Founded in 1888, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP has become a truly international law firm, with eight offices in six countries and approximately 550 lawyers from dozens of different law schools, comprising men and women of diverse heritages and backgrounds. We invite you to share some highlights from A Short History of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.
In 1888, Hornblower & Byrne
, the original predecessor of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, opened its doors at 280 Broadway.
The Firm consisted of four lawyers: two young “name” partners -- William B. Hornblower
, 37, a Columbia Law School graduate, and James Byrne
, 31, from Harvard Law School -- and two “associates” (law clerks) -- Edward Sanford and Mark Potter. The nonlegal staff consisted of one male stenographer and a couple of office boys.
William Hornblower, one of the greatest courtroom lawyers of his day, was a close political ally of Democrat Grover Cleveland
, who captured the presidency in 1884 and again in 1892 on a platform of civil service and tariff reform. In 1893, 42 years old and at the height of his career, Hornblower was nominated by Cleveland to the United States Supreme Court. Confirmation was blocked, however, and Hornblower continued his practice with the Firm until his appointment to the New York Court of Appeals in 1914 -- on which he served only ten weeks before dying at the age of 63 after a long illness.
During his career, Hornblower was President of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (1913-14) and also served as President of the New York State Bar Association from 1901 to 1902. He probably argued more
cases before the New York Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States than any of his contemporaries.
On Hornblower's death, the New York Times editorialized that he was a “lawyer of remarkable ability,” and a man marked by his “clear vision in public affairs, his moderation and his sense of justice.” The Times remarked that Hornblower's “voice was often raised earnestly in protest against the forms of political quackery which became so common in the later years of his life.”
included the New York Life Insurance Company; the New York Securities and Trust Company (later the New York Trust Company); the Rome, Watertown Ogdensburg and Parsons Railroad; Grant & Ward, a brokerage firm partnership between Ex-President Ulysses S. Grant
and Ferdinand Ward; the Otis Elevator Company; the United States Ship Building Company; and one Thomas A. Edison
Hornblower, Byrne, Taylor & Miller
William W. Miller
In 1890 the Firm took on a new partner, Howard Taylor
, then in 1894 added William W. Miller,
who would eventually become the Firm's senior partner and principal rainmaker and who largely managed the Firm until the late 1930’s. Miller became a director of the Otis Elevator Company and, like many of the Firm's name partners over the years, was listed in “Who's Who in America.”
1900 - 1910
Hornblower, Miller & Potter (1907)
, one of the two original associates of the Firm, was summoned to work on one of the most sensational cases of the day -- the murder of William M. Rice
. The bulk of Rice's estate would ultimately finance the establishment of the Rice Institute, now Rice University, in Houston.
Associates included Charles Evans Hughes
and Felix Frankfurter
, who would both go on to become justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.
New York's first subway, the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT), began running from City Hall to 145th Street; the fare was a nickel. The Firm would eventually represent the IRT's receiver when the system went bankrupt.
By 1906, the Firm had grown to 18 associates, 11 stenographers, one file clerk, two telephone operators, a cashier and ten office boys.
Hornblower, Miller, Potter & Earle
On February 10, 1916, Lindley Garrison, President Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of War, resigned from office and joined the Firm. Garrison quickly became one of the leading courtroom lawyers in the country and was appointed receiver of the insolvent Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, serving until 1923.
Clinton, Iowa native Harold J. Gallagher came on board as an associate in October 1917 and would go on to become one of the most influential partners in the history of the Firm that today bears his name. He was admitted as a partner in 1925 and remained one for 51 years until he became of counsel in 1976, the longest anyone has been a member of the Firm.
Following World War I, the Firm became active in arranging bond financing with New York bankers on behalf of cities in France, Germany and Italy. In 1925, a Paris office was opened at 39 Rue de la Boëtie, with S.G. Archibald as correspondent and Claude M. Terrell as resident lawyer. In 1932 the Paris office closed due to the collapse of the foreign loan business caused by the Great Depression. It would be nearly 40 years before the Firm would again open a European office.
In the mid-1920’s the Firm also briefly maintained correspondent offices in Berlin and considered opening a Milan office. The Firm also maintained a Havana office in the mid- to late-1920’s.
Significant Clients during this decade included several railroad companies; New York Trust Company; Blair & Company; and the International Mercantile Marine Company.
