A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Our History

Simpson Thacher was founded in 1884. Since that time, a diverse range of clients have turned to us for advice on their most complex and challenging legal matters, and we have built a worldwide presence with 11 offices and more than 850 lawyers. While our heritage dates to the 19th century, our values have remained consistent throughout: collegiality, respect, creativity, collaboration—and, always, our clients come first.
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1884
The Beginning
1914-1929
World War I and the Crash
1930s-1940s
The New Deal and World War II
1930s-1983
The Era of Whitney North Seymour
1950s-1960s
The Modern Firm
1970s-1990s
The Rise of
Private Equity and M&A
1990s-2000s
Strategic and Geographic Expansion
2000s
to the Present
Into a New Century
Cyrus Vance

"A century ago, in the bustling metropolis of lower Manhattan, three young lawyers struck out on their own to found our firm..."

- Cyrus Vance,
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett - The First Hundred Years, 1884-1984

John Woodruff Simpson
Thomas Thacher
Philip Golden Bartlett

1884

The Beginnings

As Chester Arthur began his final year in the White House in 1884, three young law clerks embarked on the creation of a new law firm in New York City. Their names were John Woodruff Simpson, Thomas Thacher and William Milo Barnum, all graduates of Columbia Law School. It was an era of economic transformation and prosperity as the proliferation of the railroads led the nation's march toward modernity.

The new Wall Street firm—Simpson, Thacher & Barnum—quickly became a trusted advisor to several major railroads. Headquartered in lower Manhattan—paying rent of $150 a month and its first associate a salary of $10 a week—the Firm litigated disputes and guided mergers that marked the consolidation of the railroad industry after the Panic of 1884. Out of those transactions emerged some of the country's largest corporations. Simpson, Thacher & Barnum's railroad experience, along with its burgeoning energy and commodities practices, positioned the Firm to help shape the American business landscape for the next two decades. The Firm's deals in these early days included:

  • Representing General Electric in establishing light and power companies worldwide
  • Forming the American Locomotive Company
  • Creating the American Power & Light Company, which acquired utilities throughout the United States
  • Forming the Brooklyn Union Gas Syndicate from seven separate operations
  • Structuring the American Gas and Electric Company, which connected utilities throughout the East and Midwest
  • Reorganizing multiple businesses that merged into the International Silver Company

For a brief time, the Firm was called Reed, Simpson, Thacher & Barnum, after a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Thomas Reed, joined. But after his death, as well as Barnum's retirement, Philip Bartlett became a named party and in 1904, the Firm became known as Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

From its inaugural site at 9 Pine Street, the Firm has had various offices throughout New York City, including 10 Wall Street, 120 Broadway and One Battery Park Plaza, before settling at its current midtown location at 425 Lexington Avenue, across the street from Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building.

John Woodruff Simpson
1850 - 1920
Thomas Thacher
1850 - 1919
Philip Golden Bartlett
1859 - 1932
1914-1929

1914-1929

World War I and the Crash

As the nation went to war, those Simpson Thacher lawyers not serving in the military advised on several litigations, which influenced important legal developments, including the high-profile conspiracy trial of New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad directors for monopolizing interstate commerce. After the war, returning lawyers were quick to facilitate clients' desires to harness new opportunities abroad. The Firm represented utilities that were making investments in Panama, Brazil, Columbia, Bolivia and Guatemala, and an international bank that was doing business in Austria, the Philippines, China, Argentina, Cuba, Japan and elsewhere.

In the U.S., the Firm expanded its relationships with investment banking clients who underwrote securities that funded the growth of key industries in such fields as steamships, machinery, cement, rubber, hotels, restaurants and oil and metal refining.

Simpson Thacher clients were also active in big real estate projects, such as the purchase and financing of the Equitable Building at 120 Broadway. In the 1920s, the Firm pioneered the cooperative-apartment house venture. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 dramatically altered the nature of legal business and the Firm's real estate work developed to include portfolio liquidations and reorganizations. A variety of clients, ranging from department stores to airlines to advertising agencies, turned to the Firm for counsel.

