Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. History
Houston, Texas 77010
Telephone: (713) 651-5151
Fax: (713) 651-5246
Founded: 1919 as Fulbright & Crooker
Gross Billings: $343 million (2000 est.)
NAIC: 541110 Offices of Lawyers
Predominant over our size and geographical reach is our strong belief in the personal relationship between attorney and client. The basic principles upon which Fulbright & Jaworski was founded remain intact, and the firm's strong confidence in its attorneys is steadfast. Mutual respect and a common desire to excel on behalf of each of our clients are present in every aspect of the firm's practice.
- The firm is founded in Houston.
1920s:The partnership then known as Fulbright, Crooker & Freeman opens its Washington, D.C. office, its first outside of Houston.
- Leon Jaworski, the best known of the firm's lawyers, joins the law firm.
- The firm is renamed Fulbright, Crooker, Freeman, Bates & Jaworski.
- Leon Jaworski begins serving as special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal.
- The partnership opens its first European office in London.
- The law firm changes its name to Fulbright & Jaworski.
- The firm merges with New York's Reavis & McGrath, making it the nation's seventh largest law firm with additional branch offices in New York and Los Angeles.
- The firm starts its first Asian office in Hong Kong.
- The Minneapolis office is opened.
With almost 800 lawyers, Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. is one of the world's largest law firms. It serves corporations, nonprofit groups, government entities, and individuals in many parts of the world by offering expertise in litigation, antitrust, securities, international arbitration, and most other practice areas. In addition to its main office in Houston, Fulbright & Jaworski has offices in Hong Kong, London, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Washington, D.C. Name partner Leon Jaworski, who died in 1982, is the firm's best known lawyer due to his role as the Watergate special prosecutor who helped end the presidency of Richard Nixon in 1974.
Origins and Early Years
R. Clarence Fulbright was born in New Boston, Texas, in 1881, earned two degrees from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and then earned his J.D. at the University of Chicago. Admitted to the Texas bar in 1909, Fulbright in 1919 joined with John Henry Crooker to start their partnership. Born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1884, Crooker had no formal law school training. Admitted to the Texas bar in 1911, he served as a district attorney from 1914 to 1918 before teaming up with Fulbright.
After graduating from Baylor Law School and earning a master's degree from George Washington University, Leon Jaworski practiced law a few years before joining the Fulbright firm in 1931 in the midst of the Great Depression. He soon tried many lawsuits, often in behalf of some of Houston's more prominent families and businesses. In 1935 the firm made him its youngest partner.
Probably the young firm's main client was Houston's State National Bank, its only client listed in the 1929 Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. The firm, then known as Fulbright, Crooker & Freeman, also had an office in the Transportation Building in Washington, D.C., which for many years was its only branch office.
In 1932 the Fulbright firm was counsel to local clients such as the State National Bank of Houston, the Houston Compress Company, Houston Merchants Exchange, Houston Daily Press, and the Houston Chamber of Commerce. Its insurance practice represented Exporters Insurance Company of New York, Aetna Insurance Company based in Hartford, Connecticut, Fidelity American Insurance Company, and the Insurance Company of North America.
Beginning in 1936, one of Leon Jaworski's better known clients was Glenn McCarthy. In his book Confession and Avoidance, Jaworski described his colorful client, the model for the oilman Jett Rink in the novel and movie Giant. In 1949 McCarthy built Houston's luxurious Shamrock Hotel, and at his peak in the 1950s he owned a radio station, a chemical plant, a men's clothing store, and a 15,000-acre ranch. Serving such business leaders helped the Fulbright firm to grow and prosper.
Post-World War II Practice
In the late 1950s the growing firm then named Fulbright, Crooker, Freeman, Bates & Jaworski earned $1 million, its largest fee up to that point, for representing Mrs. Libbie Moody Thompson, wife of Congressman Clark Thompson, in an estate case. In 1960 Leon Jaworski began serving Lyndon Johnson, his longtime friend, in lawsuits that challenged Johnson's right to appear on the ballot as candidate for both vice-president of the United States and for reelection as U.S. senator from Texas. Johnson won those lawsuits or had them dismissed. Jaworski continued to represent Johnson until he died.