Hornblower, Miller, Miller & Boston
In 1931 the Firm merged with another prominent New York firm, Miller, Otis & Farr. The merged firm had 12 partners and 24 associates, making it one of the larger New York firms of the time.
Miller, Otis & Farr was headed by Nathan L. Miller, who had been governor of New York from 1921 to 1922.
Significant Clients included United States Steel Corporation, Continental Can Company and the Allied Chemical Corporation, three of the country's largest corporations. Other major clients of the merged firm in the 1930’s included the receivers for the IRT subway system and Seaboard Railroad; Hygrade Food Products Company; and the Walsh Construction Company, which built the New York Midtown Tunnel and helped build the Grand Coulee Dam.
Around 1933 National League President Ford Frick sought Governor Miller's advice regarding the control of radio broadcasts of baseball games, after which the Firm began a long association as regular counsel for the National League.
Miller, Boston & Owen
In 1935 Hornblower was dropped from the Firm name, although for many years afterwards it was still known as the “Old Hornblower Firm.”
Considered a “walking encyclopedia of the law,” Charles A. Boston
was President of the New York County Lawyers Association from 1932 to 1933. He was also President of the American Bar Association from 1930 to 1931, the first of two Firm partners to hold that prestigious position (the other being Harold Gallagher). Along with Chief Justice Taft and Associate Justice Sutherland, Boston was a member of the committee that wrote the Canons of Judicial Ethics of the ABA, and he was for many years Chairman of the New York County Lawyers' Committee on Professional Ethics.
The Firm hired its first woman associate, Mary MacDonagh, who would stay for 11 years.
Nathan Miller withdrew from the Firm to become general counsel of U.S. Steel, leaving Harold Gallagher
as the unofficial head of the Firm.
Of all the individuals associated with the Firm in its 100-plus year history, Wendell L. Willkie is probably the most famous. After losing the 1940 Presidential election to incumbent FDR, Willkie accepted Harold Gallagher's offer to join the Firm, and became a partner in April 1941.
The Firm's name changed to Willkie, Owen, Otis & Bailly, then in 1942 to Willkie, Owen, Otis, Farr & Gallagher. For more than 60 years thereafter, and to this day, Willkie's name has always appeared first in the Firm's masthead, surpassing the 47 years that William Hornblower held that distinction.
Ironically, after his defeat Willkie became one of FDR's allies and called for greater national support for some of the president's controversial initiatives, among them the Lend-Lease Act. In 1941 he traveled to Britain and the Middle East as FDR's personal envoy and in 1942 visited the USSR and China. At the end of his 31,000-mile round-the-world trip, Willkie wrote a book entitled One World
, a plea for international peacekeeping after the war. Extremely popular, the book sold millions of copies and helped lay the groundwork for the United Nations.
While a partner at the Firm, Willkie was retained by the movie industry, on Roosevelt's recommendation, to assist in a congressional investigation of alleged communist leanings within the industry. Assisted by
Gallagher and a team of the Firm's attorneys, Willkie managed to turn public opinion in favor of the movie industry and the investigation closed down after two weeks. Shortly thereafter Willkie was elected Chairman of the Board of Twentieth Century Fox and the Firm was retained as counsel.
Willkie also devoted much of his energy during this period to promoting civil rights and civil liberties. A consistent theme of One World
and Willkie's later writings was the idea that America would not be able to oppose colonialism in the post-war period until she first ended her own colonialist attitudes toward racial minorities. And in late 1942, while a partner at the Firm, Willkie went before the Supreme Court to defend a member of the Communist Party in a landmark case regarding civil liberties (Schneiderman v. United States
). Willkie won the case, but lost much political support within his party, which viewed him as an idealistic internationalist. Afterward, Willkie said: “Those who rejoice in denying justice to one they hate, pave the way to a denial of justice for someone they love.”
Wendell Lewis Willkie died of a heart attack on October 8, 1944 at the age of 52.
Louis F. Carroll
would continue to build the Firm's baseball practice, eventually becoming one of the leading sports lawyers in the country. He would represent the All-America Football Conference until its merger with the National Football League in 1949, and famed radio broadcaster Edward R. Murrow
in his contract negotiations with CBS.
Thomas N. Tarleau
, legislative counsel to the Treasury Department and a draftsman of the 1942 Tax Reform Act, joined the Firm in 1942 as a partner and built up the Firm's tax department, which he would head for a quarter-century.
Walter H. Brown, Jr.
, became a partner and later one of the nation's leading railroad reorganization lawyers.