Crowd in front of the New York Stock Exchange
Black Thursday, 1929
1930s-1940s

1930s-1940s

The New Deal and World War II

Unprecedented corporate regulation during the New Deal raised significant legal challenges for Firm clients. The newly enacted Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the ever-changing tax code, all required increased focus on regulatory advice. Simpson Thacher lawyers helped clients navigate the new world of regulation, often in court and at the recently created SEC. These were the early days of our representation of public companies, and marked the beginning of our financial services practice as well. Our antitrust practice, too, grew substantially. The Firm's client base continually diversified, and our lawyers took on businesses that ranged from moviemaking to professional boxing.

World War II and its aftermath revolutionized the economy. Clients began producing material for the war effort; companies that had manufactured cans and typewriters now made torpedoes and munitions—which required the Firm to learn new businesses. When the war ended, the maturing Firm changed its structure to an organization that presaged the current Simpson Thacher. We formalized departments into litigation, corporate finance, banking, labor, tax, real estate, and trusts and estates. But while the Firm believed specialized Practices were crucial to providing efficient client service, the Firm also understood that it was indispensable for attorneys to have knowledge beyond a sole area of expertise. Postwar Firm associates worked in multiple departments to develop skills that enabled them to become broad-gauged counselors.

Woman working in an armaments factory
During WWII
Whitney North Seymour

1930s-1983

The Era of Whitney North Seymour

Great law firms are shaped by great lawyers. For Simpson Thacher, Whitney North Seymour was that individual. He joined the Firm in 1923, and led it from the 1930s until his death in 1983. Hailed by the New York Times as a "champion of unpopular causes and a recognized authority in the field of civil liberties," Seymour was an icon of the American bar. He argued more than 50 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including Herndon v. Lowry (1937), a pro bono case in which Seymour vindicated the First Amendment rights of an African-American member of the Communist Party. Seymour's unshakable belief in pro bono work and civil rights set the course for the Firm's commitment to public service—a beacon for the Firm that inspires still.

Under Seymour's leadership, the corporate practice at Simpson Thacher concentrated on the financial services sector. The Firm came to represent virtually every major U.S. investment bank, including long-time client Lehman Brothers. For its part, the Litigation Department focused on jury trials in particular. Seymour himself tried virtually every type of civil case.

Beyond the Firm and his pro bono efforts, Seymour led numerous organizations, including the Legal Aid Society, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, which three other Simpson Thacher partners—Thomas Thacher, Cyrus Vance and Conrad Harper (the City Bar's first African-American president)—also led at other times. Early in his career, Seymour also worked in the Hoover Administration as an Assistant Solicitor General.

Whitney North Seymour
1901 - 1983
Cyrus Vance

1950s-1960s

The Modern Firm Takes Form

The 1950s and 1960s were decisive decades in the evolution of the Firm's practice profile. In 1952, Simpson Thacher became general counsel to Manufacturers Trust Company, later renamed Manufacturers Hanover Corporation. "Manny Hanny" grew into a major money center bank—and the Firm grew with it. That relationship continued to thrive through multiple mergers: with Chemical Bank in 1991, with Chase Manhattan in 1996, with JPMorgan in 2000, and with Bank One in 2004. Our continued representation of the institution now known as JPMorgan Chase well illustrates the longevity that's at the core of many of our client relationships. Our early work for lenders and financial advisors in the 1950s and 1960s laid the foundation for the Firm's preeminent M&A practice today.

This period also ushered in a time of government service by Simpson Thacher lawyers. In 1957, when Partner Ed Weisl became Chief Special Counsel for the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee reviewing the American missile program, he asked his young partner Cyrus Vance to come along. From that first tour in Washington, Cyrus went on to serve four presidents—returning to Simpson Thacher temporarily during the Nixon Administration and for good after resigning as President Carter's Secretary of State. Dick Beattie, who would later become Chairman of the Firm's Executive Committee, also served the Carter Administration, as the General Counsel of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He would later become the Director of the Transition and the Counsel to the Secretary of Education, where he was in charge of organizing the U.S. Department of Education and acted as President Clinton's Emissary for Cyprus in the 1990s. Like Whitney North Seymour, Cy Vance and Dick Beattie embodied the Firm's transcendent commitment to public service.