During the 1960s, Leon Jaworski was involved in some of the nation's most heated controversies. He assisted the U.S. Justice Department in prosecuting Governor Ross Barnett of Mississippi for defying court demands that blacks be allowed to attend the University of Mississippi. In 1962 James Meredith, with the help of federal troops, finally became the first black to attend "Ole Miss."
Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Leon Jaworski served as special counsel to the Texas attorney general in a court of inquiry to examine the murder. The court's report supported the Warren Commission's conclusions that a single gunman killed the president, and Jaworski in his 1979 book Confession and Avoidance rejected conspiracy theories that opposed the Warren Commission's findings.
Leon Jaworski's best known legal contribution was his work as the special prosecutor who in 1973 and 1974 investigated President Richard Nixon's role in the Watergate scandal. Jaworski convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that Nixon must turn over tape recordings, a decision that hastened the end of the Nixon administration. Facing imminent impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives, Nixon in 1974 became the first American president to resign.
Meanwhile, the firm expanded by opening several branch offices, including London in 1974, Austin in about 1979, San Antonio in 1981, and Dallas in 1982. In 1985 the firm leased more than 250,000 square feet in Three Houston Center to prepare for its move to its new offices in early 1986. This move consolidated the firm's 160,000-square-foot offices in the Bank of the Southwest building and its 50,000-square-foot facility in the Commerce Building. Fulbright & Jaworski opened a Zurich, Switzerland affiliated office in the late 1980s but closed it in the 1990s.
Fulbright & Jaworski in 1985 brought in $87 million in gross revenue. That resulted in the American Lawyer ranking the firm as the nation's 17th largest law firm. Its $225,000 revenue per lawyer placed it as number 36 in the United States. The National Law Journal in September 1988 listed Fulbright & Jaworski as the nation's 11th largest law firm, based on its 453 lawyers. In the booming economy of the 1980s, the firm moved from its Houston headquarters in the Bank of the Southwest Building to new offices at 1301 McKinney Street.
Fulbright & Jaworski represented Texaco in a much publicized legal battle with Pennzoil. Houston's Baker Botts represented Pennzoil. The dispute was finally settled in 1988 when Texaco agreed to pay Pennzoil $3 billion.
The firm took a major step on January 1, 1989, when its merger with New York City's Reavis & McGrath became effective after ten months of negotiations. With 476 lawyers from the Fulbright law firm and 105 from Reavis & McGrath, the merged law firm's 581 attorneys made it the seventh largest in the United States. Probably more important, it strengthened the firm's national practice by adding the New York and Los Angeles offices of Reavis & McGrath. Gibson Gayle, Jr., Fulbright's managing partner, admitted in a November 11, 1988 Houston Chronicle article, "We have suffered in recent years from the absence of offices in New York and Los Angeles because it limited our ability to serve existing clients."
Another advantage of the Reavis & McGrath merger was pointed out by Bradford Hildebrandt, Reavis's advisor, in the February 1989 American Bar Association Journal. "Reavis' major claim to fame is its securities corporate practice. On the other hand, Fulbright is a major litigation firm. That's the kind of thing you look for in a merger. They have practices that clearly complement each other."
The merged firm ended 1989 on a high financial note. Its gross revenue of $183.2 million made it the largest law firm in Texas, overtaking Houston's Vinson & Elkins, which had the highest gross revenue in the previous three years. According to a Texas Lawyer survey, Houston had ten and Dallas had 12 of the state's major law firms.
With the nation's economy booming in the late 1980s, law firms also grew rapidly. According to the American Lawyer, in 1987 20 American law firms brought in revenues of at least $100 million, up from just five firms two years earlier.
