.

In the 1970s, Foster Enterprises decided to sell their extensive holdings in Foster City. The sale was concluded after more than six months of negations and was the largest real estate transaction in the County’s history at that time.

During this time, tax-deferred exchanges increased in popularity. Carr McClellan’s tax department was at the forefront of this trent, and over the years has handled many complex exchange transactions.

Our tax department won a case of first impression, holding that a distribution from a qualified retirement plan due to disability was tax-free to the recipient.


The 1980s witnessed significant changes in the health care delivery system that were brought about by increasing competition among health care providers. Carr McClellan, through the course of its long-term relationship with the Peninsula Hospital District, was positioned to help health care districts and emerging HMOs transition to a system of nonprofit hospitals. Throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the firm worked with a variety of health care districts and hospitals throughout California, setting up nonprofit organizations to run the hospitals and working with the districts that owned the facilities.

The firm continued to add one or two attorneys a year up until the late 1980s, when Carr McClellan acquired the old-line San Francisco bankruptcy and creditors’ rights firm of Phelan, Stuppi & McQuaid. Phelan traced its roots back to the 1930s, and its merger reaffirmed Carr McClellan’s commitment to its Bay Area clientele while immediately diversifying the firm’s service offerings.


Beginning in the 1990s, Carr McClellan’s client list grew to include major manufacturers, food distributors and retailers, construction and real estate development companies, nonprofit and governmental entities, software and computer companies, investment and consulting firms, and professional service providers, among many others.


Carr McClellan strengthens its Business Litigation and Construction practices.


Carr McClellan earns top 1% nationwide ranking among law firms in the Fortune Magazine 2012 Top Ranked Law Firms report. Over 55% of the firm’s attorneys are rated AV® Preeminent™. Nationally, of the 254,000 firms with 21 or more lawyers rated by Lexis Nexis® Martindale-Hubbell®, only 965 have more than one-third of their lawyers who are AV-rated; that’s less than 1%.

Fortune magazine issue – Dec. 26, 2011:

“To compile a list of top law firms in the U.S., Lexis Nexis® Martindale-Hubbell® – the authoritative source for information about U.S. lawyers since 1868 – researched its comprehensive database of 1 million lawyers and firms in more than 160 countries and identified U.S. law firms of 21 or more attorneys where at least one out of three lawyers achieved the AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating. This rating indicates the rated lawyer has been deemed by his or her peers to have demonstrated the highest level of ethical standards and legal ability.”

In 2014, the firm launches a new brand to better reflect its energetic and rigorous approach to client service and legal excellence.