Simpson Thacher's Litigation Practice also coalesced in the 1960s. In 1968, General Motors chose the Firm to handle all of its product liability litigation in the New York area, giving our litigators the opportunity to act as lead trial counsel in hundreds of jury trials. The Firm subsequently began doing trial work for other manufacturers such as Toyota, Nissan and Bombardier. Our jury trial victories in the late 1960s and 1970s helped to create a stand-alone litigation practice that clients in time came to seek out for many of their most important matters.

Cyrus Vance
1917 - 2002
Conrad Harper

1970s-1990s

The Rise of Private Equity and M&A

In 1976, Simpson Thacher began advising the small, newly-formed Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, building on the relationships developed while its founders were at Firm investment banking clients. KKR is credited with inventing the leveraged buyout (LBO)—a financial structure that, in turn, facilitated the creation of the private equity marketplace. The Firm closely collaborated with KKR to create new contract structures for these deals, which served as the groundwork for, and influenced, many later buyout deals. Blackstone, another newly formed private equity firm, whose founders had been Firm clients, became a client in 1985. Other private equity sponsors—including Hellman & Friedman, Silver Lake and Carlyle—also turned to the Firm. Under the prescient leadership of Dick Beattie, the Firm's Mergers and Acquisitions Practice flourished as its clients completed one front-page deal after another. The Firm represented KKR in its celebrated 1989 takeover of RJR Nabisco, at the time the largest LBO ever and the subject of the book and movie Barbarians at the Gate. Simpson Thacher has advised on the five largest completed LBOs in history, including the $44 billion acquisition of TXU by a consortium led by KKR and TPG, and the $39 billion buyout of Equity Office Properties by Blackstone.

During this time, the Firm's longstanding relationships with investment banks like Lehman Brothers also helped drive the growth of its Corporate Practice. As these financial institutions grew during this era, so did the volume and type of work that the Firm undertook on their behalf–such as M&A, acquisition finance and securities offerings. The Firm's unrivaled experience attracted other clients who participated in some of the largest corporate acquisitions of the time, including:

  • Stroh's acquisition of Schlitz (1982)
  • Philip Morris' bid to take over Kraft (1989, representing Wasserstein, Perella & Co.)
  • Paramount Communications' take over by Viacom, which later led to seminal Delaware case law (1994)
  • Glaxo's acquisition of Wellcome (1995)
  • Exxon's merger with Mobil Corp. (1998)
  • Seagram in its acquisitions of Universal Studios and Polygram (1998)
  • Bank mergers that ultimately led to the formation of JPMorgan Chase (1991, 1996, 2000, 2004)

During this period, the Firm also expanded the diversity of its partnership, reflecting a commitment to increasing the diversity in the legal profession that remains today. The Firm made Eleanor Fox its first woman Partner in 1970. The following year, Conrad Harper joined the Firm following his work at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where he had worked on a number of important civil rights cases, including Keyes v. School District No. 1, Denver, the first case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled on de facto school segregation. When he became partner in 1974, Conrad was the Firm's first African-American Partner and one of only two such partners at major law firms in New York City. Since that time, the Firm has continued to view diversity as one of its greatest strengths and remains committed to recruiting, developing and promoting a broadly diverse talent pool of attorneys at all levels of practice.

Conrad Harper
1940 - Present
1990s-2000s

1990s-2000s

Strategic and Geographic Expansion

Serving clients has always been the central focus of Simpson Thacher and that is why we have made ourselves available wherever our clients need us. When we recognized that clients would benefit, we opened new offices—beginning with London in 1978, when our banking clients focused on Europe. We opened in Tokyo in 1990, when foreign firms for the first time were allowed to counsel clients in Japan; many of those clients wanted to offer securities in the U.S. market. Three years later, we opened in Hong Kong, where our Practice has steadily grown to represent major private equity funds, investment banks and multinationals in the region.

