190 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, Illinois 60603
Telephone: (312) 782-0600
Fax: (312) 701-7711
Gross Billings: $590 million (2001 est.)
NAIC: 541110 Offices of Lawyers
1881: Levy Mayer starts his law practice in Chicago.
1970: The firm's Washington, D.C. office is started.
1974: Mayer, Brown & Platt opens a new branch office in New York City.
1982: The Houston office is opened.
1985: The firm opens its Los Angeles office.
2001: The firm merges with the Paris law firm of Lambert & Lee and the Frankfurt office of Gaedertz.
2002: Mayer, Brown & Platt on February 1 merges with London's Rowe & Maw to form Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw.
Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw is one of the world's largest law firms, based on both its revenue and number of lawyers. Chambers & Partners in 2001 rated the law firm, at that pre-merger time known as Mayer, Brown & Platt, as one of the top ten in North America. The Chicago-based firm also has offices in Houston, New York City, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Palo Alto, London, Frankfurt, Cologne, Paris, and Washington, D.C, and affiliated offices in Beijing and Shanghai. Its lawyers specialize in most areas of domestic and international law but are particularly well known for their corporate, banking, securities, tax, real estate, litigation, appellate, and information technology practices. One of the firm's oldest historic clients is Continental Illinois Bank, and at the turn of the millennium it represented 25 of the world's largest banks. Other clients include nonprofit organizations, multinational corporations such as Dow Chemical, AOL Time Warner, BMW, and Oracle, and national, state, and municipal governments. On February 1, 2002, Mayer, Brown & Platt merged with Rowe & Maw, a London-based firm with offices in Manchester and Brussels, to form the new partnership of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. The merged firm, with more than 1,300 lawyers worldwide, is just one example of the consolidation of the legal profession. As their corporate clients merged, so did some of the law firms. Such huge professional firms play a key role in the world's economic and political developments such as globalization, privatization of former state-owned enterprises, and the technological changes in the Information Age.
Origins and Early History
Levy Mayer (1858-1922), the lead name partner of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, was born in Richmond, Virginia, and attended public schools in Chicago. Following his graduation from Yale Law School in 1876, Mayer worked as an assistant librarian at the Chicago Law Institute.
In 1881 Levy Mayer joined the Illinois Bar and began practicing law with Adolf Kraus and William S. Brackett. The firm was renamed Kraus & Mayer and then Kraus, Mayer & Stein after Brackett retired. In 1893 the partnership became known as Moran, Kraus, Mayer & Stein. When Stein became a judge and Kraus retired, the firm became Moran, Mayer & Meyer. Carl Meyer, a graduate of Yale University, had studied law under Levy Mayer before joining the bar in 1890. After Judge Moran died and Alfred S. Austrian and Henry Russell Platt joined the firm, it was known as Mayer, Meyer, Austrian & Platt.
In 1913, just before the onset of World War I, Hubbell's Legal Directory listed Mayer, Meyer, Austrian & Platt with 11 lawyers with their offices in Chicago's American Trust Building. Partners included Isaac H. Mayer, who had joined the bar in 1886 and became a specialist in trademarks and unfair competition.
Levy Mayer helped form several companies, including Sears Roebuck & Company in Chicago, Hart Schaffner & Marx, the Great Lakes Transit Corporation, the Chicago Packing & Provision Company, Ltd., The Chicago & Northwest Granaries Company Ltd., and the Pan American Commission Corporation.
By 1910 Levy Mayer had assisted six Chicago banks when they merged into what became known as Continental Illinois Bank & Trust Company. For several decades the Chicago law firm provided most of the bank's legal advice, with Carl Meyer serving as its (and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's) general counsel. Similar close relationships existed between New York City banks and law firms. For example, Chase Manhattan Bank and its predecessors used Milbank Tweed and Citibank relied on Shearman & Sterling.
Levy Mayer also assisted in merging sugar companies, chewing gum businesses, and distilling firms. He also successfully represented business interests that were sued, such as large meat packing companies in the 1912 Packers' Trial and the owners of the Iroquois Theatre after a major fire.
Post-World War II Developments
In 1950 the law firm headed by senior partners Isaac H. Mayer and Carl Meyer had 22 partners, up slightly from its 17 partners in 1940. By 1960 the firm, renamed Mayer, Friedlich, Spiess, Tierney, Brown & Platt, included 28 partners and 27 associates but still had no branch offices. New name partner H. Templeton Brown had graduated from Harvard Law School and had been admitted to the bar in 1926.
