Willkie has all the history you could ask for and then some. The
firm's clients have ranged from inventors to industrial titans to
elite financial institutions, and its attorneys have included
presidential candidates, Supreme Court justices and governors.
While the firm has just under 600 lawyers across the U.S. and
Europe, it has established itself as a New York firm through and
Politics & Innovation
Tracing its ancestry to 1880s New York City, Willkie began as
Hornblower & Byrne, founded in 1888 by two attorneys and two
clerks. The elder of the two founding attorneys was William B.
Hornblower, a Columbia law grad who attracted such luminaries as
Thomas Edison and Ulysses S. Grant as clients.
Toward the end of the 19th century, the firm picked up a new
name-partner who would shape the next 40 years: William W. Miller,
who was primarily responsible for driving business into the 20th
century. During the Miller years, the firm added attorneys of
influence to its ranks (including future Supreme Court justice
Felix Frankfurter), worked landmark cases, and merged with Miller,
Otis & Farr-another major New York firm. A young Iowan named
Harold Gallagher joined as an associate in 1917, made partner in
1925, and continued as a member of the firm for 51 years-the
longest any partner has served.
Quality, Not Quantity
In 1941-three years after the firm hired its first female
associate-defeated presidential candidate Wendell Willkie came on
as partner, pursuing a flurry of high-profile engagements. In the
three and one-half years before his death in 1944, Willkie defended
Hollywood against a Congressional communist witch hunt, penned a
bestselling treatise on international peacekeeping that influenced
the formation of the United Nations and defeated the federal
government in a civil liberties case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Despite his brief tenure with the firm, Willkie's accomplishments
ensured that his name would remain etched at the top of the
masthead for the rest of the 20th century and beyond. The firm
became Willkie Farr & Gallagher in 1968.
A Solid Base from which to Grow
The firm evolved into a preeminent East Coast institution, known
for representing railroad and insurance companies, blue-collar
manufacturers, telecoms, baseball teams, and oil heiresses. The
1970s brought the arrival of the firm's first female partner, a
merger with a New York municipal bond boutique, and the reopening
of the Paris office. During the late 1980s, Willkie thrived as it
handled hostile takeovers, expanded to London, and built up
existing offices stateside and across the pond. Willkie rang in the
new millennium by putting down roots in Milan, Rome, and Frankfurt;
a Brussels office followed two years later. In the fall of 2014,
Willkie opened an office in Houston, Texas.
Willkie's impressive client list has included longtime client
Bloomberg L.P., insurance giants Marsh and Zurich, TimeWarner, and
a slew of other notable names such as Men's Warehouse, Teva
Pharmaceuticals, NBC Universal, BlackRock, Alcatel-Lucent, Comcast
Corporation, General Electric, Level 3 Communications, Major League
Baseball, MasterCard, and Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Willkie represented Allied World Assurance Company Holdings, AG
in its agreement to be acquired by Fairfax Financial for $4.9
billion in cash and stock, creating a world leader in property and
casualty insurance, reinsurance, and investments.
Willkie represented longtime client Level 3 Communications in
its $34 billion acquisition by CenturyLink, forming the
second-largest domestic communications provider serving global
So You Think You Can Reorganize
Willkie successfully represented independent content and
management company CORE Media Group, a joint venture owned by 21st
Century Fox and Apollo Global Management, and 47 of its affiliates,
in confirmation of their pre negotiated chapter 11 plan of
reorganization less than five months after its chapter 11 filing.
The company has produced, through its 19 Entertainment affiliate,
award-winning reality programming including American Idol
and So You Think You Can Dance.
Willkie secured a landmark victory on behalf of transgender
Medicaid recipients in the pro bono case Cruz v.
Zucker.Under the ruling, New York will be one of very few
states where transgender individuals can obtain Medicaid funding
for treatments that will bring their physical appearance in line
with their gender.
In a case of first impression, the New York Court of Appeals
ruled that the business judgment standard of review, not entire
fairness, applies to going-private transactions involving
controlling shareholders in the Kenneth Cole Productions
shareholder litigation. This case establishes important precedent
for future corporate transactions, and provides a roadmap to
corporate attorneys structuring going-private transactions
involving controlling shareholders under New York law.