Practice in the 1990s and the New Millennium
As the decade began, Fulbright & Jaworski defended Phillips after the corporation's Pasadena chemical plant near Houston exploded in 1989, resulting in 23 dead, 314 injured, and more than $1 billion in damages. Anne Pearson in the Houston Chronicle called the explosion "the Houston area's most deadly industrial accident in more than 40 years." By 1990 at least 160 lawsuits had been filed against Phillips, and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had fined Phillips $5.7 million.
Meanwhile, the nation's slowing economy led to many large law firms thinning their ranks. For example, in 1992 the National Law Journal reported that about half of the nation's 250 largest law firms had shrunk. Fulbright & Jaworski was part of this trend, cutting back to 659 lawyers from 689 the year before. In 1994 the firm decreased to just 609 lawyers, while it was the nation's 16th largest law firm based on its gross revenues of $227 million, the highest of any Texas law firm.
When the Houston Oilers were almost ready to leave Houston in 1996, the city government hired Fulbright & Jaworski to help it lobby on several sports franchise bills in Congress and seek new sports franchises. The following year, MCI Communications Corporation used Fulbright & Jaworski when it sponsored the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., the newly opened home arena of the professional basketball team Washington Wizards.
The law firm also aided small start-up technology companies as they ventured forth in what some called the 1990s "new economy." For example, it helped WANTads.com, Inc. develop new sources of capital for its online listing of classified ads that competed with traditional newspaper ads.
In the late 1990s Fulbright & Jaworski became a world leader in the growing practice of international arbitration. More companies, especially in the energy field, agreed to arbitration to avoid legal conflicts because of different nations' laws. "Ten years ago, Texaco, Amoco and others did about 70% of their oil and gas exploration and production domestically--now it's 70% outside the U.S.," said John Bowman of Fulbright & Jaworski in the Wall Street Journal of May 10, 2000. Although arbitration results were confidential, some of the law firm's clients in this field included the French company Total SA in a dispute over a natural gas field off the coast of Ecuador, Mexican company Television Azteca in a conflict with National Broadcasting Company, and Houston energy company Coastal Corporation. The Houston Chronicle on May 20, 2001, reported that international arbitration accounted for about 20 percent of Fulbright & Jaworski's litigation practice.
Another example of the firm's role in the globalized economy was its service to Russia's Agency for Reconstruction of Credit Organizations (ARCO). In 1999 the newly created ARCO hired the Houston law firm as it took over Rossiyskiy Kredit Bank (RKB) and gained a moratorium that prevented creditors from filing lawsuits and seeking claims from RKB in Russia. After some creditors sought relief in U.S. courts, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York City on October 11, 2000, ordered a permanent injunction against such efforts. "The ruling in New York represents the first time a bankruptcy court in the United States has given its assistance to the reorganization of a Russian bank," said RKB Chairman Alexander Livshits in an October 30, 2000 press release.
With more mergers and strategic alliances of corporations based in different nations, law firms in the 1990s often opened more branch offices around the world. In the Washington Post on December 8, 1997, Joel Henning of consulting firm Hildebrandt Inc. referred to "the growing nationalization and ultimately globalization of the legal marketplace. There are very few local clients, so it stands to reason that there will be very few local firms."
Fulbright & Jaworski's gross revenue increased 7.7 percent from 1999 to reach $343 million in 2000. Many other firms reported much faster growth, however, so Fulbright & Jaworski slipped from number 23 in 1999 to number 32 in the American Lawyer's annual ratings of the 100 largest American law firms. It was the third largest law firm in Texas, behind Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld and Houston's Vinson & Elkins.
The firm's 2000 revenue of $343 million ranked it number 39 in the November 2001 listing of the world's 100 largest law firms compiled by the American Lawyer and London's Legal Business. At the same time, Fulbright & Jaworski was ranked number 31 based on its total of 767 lawyers. Only 1 percent of its lawyers worked outside the United States, compared with 28 firms that had at least 10 percent of their lawyers practicing outside their home countries. Its average profits per equity partner of $455,000 earned the firm a number 85 listing, compared with the top 25 firms where the average was at least $1 million.