The firm rapidly grew in the 1960s, reaching 55 partners and 36 associates in 1970. In the 1970 Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory the firm also listed a European Office in Paris that later was closed. In addition, in 1970 the firm opened its Washington, D.C. office. This was part of a general trend for outside firms to start offices in the nation's capital to help their corporate clients deal with the growing number of federal laws and agencies, such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity.
Following the Nixon administration's beginning of diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China, the law firm's Everett L. Hollis in 1972 was one of the first outsiders to explain the workings of capitalism to the communist nation. Hollis, with a few other Americans, met in Peking (now Beijing) in an informal seminar to clarify the way Wall Street really worked. Such contacts paved the way for future economic ties between the two nations.
In 1974 the firm opened its New York City office, mainly to work with its longtime client Continental Bank. In 1975, however, the bank hired its first inside general counsel, a major step in decreasing the bank's historic dependence on the Chicago law firm. "Largely gone are the relationships that spawned some of the country's most prosperous firms," wrote James B. Stewart in 1984 in the Wall Street Journal. When Continental Bank faced possible bankruptcy in 1984, the law firm could have closed or expanded its New York practice. It decided to remain and eventually built a major branch office there.
The law firm in the post-World War II era played a significant leadership role in the bar. For example, partner Justin Armstrong Stanley served as president of both the Chicago Bar Association in 1967 and the American Bar Association in 1976. See Terence C. Halliday's book Beyond Monopoly for a sociological study of the Chicago Bar Association.
Like many large law firms, the renamed Mayer, Brown & Platt saw tremendous growth in the 1980s as the economy boomed and numerous mergers and acquisitions occurred. In 1982 it added a new office in Houston, in part to deal with oil, natural gas, and other energy issues. In 1985 its Los Angeles office opened its doors, and by 1990 other branches had been founded in London and Tokyo. This first Asian branch later was closed.
Law Practice in the 1990s and Beyond
In 1991 Mayer, Brown & Platt chose a woman as its managing partner, one of the first large law firms to do so. In 1997 Mayer, Brown & Platt's Mickey Kantor, the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, began serving David and Simon Reuben and their company Trans World. The Reuben brothers had built Trans World in Russia into the world's third largest aluminum producer, with additional investments in steel, coal, chrome, and other raw materials. The Russian government investigated Trans World for alleged money laundering, organized crime connections, and other misdeeds. By 2000 the Reubens had sold most of their business.
Fortune on June 12, 2000, said the Trans World story, "filled with bribes, shell companies, profiteers, and more than a few corpses," was a "vivid illustration of how Russia's criminal class has dismantled the promise of the post-Soviet era." It also was an example of the role of large American law firms in the transition to capitalism after the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.
In the 1990s Mayer, Brown & Platt increased the capacity of its New York City office. By 1999 the New York office had 165 lawyers who served mostly financial institutions such as Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Lehman Brothers, the Bank of Nova Scotia, and CIBC Oppenheimer. After three partners and ten associates of Gordon Altman Butowsky Weitzen Shalov & Wein left to join Mayer, Brown & Platt in 1999, the Chicago-based firm increased its ability to counsel mutual fund managers. Writer Matthew Goldstein concluded that by 1999 the firm's Manhattan office had "become one of the biggest success stories among out-of-town firms."
The firm in 1998 acquired the seven-lawyer Charlotte, North Carolina firm of Blanchfield Cordle & Moore, which specialized in tax and litigation matters. By March 2000 this branch office had grown to 30 lawyers.
Mayer, Brown & Platt also expanded overseas. On April 1, 2001, it merged with the Frankfurt, Germany office of Gaedertz, a well known corporate law firm. The two firms shared some mutual clients such as ITW and Credit Suisse First Boston before the merger. This new German office pushed the firm's total number of lawyers past 1,000, which included more than 75 lawyers in Europe. The firm represented the following clients as part of its German practice: Daimler-Benz in U.S. product liability litigation, NBC Europe in German cable matters, and Enron in German and European Union energy issues, as well as Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Telekom, Lufthansa, Bosch, and Monsanto.
While growing internationally, Mayer, Brown & Platt continued to play a major role in its home city of Chicago. According to a Chicago Sun-Times story that used records using a Freedom of Information Act request, Chicago paid the firm $3.8 million in fees from 1997 through 1999. Although the city had its own staff of 280 lawyers, it increasingly relied on outside help, spending $42.3 million on outside counsel from 1993 to late 1999. Mayer, Brown & Platt received more than any other law firm in what the newspaper called "the gravy train of pinstripe patronage." Chicago's top lawyer justified using more outside counsel because of increased litigation and conflicts of interests.