In the United States, our Los Angeles office opened in 1996—initially to represent Universal Studios—and today handles both diverse corporate transactions in the Pacific Rim and a wide array of litigation matters. Our Palo Alto office opened in 1999, a time of astonishing growth for venture capital and high-tech—and has become a leader in corporate and litigation services in Silicon Valley and beyond. Our Washington, D.C., office, which opened in 2005, maintains a litigation and arbitration focus with robust Antitrust, Securities, Investigations and Regulatory Practices.

In recent years, the Firm again increased its international footprint. In 2007, we expanded our Asian practice with a Beijing office, thereby creating a platform to represent clients, old and new, in China. We opened an office in São Paulo in 2009 to enhance our Latin American coverage of many different clients' needs.

Hong Kong Offices
ICBC Tower - 35th Floor
2000s

2000s to the Present

Into a New Century

We have embraced the new century, building on the efforts of the Firm's forebears. As our clients' businesses continue to evolve, we have expanded our capabilities into key areas and markets. The 2011 establishment of our Houston office was in direct response to our clients' interest in the energy and oil and gas sectors, particularly from financial institutions, corporate clients and private equity firms. We established our Hong Kong law practice in 2011 to provide clients with broader capabilities in their capital markets and M&A transactions. The following year, the opening of Korea to U.S. law firms enabled us to open our Seoul office and better serve our clients in Korea.

While Simpson Thacher now has 11 offices, at heart and in practice, we remain a single Firm, collaborating to achieve the best and most efficient results for our business clients. Our structure today reflects those objectives:

  • The Corporate Practice now brings together peerless proficiency in banking and credit, mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, private capital and real estate to advise on the most critical, complex transactions—both in the United States and around the world
  • Our Litigation Practice takes on bet-the-company engagements of all kinds, resolving disputes when possible and going full bore in court when necessary
  • Additional practices in Executive Compensation, Exempt Organizations, Personal Planning and Tax complement the work of other departments, as well as represent corporate and individual clients in separate matters

Highlights of our recent marquee matters include:

  • Advising on the IPOs of Facebook, Hilton, Google, Blackstone, Carlyle, KKR, MasterCard, DreamWorks Animation, Japan Airlines, Tesla—and more than 300 other successful U.S. and global IPOs over the last decade
  • Handling M&A deals such as Microsoft's $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype; Vodafone's $130 billion sale of its stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon; and Wyeth's $68 billion sale to Pfizer
  • Advising the U.S. Department of the Treasury in structuring TARP (the Troubled Asset Relief Program) after the financial crisis of 2008
  • Representing various parties in record buyouts and offerings in China, Brazil, Germany, Denmark, Japan, Uruguay, Korea and the Netherlands
  • Winning a unanimous jury verdict for Swiss Re, the largest participant in the $3.5 billion property insurance program covering the World Trade Center at the time of the terrorist attacks on 9/11

In the mold of Whitney North Seymour and Cy Vance, the Firm's commitment to public service has endured. We average tens of thousands of pro bono hours annually; our clients range across the spectrum of nonprofits, civic organizations, micro-entrepreneurs, criminal defendants and other individuals. In representing honorable causes and those without means, our lawyers bear out our credo that the Firm exists in a larger community.

Our signature pro bono representation has been on behalf of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE). Since 1995, the Firm has assisted CFE in attempting to remedy inadequacies in the New York City public schools. Devoting more than $20 million worth of lawyer time, the Firm represented CFE through a seven-month trial and then numerous appeals—ultimately obtaining a landmark ruling that the city had violated the state constitution's requirement that all students have the opportunity for basic education. As a result, billions of additional dollars are being made available to support the education of New York City school children.

Today, led by Bill Dougherty, the Firm preserves a culture that combines the highest professional standards with abiding individual respect among and between our lawyers and clients. While we have grown dramatically in scale and reach, we retain the ethos of a much smaller firm—just like the one that John Woodruff Simpson, Thomas Thacher and William Milo Barnum founded 130 years ago. Dedicated to client service, we look forward to practicing law with those same values for many more years.

London Offices
Working collaboratively across 11 offices
In The
Beginning

1884
The Era of
Whitney North Seymour

1930s-1983
The Modern Firm
Takes Form

1950s-1960s