Professor William C. Lazier dead at 73

William C. Lazier

William C. Lazier

William C. Lazier, Nancy and Charles Munger Professor of Business, Emeritus, at Stanford Law School, died on Dec. 23 in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 73.

A highly respected figure in business and investment law with decades of corporate experience across a range of industries, Lazier graduated from Stanford in 1957 with a master's in business administration.

Lazier, an expert in the law and practice of accounting, returned to Stanford in 1982 to lecture at the Graduate School of Business, where he taught management of smaller companies and real estate for the next 11 years. Drawing on his Business School teaching experience, he became a lecturer in accounting and small-business management at Stanford Law School in 1990, and was named to the law school's Nancy and Charles Munger Professorship in Business in 1993. He became emeritus in 2002. At the time of his death, he was developing a new accounting course for 2005.

"Bill Lazier was a dedicated and inspiring teacher who had an unusual gift for bringing his broad business experience to life in the classroom," said Law School Dean Larry Kramer. "He was also a wonderful and generous person. The many colleagues and students who worked and studied with Bill at Stanford over the past 20 years will miss him and mourn his loss."

Through the course he developed and taught at the Law School—"What Lawyers Should Know about Business"—Lazier brought business-school-style case studies and simulations to the law classroom, educating students in the practical judgment needed to make prudent business decisions.

"To excel as a business lawyer, one must understand the world of business from the vantage of the clients one counsels," Lazier explained in a synopsis of the course. His goal in the class was to give law students "a working knowledge of business, an understanding of basic business concepts…some finance, some marketing, strategy formulation and implementation." He also taught a parallel course in accounting, for those with little or no background in the subject.

"Lawyers have to realize that they are going into business," Lazier said. "No matter what field of law, you are in business."

Lazier's accomplishments as a teacher and mentor were also remembered by those who knew him at the Graduate School of Business. "Bill cared deeply about his work, his students and everything he did," said James C. Collins, a Business School colleague with whom Lazier co-authored Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company and Managing the Small to Midsized Company: Concepts and Cases in the 1990s. "Some teachers are great because of sheer intellectual horsepower, but in Bill's case there was this added dimension of the quality of the person in front of the classroom, where his very approach to life is a teaching lesson."

Lazier was the general partner of Bristol Investment Co., which he founded in 1971. He began his career in 1957 as a tax manager at Arthur Andersen & Co., and received his certified public accounting certificate in 1959. In 1964, he became executive vice president of Lightcraft of California, and in 1969, executive vice president of the United States Filter Corp.

Since 1986, Lazier had been a trustee of Grinnell College, his undergraduate alma mater, and for six years he served as its board chair. He served on the boards of numerous other corporations and organizations, including Diamond Rentals, American Security Products, Yes Reading, BUILD, Interplast, SCRMA and the Stanford Bookstore.

Lazier is survived by his wife Dorothy of Menlo Park, his son David Lazier of Glendale, daughters Linda Escalera of Newport Beach, and Ann Mahowald of Dallas, and nine grandchildren.

Services are planned for Thursday, Jan. 6, at 4 p.m. at Memorial Church on the Stanford University campus. The Lazier family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Stanford Law School, Crown Quadrangle, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, CA 94305-8610.