Creating community connections
UCI Social Sciences Dean’s Leadership Society member Steve Platt ’03 builds UCI’s
ties in Los Angeles
Twenty years ago this spring, Steve Platt ’03 graduated from UCI, a political science major and former student body president. Clad in cap and gown, experiencing the anticipation and uncertainty every graduate knows, Platt was sure about one thing: he would become a lawyer.
What he didn’t imagine was that two decades later, he would be not only an attorney but also a business leader, and member of the historic Jonathan Club in downtown LA, where he would help strengthen connections between the UCI School of Social Sciences and the City of Angels.
Platt’s first memories of UCI are from a summer camp on campus when he was in junior high school, when he played video games in the arcade and hung out in the student center. A few years later, when he was accepted to UCI and received private scholarships to cover the costs, becoming an Anteater was an easy decision.
His whole life, people had told Platt “you should become a lawyer.” So, he chose to major in political science, which he considered an ideal precursor to law school. But he thrived amid the diversity of classes available. He minored in Spanish; took a cosmology course with renowned Virginia Trimble, professor of physics and astronomy; explored music through an anthropology class; and studied logic.
“Social sciences was always a great home base, and the core curriculum was excellent, but I liked how I was able to branch out into other areas,” Platt says. “That really led to a well-rounded education.”
On campus, Platt joined the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi and got involved with student government, where he served on the legislative council and worked in student services. As president of the Associated Students of UCI his junior year, he renegotiated a student fee initiative that supported athletics, and advocated for more free basketball tickets to be made available to Anteaters—a contentious issue at the time.
After UCI, Platt went to UC Davis School of Law—making him a proud product of California public schools from kindergarten through professional school. At Davis, he continued to seek out leadership roles, serving as managing editor of the school’s law review.
Platt returned to Southern California to join the Los Angeles law firm of Parker Milliken, where he remains to this day. His practice focuses on trusts, estates, and litigation, representing both individuals and entities like banks. It’s work that he finds both interesting and meaningful.
“The daily grind of being a lawyer and the deadlines can be stressful,” Platt says. “But when I step back and think about what I’ve been doing, how the law has developed, and how there’s a constitutional underpinning to everything we do, I’m still interested and I still enjoy it.”
He says the most rewarding cases of his 17 years with the firm are not necessarily the ones with largest dollar values at stake, but where there’s the greatest opportunity to support others—like the time he helped a client with advanced cancer ensure her young child would be cared for after she was gone.
Platt has also stepped into leadership roles within the law firm, taking on more responsibilities. In addition to working full-time as an attorney, he is Parker Milliken’s chief financial officer, a member of the firm’s Board of Directors, and a member of the firm’s three-person Administrative Committee that runs the day-to-day operations of the firm.
“Being on the board of the firm, I’m very involved in the business side of the law now,” says Platt. “A lot of people forget that a private law firm is a business, and we have the same types of business issues as any other business.”
The daily grind of being a lawyer and the deadlines can be stressful. But when I step back and think about what I’ve been doing, how the law has developed, and how there’s a constitutional underpinning to everything we do, I’m still interested and I still enjoy it.
Next door to his law office in downtown Los Angeles is the historic Jonathan Club, a social organization whose notable members over the years have included Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, President Ronald Reagan and scientist Arnold O. Beckman. About 14 years ago, Platt joined the club and got involved in various aspects, eventually serving as general chair of their Breakfast Club, president of the Toastmasters group, and a board member of the Jonathan Art Foundation, a nonprofit that collects and cares for early California impressionist works.
“It always seemed like a fun place to be, but over time as I’ve gotten more involved in various aspects of the Jonathan Club, it’s become a second home for me,” says Platt, whose wife and children also enjoy spending time there. “It’s an institution in LA; part of the fabric of the community,” he adds.
He’s especially proud of the club’s scholarship fund for employees and their families, which has raised over $5 million for student scholarships. Beginning in June, he will serve a three-year term on the club’s board of directors.
In 2016, Platt joined the UCI School of Social Sciences Dean’s Leadership Society and began fostering connections between his beloved alma mater and his favorite LA institution. An active people connector, Platt has hosted four events at the Jonathan Club featuring UCI speakers including School of Social Sciences dean Bill Maurer and Chancellor Howard Gillman. Not only is the club an elegant venue, but a location that’s convenient for more alumni who are now the leaders of industry in LA.
Platt views his support of the school as a simple act of paying it forward.
“I had many opportunities because of people who came before me – that’s true in my professional career, in law school, and at UCI,” says Platt.
Take classes in areas that are totally different than your major. Branch out, take advantage of being at a big university that has so much to offer.
Advice for Anteaters
Reflecting on his own formative experiences at UCI, Platt advises students to fully explore the breadth of academic options available at the top-tier research university.
“Take classes in areas that are totally different than your major,” he says. “Branch out, take advantage of being at a big university that has so much to offer.”
He also recommends students get involved in something that interests them, whether a fraternity or sorority, intramural sports, a club, or anything else.
“The people who are most successful in life tend to be the people who are most involved,” he says.
Getting involved can lead to new opportunities and relationships, both in professional and personal life.
“I’m a big fan of Warren Buffett, and he says that if you do what you love to do for a living, you’ll never think of it as a job,” Platt says. “It sounds cliché, but it is important for students to follow their passions, both in work and socially. Everything else will fall into place.”
- Christine Byrd for UCI Social Sciences