With a full name like Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, it's no
surprise that this firm is the product of big mergers between
well-established practices. The firms that created today's
Pillsbury have long, proud heritages that go back to the 1800s.
Pillsbury began on the west coast in 1874 as the practice of
Evans S. Pillsbury, who represented a local banking and delivery
service called Wells Fargo. In the 1880s, Pillsbury and his
partners began a long relationship with the U.S. oil industry,
working with the Pacific Coast Oil Company, which later evolved
into Chevron. Frank Madison and Alfred Sutro joined in 1895 as
associates, forming Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro. The early
twentieth century posed a number of challenges (the firm's offices
were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake), but Pillsbury
et al. persevered, rebuilding the practice and representing area
companies who were wrangling with their insurers. After World War
II, Pillsbury developed its real estate practice, drafting the
first condominium law in California and expanding to Washington, DC
and other parts of the Golden State.
Meanwhile, a firm called Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts
was establishing its own practice in New York. Winthrop Stimson's
story inevitably focuses on Henry L. Stimson, a Harvard Law grad
who got a job in 1891 at a firm called Root & Clark (a
venerable practice that dated to 1868). When the firm's founder,
Elihu Root, left private practice for public service in 1899,
Stimson took over the firm along with Bronson Winthrop. Stimson
rose to the highest echelons of American politics: he served as
President William Howard Taft's secretary of war, a WWI colonel, an
emissary to Nicaragua, the governor general of the Philippines,
President Hoover's secretary of state, and secretary of war under
presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. He also
created what is now known as "the Stimson doctrine," which asserts
non-recognition of territorial gains taken by force, a principle he
developed after studying Japan's aggressive tactics in 1930s
In 2001, Pillsbury Madison and Winthrop Stimson joined forces.
Four years later, the combined firm merged with Washington,
DC-based Shaw Pittman, which was well-known for global sourcing,
energy, technology and communications law.
Given its pedigree, the Pillsbury of today can boast that it has
had a hand in some of the most important matters in modern American
history, from the creation of the Patent Act, to the formation of
Intel, to the registration of the first dotcom trademark.
More recently it has worked with Facebook, ZTE, Chevron,
Deutsche Bank, Medtronic, the ACLU of Northern California, Blue
Cross Blue Shield, Wells Fargo, the California Public Employees'
Retirement System, San Diego ComicCon, New York University, Delta
Airlines, Jack in the Box, Duke Energy, Sony, Nubank, Costco ,and
the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund.
The energy & natural resources, financial services, real
estate & construction, and technology sectors remain the firm's
bread and butter, although it has also developed region-specific
practices aimed at clients in China, Japan, Latin America, and the
Middle East. Pillsbury also maintains a unique "emerging issues"
program. These focus teams-which are regularly reviewed and
adjusted to reflect market trends-empower multidisciplinary teams
to pioneer new and novel areas of the law. These currently
encompass crisis management; digital currency and blockchain
technology; privacy, data security and information use;
public-private partnerships; unmanned aircraft systems; and water
In recognition of its cutting-edge work, Pillsbury made The
Financial Times' Innovative Law Firms list in 2015. The firm
placed 39th on The American Lawyer's 2016
Diversity Scorecard out of 220 firms and has been a Working
Mother magazine Top 100 Company for 10 years running.
A Closing Worth Billions
A $1.9 billion deal for the iconic Manhattan building at 787
Seventh Ave. put a team of Pillsbury lawyers atop Law360's
list of the 10 largest real estate deals in the first quarter of
Delaware governor Jack Markell announced the launch of the
Delaware Blockchain Initiative, identifying Pillsbury and firm
client Symbiont as the project's legal and technology ambassadors,
respectively. The initiative is designed to encourage expanded use
and development of distributed ledger and smart contract
technologies by Delaware-incorporated businesses.
Drones After Dark
Pillsbury client Industrial Skyworks USA, which uses drones for
industrial inspections, was granted the first exemption for
commercial UAS flights at night. It took the company more than a
year to convince the Federal Aviation Administration that it could
safely operate them after dark.
Dude, You're Getting a Dell!
Pillsbury advised Japan-based NTT Data Corp. in its $3.06
billion purchase of Dell Inc.'s IT services arm, Dell Systems.
Bloomberg reports that the transaction is NTT Data's largest
acquisition and that Dell is likely divesting some assets before
its reported $67 billion acquisition of EMC Corp, a provider of
software and storage systems.
Pillsbury counseled the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund in the
$860 million sale of the bankrupt Patriot Coal Corp.'s assets.
Patriot's assets were purchased in part by ERP Compliant Fuels LLC,
a VCLF affiliate. ERP will acquire two of Patriot's West Virginia
mines; will take on more than $400 million in workers'
compensation, state black lung and environment obligations; and
will assume or replace bonds financing reclamation and other
liabilities. The innovative deal would pair subterranean coal
mining with carbon credits generated by tree planting and other