In 1943 the Firm's Bartow Farr
successfully represented Vivien Leigh
in a contract dispute with Gone With the Wind
producer David O. Selznick
In addition to its continuing regular representation of major industrial and railroad companies and increasing baseball-related business, the Firm in the 1940’s began its rise to preeminence in the field of private placements for insurance companies.
included Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, New York Life, Equitable, Aetna, Connecticut General, John Hancock, Massachusetts Mutual and Prudential.
Willkie Owen Farr Gallagher & Walton
Among the new partners in 1947 was Walston S. Brown
, a former Roosevelt administration lawyer who brought Kaiser Steel to the Firm and in later years would participate in the initial public offering of Marsh & McLennan.
in the 1950’s included Continental Can, Seaboard, and industrialist Henry J. Kaiser.
Willkie Farr Gallagher Walton & FitzGibbon
In 1958, William FitzGibbon
became a name partner. It would be the last name change for the firm before becoming Willkie Farr & Gallagher in 1968.
February 5, 1962 marked a seminal event in the Firm's history with the move to the newly completed 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, the then sixth tallest building in the world.
In 1962, the Firm’s accounting department was joined by a 22-year-old part-time clerk named Jack H. Nusbaum. In 1965 he became an associate and in later years would become a senior partner and eventually Chairman of the Firm, a position he held for 23 years.
Robert B. Hodes, who became a partner in 1956 (originally in the tax department) and Chairman in 1982, would remain a member of the Firm for almost 40 years, until 1995, and of counsel for many years thereafter. Among the other major clients he would develop over the years, and on the boards of directors of which he served, were the Loral Corporation, W.R. Berkley Corporation and Mueller Industries.
Willkie Farr & Gallagher
In 1968 the Firm became known as Willkie Farr & Gallagher, its name today, a name it has held longer than any other in its history.
Bowie K. Kuhn was named Commissioner of Baseball, a position he would hold for 15 years.
Much of the Firm's work in the 1970’s related to railroad reorganization cases, particularly the representation of a group of insurance companies that were bondholders of the Penn Central Railroad. The Firm sought to have legislation under which the assets of Penn Central were transferred to Conrail declared unconstitutional. Louis A. Craco argued the case in the United States Supreme Court. Eventually the case was settled, with the government paying Penn Central $1.4 billion in damages plus interest of $700 million, a total of $2.1 billion. This remains one of the largest recoveries made in any civil litigation.
Craco would continue his career as one of the premier litigators in New York, and would submit numerous amicus curiae briefs to the Supreme Court on behalf of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), including in the landmark Ernst & Ernst v. Hochfelder case in 1976. Craco would later serve from 1982 to 1984 as President of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and in the mid-1990’s he would chair the “Craco Commission,” a committee appointed by Chief Judge Judith Kaye of the New York Court of Appeals to hold hearings and report on how to bolster public confidence in the legal profession. Craco would retire in 2003 after 45 years with the Firm.
The Firm reestablished a presence in Paris, marking its return to the continent for the first time since 1932.
In its first merger since the one in 1931 with Miller, Otis and Farr, the Firm took on seven partners and seven associates from the firm of Sykes, Galloway & Dikeman, one of the leading New York firms in the municipal bond practice. By the 1980’s, with a municipal bond department of nine partners and 20 associates, the Firm would become the leading bond counsel to counties and other municipalities in the State of New York. It would also be among the preeminent bond counsel in the nation for public power authorities, such as the Washington Public Power Supply System ("WPPSS"), the Omaha Public Power District and the Power Authority of the State of New York.
Patricia S. Skigen became the first woman partner in the Firm's history.
One Citicorp Center
A former associate, she returned that year to rejoin the corporate department, specializing in banking matters.
The Firm moved to a beautiful, brand-new building, One Citicorp Center at 53rd Street. It marked the first time in its nearly 100-year history that the Firm's main office was not in lower Manhattan.
Harold Gallagher died at the age of 86. Since his arrival at the Hornblower Firm in 1917, the Firm had grown from nine partners and ten associates, and a staff of about 30, to more than 50 partners and almost 100 associates, and a staff of more than 250.
For the first time in its history the Firm opened an office in Washington, D.C. The office initially consisted of three partners and five associates. Philip L. Verveer
became a partner in the D.C. office in 1983 and over many years would build the Firm's substantial telecommunications practice.
Former SEC lawyer Burton M. Leibert
became a partner and would head the Firm’s investment management practice.