Also close to home, the law firm twice represented the Illinois state government when it opposed efforts by Native American tribes trying to gain land. Based on the Treaty of Prairie du Chien of 1829, Oklahoma's Ottawa Tribe in 1998 was trying to get the state government to turn over 1,280 acres near Chicago's western suburbs and threatened a lawsuit as a last resort. In 2000 the Miami Tribe filed a lawsuit trying to get land it said was theirs under the 1805 Treaty of Grouseland. The 2,250-member tribe estimated that the land located in 15 counties was worth about $30 billion in 2000. In both these cases some speculated that the tribes wanted the land for casino sites.
The law firm also continued its leadership in the mergers and acquisitions field. For example, in 1999 it advised Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation in its merger with Canadian National Railway Company. In 2001 it represented iPCS Inc. when it was acquired by AirGate PCS Inc. for $802.8 million, George Weston in its $1.765 billion acquisition of Bestfoods Baking Company, and Devon Energy Corporation in its $3.1 billion acquisition of Mitchell Energy.
In its first Global 100 listing, the American Lawyer in its November 2001 issue ranked Mayer, Brown & Platt as the world's 21st largest law firm based on its number of lawyers (884) and 11th based on gross revenue of $533.5 million. With 324 equity partners, the firm also was ranked 49th for most profits per partner ($725,000).
Mayer, Brown & Platt on February 1, 2002, merged with London's Rowe & Maw to create the new firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. The two firms had earlier shared several important clients, such as the Bank of America, Aon, Ernst & Young, and GE Power Systems. Founded in 1895, Rowe & Maw was well known for its corporate, construction, pension, insurance, property, and employment practices. Chambers & Partners nominated Rowe & Maw as the "UK Law Firm of the Year in 2000." It reported revenues of $80 million for its fiscal year that ended April 2001. The merged firm's London office, with more than 300 lawyers and 600 staff, served clients such as Cable & Wireless Communications, EMI, ICI, Reuters, Unilever, and AstraZeneca.
The merged law firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw in 2002 faced plenty of competition, including two large international law firms that each had about 3,000 lawyers (Clifford Chance and Baker & McKenzie). Eleven other firms had between about 1,000 and 2,000 lawyers, according to the Global 100 list of November 2001.
Principal Operating Units: Finance; Construction and Engineering; Employment; Corporate; Intellectual Property and Information Technology; Pensions and Financial Services; Real Estate; Litigation; Dispute Resolution.
Principal Competitors: Sidley Austin Brown & Wood; Baker & McKenzie; McDermott, Will.
- Bakke, Dave, "Unsettled Property/Oklahoma Tribe Eyes Casino in DeKalb County," State Journal Register (Springfield, Ill.), November 1, 1998, p. 1.
- Behar, Richard, "Capitalism in a Cold Climate," Fortune, June 12, 2000, pp. 194-216.
- "Carl Meyer, Attorney for 64 Years, Dies," Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1954.
- Dettro, Chris, "Tribe, Illinoisans at Battle Over Land; State Plans to Assist Landowners in Lawsuit Filed by Miami Indians," State Journal Register (Springfield, Ill.), July 24, 2000, p. 9.
- Goldstein, Matthew, "Chicago Law Firm Finds That NYC Is Its Kind of Town," Crain's New York Business, August 30, 1999.
- Goldstein, Tom, "New Head of A.B.A. Justin Armstrong Stanley," New York Times, August 12, 1976, p. 18.
- Halliday, Terence C., Beyond Monopoly: Lawyers, State Crises, and Professional Empowerment, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.
- "I.H. Mayer, 103, Dies; Oldest Yale Graduate," Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1967.
- Machalaba, Daniel, and Steven Lipin, "Burlington Northern Agrees to Merger--Canadian National Rail Deal for $6 Billion Will Form Leader in North America," Wall Street Journal, December 20, 1999, p. A3.
- Salisbury, Harrison E., "Peking Takes Stock of Wall Street Ways," New York Times, June 10, 1972, p. 37.
- Spielman, Fran, "Clout-Heavy Law Firms Cash in City Fees in 6 Yrs. Top $42 Million," Chicago Sun-Times, December 5, 1999, p. 9.
- Stewart, James B., "Legal Landmark: Major Banks Loosen Links to Law Firms, Use In-House Counsel--Ties of Continental Illinois to Mayer, Brown & Platt Erode Since Penn Square--A Way to Cut Costs in Half," Wall Street Journal, April 26, 1984, p. 1.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 47. St. James Press, 2002.