Retirement Tribute: Richard A. Riggs

Happy Retirement, Rick Riggs!

McAfee & Taft is proud to honor the career of Richard Riggs, one of nation’s preeminent real estate attorneys, and to celebrate his well-deserved retirement after 49 years of distinguished and dedicated service to his clients and to the firm.

To his clients, he was the go-to real estate attorney who made it his business to know their business — and know it, he did.

“It’s no secret why he’s been our counsel for so many years,” said Chuck Wiggin, president of Wiggin Properties and a long-time client who began working with Rick more than 40 years ago. “Rick is very thoughtful, very responsive, hard-working. He’s always looking out for our interests.  He was asking the right questions and then suggesting the right answers, and that was immensely invaluable to me.”

To his colleagues, he was a pillar of the firm: an outstanding lawyer and mentor of the highest character, thoughtful and measured, humble and kind.

At the time of his retirement, Rick was one of only nine attorneys in the state of Oklahoma to be an elected Fellow of the prestigious American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL).

Tribute from fellow distinguished real estate attorney,
Lloyd Hardin, ACREL Fellow

I crossed paths with Rick Riggs in the 1970s as we were both working on various complex real estate transactions.

On inquiry, Bryce Tarzwell, who was then a McAfee & Taft attorney and one of my law school “study buddies,” told me that Rick, besides being a proficient real estate attorney, was a practitioner of the highest character.

Over the years since, both have proven to be true.

Indeed, I was privileged in 1998 to support Rick being elected as a Fellow to the American College of Real Estate Attorneys (ACREL), the preeminent association of commercial real estate attorneys in the United States.

To be elected to ACREL, an attorney must not only be an accomplished real estate attorney, but also must have devoted substantial time and effort to contributing to a more informed public, or bar association, in matters of real estate law, as evidenced by high quality and complex teaching, writing and similar efforts, being described by ACREL as the “giveback obligation.”

In all of the years I have known Rick, he has taken his giveback obligation seriously.

For example, Rick put great effort, and not just perfunctory effort, into performing the role of an adjunct professor for ACREL Fellow and Professor Joyce Palomar’s “Real Estate Transactions” classes at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, impacting and molding the next generation of real estate attorneys in Oklahoma.

While I did likewise on an occasional class topic basis such as for condominium law, construction law, design and architectural law, and mixed-use projects with public participants, Rick took it upon himself to be responsible for the ENTIRE syllabus, which included being fully conversant with the famous American Casebook of “Real Estate Transfer, Finance, and Development Cases and Materials.”

It was a herculean effort, admired by not only Professor Palomar, but by the rest of the occasional adjunct professors.

All in all, Rick’s career has shown him to be the consummate commercial real estate lawyer and an attorney of the highest character.

I have been honored to have known and practiced with him.


Frank Hill, McAfee & Taft real estate lawyer and ACREL Fellow

Rick Riggs came to work in 1974. I looked at his resumé and he had gone to OU, had an outstanding academic career, but had gone to Michigan law school. I was very curious as to why this guy from Oklahoma City who had grown up here, gone through the public school system, gone to OU, had an outstanding academic career, and ended up at Michigan Law School.

So the first time I met Rick, we talked about that. And, you know, he kind of felt the same way. You couldn’t get him to say three words. You know, he just explained his position and was quiet and always humble and “it’s not that big of a deal” and all that. But we kind of thought it was.

And, you know, that gave us impetus to recruit out-of-state universities, frankly, to have a guy like Rick in the room. And he was a real critical part of our team. Super smart, humble, quiet, outstanding lawyer. Checks all the boxes. And was always there when you needed him. Always.

Jim Sharrock, retired McAfee & Taft business transactions and real estate lawyer

Well, of course, Rick is an excellent lawyer. You start with that. Rick proves the point that you can be a nice person and also be a good lawyer. I think what Rick really brings to our real estate practice in particular is a calm and reasonable approach to every problem. Everybody has their own style, but Rick is one of those who calms the water and provides that steady hand to solve the problem and move ahead.

I went to Rick for certain kinds of real estate issues — primarily, if it involved a technicality, how to read a statute, how did the law apply to my particular situation. I would often go to Rick just to bounce ideas off of him. Usually there were no answers to those, but it was helpful to have somebody else’s view of how it worked.

Myrna Schack Latham, McAfee & Taft real estate lawyer

One thing I respect and admire so much about Rick is his demeanor. His quiet demeanor, his calm approach to negotiating and problem solving, I think has a very positive effect on the transactions that I’ve observed him be a part of, because sometimes emotions do get in the way. And that’s where I appreciate the way that Rick takes the emotion out and helps just calm and settle people down.

It’s been a privilege and an honor for me to not just work with him, but watch him work over the years. I started as a litigator, so I initially watched him from afar. But when I transitioned from litigation to real estate practice, I got the chance not just to work with him, but actually on some occasions to work opposite of him.

One transaction that I remember in particular is when OPUBCO was selling its corporate campus to American Fidelity. We worked out a joint representation arrangement — our clients wanted Rick to represent American Fidelity, wanted me to represent OPUBCO. And so I just remember how tremendously smoothly that transaction progressed. Because when you’re working with someone that you know and you respect and you trust, it was a wonderful experience to work on that opposite side of the table.