The Firm, led by Bob Kheel
, successfully litigated the famous “Pine Tar” case, involving the disqualified home run of Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett for the American League against the home-town Yankees.
The Firm's D.C. office expanded to five partners, including William H. Barringer
and nine associates, when it took on most of the international trade practice of D.C.'s, Wald, Harkrader & Ross.
of the D.C. trade group would eventually include Yamaha Motor Co., Japan Iron & Steel and Fuji Photo Film.
The October Stock Market Crash resulted in only a temporary damper on the hostile takeover activity that fueled much of the Firm's growth in the 1980’s. For much of the decade, the Firm was in the thick of legal battles in the Delaware Chancery Court and elsewhere over “poison pills,” “shark repellants,” “golden parachutes,” “greenmail” and “junk bond” financing.
One especially noteworthy “friendly” takeover deal the Firm handled was the 1983 acquisition of the Weirton Steel Division of the National Steel Company by its own plant workers to avoid a shutdown of that division and loss of their jobs.
Jack Nusbaum joined Bob Hodes as Co-Chairman of the Firm and soon became its acknowledged leader. Nusbaum developed an expertise in advising companies in acquisitions and mergers, and would become involved in the historic merger of NASDAQ with the American Stock Exchange; the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco (subject of the best-selling book Barbarians at the Gate
); the acquisition of McCaw Cellular Communications by AT&T; and, in the late 1980’s, various acquisitions and going private restructurings on behalf of Donald Trump. More than anyone else, Jack Nusbaum would lead Willkie Farr & Gallagher into its second hundred years.
in the 1980’s included Shearson, Marsh & McLennan, Reliance, Kerr Glass, WPPSS, Adnan Khashoggi, Continental Group, Inc., Chanel, Baseball, Donald Trump, Cowen & Co. and the AICPA.
In February 1988, the Firm opened a three-lawyer London office, at first principally to service regular U.S. clients who did business in London. The office was organized by John D'Alimonte
, who had started at the Firm in 1963. D'Alimonte would continue to be one of the leaders of the Firm for many years, representing such clients as Peter Kiewit Sons’, Inc. and Swiss Reinsurance Company.
On December 1, 1989, the Firm significantly expanded its Paris operation for the first time, hiring four new partners specializing in mergers and acquisitions and leveraged buyouts.
With 14 lawyers, Significant Clients
of the Paris office would come to include Elf Aquitaine, the French oil giant (later merged into TotalFina); major French food catering company Elior; and various private equity and LBO funds.
The Washington office added an environmental regulation practice and would count American Home Products and Chemical Lehman among its frequent clients. By the end of the decade the Washington office would have a headcount of over 100: 13 partners, one counsel, 45 associates and a staff of more than 50.
The Firm grew to more than 350 lawyers across all offices, with a staff, including legal assistants, of more than 560. This represented more than double the 155 attorneys in 1980, with an even greater increase in the number of staff, from 230.
The Firm's new bankruptcy department grew into a major player in the 1990’s under the direction of Myron Trepper
, who came to the Firm as a lateral partner in 1989 just before a wave of corporate bankruptcies. Representing primarily debtors such as Prime Motor Inns, the Grand Union Company and Integrated Resources, Trepper turned the Firm's bankruptcy practice into one of the nation's most distinguished. Trepper would become Co-Chairman of the Firm in 2000 and in 2004 the firm would be named “Bankruptcy Firm of the Year (US)” by Chambers and Partners.
Just as the Firm had expanded its bankruptcy practice before the peak of bankruptcies, it brought in lateral real estate partner Eugene A. Pinover
at the bottom of the real estate market in 1992. Pinover would grow the Firm's real estate practice into another recognized leader in the field.
When partner Richard DeScherer
moved to Willkie in 1987 he brought along his loyal client Michael Bloomberg
. Within ten years Bloomberg had built Bloomberg L.P. into a multi-billion dollar media and financial reporting empire. DeScherer became a Co-Chairman of the Firm in 2002.
in the 1990’s included E.M. Warburg, Zurich Financial, Loral, Marsh & McLennan, American Home Products, Simon Property Group, and Salomon Smith Barney, among others.
A record 12 associates were made partners at the height of the recession, reflecting the Firm's commitment to its long-term future.
Corporate partner Nora Ann Wallace
became the first woman member of the Executive Committee in the Firm's history.