After the three California cities of Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena lost millions of dollars selling power to the state's electricity grid, they hired Fulbright & Jaworski in 2001 to try to regain some of that money from bankrupt Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and struggling Southern California Edison. This was part of California's severe energy crisis, when some argued that consumers had been illegally overcharged up to $9 billion.
In 2001 technical and trade schools in Texas hired Fulbright & Jaworski to lobby the state legislature for separate funding that could benefit as many as 15,000 students. Thus the firm continued to make major contributions in its home state while serving many national and international clients.
Principal Competitors: Baker Botts, L.L.P.; Jenkins & Gilchrist; Vinson & Elkins L.L.P.
- Barnett, John, "Law Firms to Merge/Fulbright to Become 7th Largest in U.S.," Houston Chronicle, November 11, 1988, p. 1.
- Berkowitz, Harry, "Texaco Dispute Keeps Lawyers' Pockets Filled," Houston Chronicle, April 19, 1987, p. 1.
- Boisseau, Charles, "Major Houston Law Firms Among Those That Have Downsized," Houston Chronicle, September 22, 1992, p. 3.
- "Chronicle 100 Leading Companies of Houston ...," Houston Chronicle, May 20, 2001, p. 32.
- "City Hires Sports Lobby," Houston Chronicle, March 21, 1996, p. 34.
- Flood, Mary, "Texas Lawyers Make a Splash Outside of U.S.," Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition), May 10, 2000, p. A1.
- "Fulbright & Jaworski Announces Decision in Favor of Rossiyskiy Kredit: Russian Bank Receives Assistance from U.S. Bankruptcy Court," Business Wire, October 30, 2000.
- "Fulbright & Jaworski Leases 250,000 Square Feet in Three Houston Center for Relocation," Houston Chronicle, February 24, 1985, p. 2.
- Gao, Helen, "Payment Sought from Utilities: 3 Area Cities Hire Law Firm to Collect Millions," Daily News (Los Angeles), June 24, 2001, p. N3.
- Jaworski, Leon, with Dick Schneider, Crossroads, Elgin, Ill.: David C. Cook Publishing Co., 1981.
- Jaworski, Leon, with Mickey Herskowitz, Confession and Avoidance: A Memoir, Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1979.
- Kay, Michele, "Trade Schools Making Case for State Aid," Austin American Statesman, March 4, 2001, p. J1.
- Levinson, Brian, "Texas Law Firms Catch the Merger Wave," Houston Chronicle, June 14, 1987, p. 1.
- Moss, Debra Cassens, "The Urge to Merge," American Bar Association Journal, February 1989, p. 40.
- Pearson, Anne, "Ranks of Lawyers Sort Phillips Suits," Houston Chronicle, October 21, 1990, p. 9.
- Pope, Kyle, "Fulbright & Jaworski Top-Grossing Law Firm," Houston Chronicle, July 10, 1990, p. 1.
- Segal, David, "Enough Talent to Fill the New MCI Center," Washington Post, December 8, 1997, p. F07.
- Shook, Barbara, "Texaco Resumes Appeal of $11 Billion Damages," Houston Chronicle, May 14, 1987, p. 1.
- Stewart, James B., "Who's in Command of Texaco's Team? Me! No, Me! No ... Oil Giant Declining to Say Which of 4 Law Firms Controls Pennzoil Case," Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition), December 6, 1985, p. 1.
- "3 Houston Law Firms Make Top-20," Houston Chronicle, July 8, 1986, p. 10.
- "Top Texas Law Firms Post Big Revenue Rise/Total for 25 Leaders Jumps to $3.3 Billion," Houston Chronicle, June 26, 2001, p. 2.
- "2 Houston Law Firms Among Revenue Leaders," Houston Chronicle, July 4, 1987, p. 1.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 47. St. James Press, 2002.