Louis Price, McAfee & Taft business lawyer and general counsel

Rick’s been a great friend and a law partner. He was a couple of years ahead of me when I joined the firm that I immediately recognized how bright, calm, knowledgeable he was and what a valuable mentor he would be. I will say the most enjoyment of my relationship with Rick over the years was practicing law together and sharing the work that we did, the problems that we solved together for our clients.

And we did a lot of work together over the years.

Cole Marshall, McAfee & Taft real estate lawyer and leader of Real Estate Practice Group

Rick Riggs has always been a pillar of McAfee & Taft, in particular, the real estate practice. My first year at the firm, Rick came to me and asked me to do a very quick, small project in connection with the development of the Devon Tower. And I did it. I turned it around. It wasn’t anything of material value in my view, but he came to me afterwards and he told me how much he appreciated it and how valuable it was.

And so even though it was a very insignificant piece of the puzzle for such a hallmark and monumental real estate project for our community, Rick really made me feel like I was part of the team and he was always very appreciative and very kind in showing, you know, his gratitude for the people that worked on projects with him.

I’ve always remembered that. And, you know, fast forward 15 years from that 2007 summer lunch with Rick, and here I am a partner at McAfee & Taft, practicing primarily in real estate transactions. So I’ve always thought of Rick in that respect and always thanked him for mentoring me in that area.

Sean Hunt, McAfee & Taft corporate lawyer

Rick Riggs was one of the first attorneys I worked with when I joined McAfee & Taft about ten years ago. And I was very fortunate that he was willing to take a chance on a young lawyer that didn’t know much about real estate. He spent a lot of time explaining, teaching. And I just can’t quantify how much I learned from Rick over the last ten years.

He’s the most thoughtful and measured person in the way he approaches everything. And something I’ve been really impressed by and tried to incorporate into my own practice as well.

Chuck Wiggin, founder and president of Wiggin Properties

Well, it’s hard to believe that it’s been more than 40 years since we first started working together. I was running the office of Spaulding & Slye here in town and and then started Wiggin Properties. And Rick did work for both of these firms and has done for more than 40 years. So it’s been a long relationship. It’s no secret why he’s been our counsel for so many years.

Rick is a very thoughtful, very responsive, hardworking. He was a terrific attorney. I really liked the advice I was getting from him. He’s made it his business to understand our business. He’s always looking out for our interests. He was asking the right questions and then suggesting the right answers. And that was immensely valuable to me.

John Michael Williams, municipal and real estate lawyer, and president of Williams, Box, Forshee & Bullard

It’s my pleasure to participate in honoring my friend, Richard A. Riggs, for 49 years in the successful practice of law at McAfee & Taft. But that’s not who I want to talk about. Instead, I want to talk about Ricky Riggs. I want to talk about Ricky Riggs, a student 65 years ago at Putnam Heights Grade School, a member of Cub Scout Pack 1, a member of Boy Scout Troop 2.

And what I remember about Rick and all those things was that he was kind. He was kind to others, as he is to this day. He has been and continues to be an extraordinary lawyer. But he’s made a fantastic life and made for a better world because of his kindness to others. Rick, congratulations. I’ve always been proud of you and I’m proud of you today.

Chuck Wiggin

Rick, you are my go-to guy for many years. And I really appreciate all the good advice that you gave us — sage advice and good wisdom from years of experience working on real estate transactions. I’m going to miss you, but I know you’ll enjoy your retirement. Knowing you, you’ve probably got all of this figured out in advance. Good luck, Rick. I’ve enjoyed working with you.

Sean Hunt

Rick, congratulations on your distinguished legal career. I wish you and Judy nothing but the best in the years to come. And I thank you for all of your contributions to the firm and to me and my practice. Thank you.

Cole Marshall

Rick, I just want to say congratulations on a wonderful career at McAfee & Taft. You don’t think of real estate lawyers at McAfee & Taft without thinking of Rick Riggs. And I want to thank you for all of the mentorship and leadership and and contributions you’ve made to the McAfee & Taft family, and to all of our clients over the years. And I wish you the happiest of retirement. Thank you.

Louis Price

Rick, you are the calmest, most thoughtful and knowledgeable lawyer that I think I’ve ever worked with. Countless lawyers in Oklahoma City and beyond have, when your name comes up, have mentioned what a wonderful guy you are to work with; how you always find the right way to solve problems. And it’s hard to believe that you’re really going to retire. Marcy and I wish you and Judy all the best. We hope you won’t be a stranger around here. We’ll make sure there’s still an office with your name on it, and we hope to see you here often and enjoy many more years of friendship together.

Myrna Latham

Rick, congratulations on a job well done for so many years, and I’m excited to see what the next chapter holds for you.

Jim Sharrock

Rick, I wish you the best luck in your retirement. And I do have a suggestion and a comment. One of the things about being a lawyer is we pretty much live in our heads. But as real estate lawyers, we have the benefit of having projects out there we’ve worked on. I find it comforting to drive around and just see the things — the buildings — that I helped to get built. I think it’s a lasting legacy for you and even for your family and your kids.

Frank Hill

Congratulations on your retirement. You’ve been a wonderful partner for a very long period of time and I respect you greatly. Let’s get together, and Judy and I will at least have a martini together. Thank you.