Governor Mario Cuomo
After three terms in office, former New York State Governor Mario M. Cuomo
joined the Firm. A dazzling orator, Cuomo rose to national prominence after his keynote speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, and was considered a possible presidential candidate in both 1988 and 1992.
At Willkie, Cuomo would play an active role in advising public companies, boards of directors and audit committees on issues of corporate governance, financial reporting and special investigations, and would engage in a broad practice in national and international corporate law and litigation matters.
The Firm became involved in the epic court battle over the billion-dollar estate of eccentric tobacco heiress Doris Duke
. The Firm represented the butler of the deceased, Bernard Lafferty, who was named co-executor of her will six months before her death and was subsequently accused of engaging in an extravagant lifestyle at estate expense. The controversy was made into a CBS television miniseries.
The Paris office expanded to include 26 lawyers, seven partners, three special counsel and 16 associates.
After 20 successful years at Citicorp, during which it grew from a 130 to a 400-lawyer firm, Willkie moved to its
current home at the Equitable Center located at 787 Seventh Avenue
In July 1998 Chester J. Straub
, a litigation partner with the Firm since 1971, was sworn in as a judge on the Second Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, the highest federal judicial slot to which any Willkie partner has ever been appointed.
In August 1998 the Firm produced the Cendant Report, based on the internal investigation of Cendant Corporation on behalf of its audit committee, which the New York Times called a definitive case study in the area of accounting irregularities and fraud. The Firm would build a national reputation in the growing area of corporate accounting irregularities and financial fraud, and would even publish a well-received book on the topic edited by Michael R. Young.
Based on the tremendous success of the Paris office, as well as increased client demand for global services, on August 1, 2000 Willkie announced a significant expansion of its European presence by opening offices in Milan, Rome and Frankfurt.
, a mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance specialist, became the resident partner of the two Italian offices operating under the name Delfino e Associati, Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Initially staffed with 15 attorneys and other professionals, the Italian offices would grow to include 33 lawyers by 2004, representing such clients as EDF, Citigroup and Munich Re.
The Frankfurt office, headed by Thomas Heymann
and Sven-Erik Heun
, specializing in private equity, restructurings, information technology and telecommunications law, opened with 12 attorneys and other professionals in October 2000. By 2004 it had doubled in size to include 21 lawyers and three legal assistants.
Continuing its foreign expansion, the Firm opened a Brussels office in 2002, specializing in mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance and securities, commercial litigation and business reorganization. The three-attorney office, headed by Xavier Dieux,
would grow to nine lawyers in 2004, representing clients such as Fortis and Berlaymont 2000.
Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP
As of 2003, there were 24 women partners or counsel Firmwide. Over the previous five years, more than 50% of incoming associates were women.
In March 2003, the Firm announced the creation of a new position, the Director of Diversity Initiatives, with special counsel Kim A. Walker
appointed to the position.
The Firm converted to a limited liability partnership and became Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP
(still no commas, please).
Adelphia Communications, whose massive Chapter 11 bankruptcy is being handled by the Firm, became a large client of the Firm.
The D.C. office grew to approximately 65 lawyers and an equal number of legal assistants and staff.
The Firm continued its long tradition of providing pro bono legal services to individuals such as indigent criminal defendants and organizations such as Women In Need, Inc., inMotion (formerly Network for Women’s Services), MFY Legal Services Inc. and Habitat for Humanity.
|| Firm Name
|| Hornblower & Byrne
|| Hornblower, Byrne & Taylor
|| Hornblower, Byrne, Taylor & Miller
|| Hornblower, Byrne, Miller & Potter
|| Hornblower, Miller & Potter
|| Hornblower, Miller, Potter & Earle
|| Hornblower, Miller, Garrison & Potter
|| Hornblower, Miller & Garrison
|| Hornblower, Miller, Miller & Boston
|| Miller, Boston & Owen
|| Miller, Owen, Otis & Bailly
|| Willkie, Owen, Otis & Bailly
|| Willkie, Owen, Otis, Farr & Gallagher
|| Willkie Owen Farr Gallagher & Walton
|| Willkie Farr Gallagher Walton & FitzGibbon
|| Willkie Farr & Gallagher
|| Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP
|| Office Location
|| 280 Broadway
|| 45 William Street
|| Continental Building, Wall Street
|| 30 Broad Street
|| Blair Building, 24 Broad Street
|| 15 Broad Street
|| 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza
|| One Citicorp Center
|| Equitable Center