Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP History
New York, New York 10153
Telephone: (212) 310-8000
Fax: (212) 310-8007
Gross Billings: $505.5 million (2002)
NAIC: 541110 Offices of Lawyers
With our global presence and reputation for successfully managing complex legal matters, Weil Gotshal is regularly sought out by clients around the world.
- The partnership is founded in New York City.
- The firm's 47 lawyers move to new offices on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park.
- An office in Washington, D.C., its first outside New York City, is opened.
- The Budapest, Warsaw, and Menlo Park, California, offices are opened.
- The partnership expands by opening its London office.
- The firm opens its Frankfurt office and forms an alliance with Rajah & Tann in Singapore.
Perhaps best known for its bankruptcy practice, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP is one of the world's major law firms, with over 800 lawyers in offices in New York City, Brussels, Budapest, Frankfurt, Dallas, Houston, London, Miami, Prague, Menlo Park, Warsaw, and Washington, D.C., plus associated offices in Cairo, Paris, and Singapore. Established during the Great Depression as a small New York City law firm serving mostly local clients, in 2001 its international practice assists clients in an increasingly globalized economy, helping privatize state industries in Eastern Europe and helping foreign companies invest in that area. Weil, Gotshal & Manges provides legal advice in virtually all areas of domestic and international corporate law, including real estate, taxation, bankruptcy and restructuring, government regulation, intellectual property, trusts and estates, securities and financing, and mergers and acquisitions.
The law firm that would one day include hundreds of lawyers began in 1931 when Frank L. Weil, Sylvan Gotshal, and Horace S. Manges formed their partnership in New York City. Weil, a native New Yorker, was a graduate of Columbia University, having earned a B.S. degree in 1915 and a law degree in 1917. All three men were established attorneys in their 30s when they combined their expertise to form the partnership. According to Erwin Cherovsky in his Guide to New York Law Firms, Weil Gotshal began as a "small midtown Jewish firm with a substantial base of factoring textile and retail clients."
Although the firm would remain modest in size and scope through the 1940s, its name partners became important community leaders and social welfare organizers. Weil, in particular, distinguished himself as a respected voice in New York's Jewish community, serving as president of the Young Men's Hebrew Association in New York from 1932 through 1940 and co-founding the United Services Organizations. During World War II, Weil served as the president of the National Jewish Welfare Board in addition to his role on the National Advisory Panel to Study Juvenile Delinquency and as a member of the New York State Commission Against Discrimination. In 1946, Weil received a Medal of Merit from President Truman; in 1948 he was tapped by Truman to chair the president's Committee on Religious and Moral Welfare and Character Guidance in the Armed Forces. Among Weil's chief passions, however, was the Boy Scouts of America, where he established the National Jewish Committee on Scouting and on whose board of directors he served until his death in 1957.
The small partnership began its expansion in the 1950s. Among the attorneys leading this effort during this time was Ira M. Millstein. Millstein received his law degree from Columbia University in 1949 and worked for a few years in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He joined Weil, Gotshal in 1951, was made partner in 1958, and became the firm's leader in litigation and antitrust work. Todd Lang, the firm's leading corporate specialist, joined the firm in 1948 after receiving his law degree from Yale the year before. Another Columbia University graduate, Harvey R. Miller, was hired in 1970 and became the firm's bankruptcy expert. At that point, according to Cherovsky, the group of "key lawyers needed to galvanize the firm was complete."
Like many other law firms, Weil, Gotshal & Manges grew rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s. The firm added an office in Washington, D.C., in 1975 as its clients requested legal counsel to deal with the newly created Environmental Protection Agency and its new federal laws and regulations. According to one study, the number of lawyers living in Washington, D.C., grew from 11,000 in 1972 to 45,000 in 1987.
Weil, Gotshal added other new offices in Miami in 1981, Houston in 1985, and Dallas in 1987. The firm expanded from 316 lawyers, 61 paralegals, and 470 support staff in 1987 to 391 lawyers, 108 paralegals, and 803 support staff in 1990. Annual gross revenues increased from $120 million in 1986 to $200 million in 1989. Representative clients included General Electric Credit Corporation, TWA, Prudential, Carl Icahn, Odyssey Partners, and Drexel Burnham.
Law firms such as Weil, Gotshal & Manges grew in the 1980s as demand skyrocketed and the industry became more competitive. Firms competed against each other for the best lawyers, who since the late 1970s had gained information about the big law firms from two new periodicals, The American Lawyer and The National Law Review. With comparative data about law firm finances and management styles, more experienced lawyers switched firms for new opportunities and challenges. Weil Gotshal thus recruited several "lateral hires" in the 1980s, but it also lost some key individuals. For example, Charles Goldstein joined the firm in 1979 and led its booming real estate practice but then in 1984 took most of the firm's real estate lawyers with him when he joined Shea & Gould.
1990s and Beyond
According to the 1994 edition of The Insider's Guide to Law Firms, Weil, Gotshal & Manges then consisted of 462 lawyers and its bankruptcy department was "one of the best in the country," citing its representation of York and Olympia in one of the first reorganizations occurring under the laws of two jurisdictions. The law firm's corporate department, with 113 lawyers, was its largest, serving clients such as BMW, American Airlines, Citibank, General Motors, and General Electric. Its business and securities litigation team had succeeded in gaining its clients board membership or control of corporations such as USX, UJB Financial, and National Intergroup. Weil Gotshal attorneys also had worked on well-publicized antitrust cases involving players' associations in professional baseball, football, basketball, and hockey.
In the 1990s Weil, Gotshal & Manges opened its first international offices, including branches in Budapest, Warsaw, and Prague in 1991 and 1992 to take advantage of opportunities after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Many foreign companies needed legal counsel to begin operating, and governments sought advice in privatization ventures. In 1992 the law firm opened its Brussels office.
Although the firm's new European offices helped its financial bottom line, they remained relatively small operations. However, in 1996 the firm opened a London branch that by 2000 included about 100 lawyers. That move was part of what writer Paul M. Barrett called "a stampede of American law firms heading for major European cities in order to keep up with their increasingly international banking and business clientele." Unlike some American firms that staffed their London offices with mainly American lawyers, Weil Gotshal hired many British lawyers. The decision to open the London office caused internal dissent within the firm's leadership, partly because it cost $15 million to open that office, and it also led to clashes due to different legal cultures in the United States and Britain.
The firm's London office gained work from local clients such as Barclays plc in its leveraged-buyout projects and from Deutsche Bank's London office. It also helped American businesses, such as Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc., which sought to expand overseas. Chase Manhattan Corporation also provided some work for the London office. In 1997 the London branch accounted for $13 million of the firm's $350 million in annual revenue. The following year it brought in $25 million out of the firm's total of $400 million.
In 2000 Weil Gotshal was one of about ten foreign law firms that for the first time were allowed to operate in Singapore. It formed a strategic alliance with the Singapore law firm of Rajah & Tan in its first involvement in Asia. Intending to create a regional financial center, Singapore's Prime Minister three years earlier had stated that, "In the information age, human talent, not physical resources or financial capital, is the key factor for economic competitiveness and success. We must therefore welcome the infusion of knowledge which foreign talent will bring," according to the September 2000 International Financial Law Review.
Weil Gotshal at the turn of the century continued as a leader in representing clients involved in mergers and acquisitions. For example, in 1999 it represented Hannaford Brothers Company when it was acquired by Delhaize America, Inc., a holding company organized formed by Food Lion, Inc. In October 2000 the law firm's client Texaco Inc., which operated in about 150 nations, announced plans to merge with Chevron Corporation to create ChevronTexaco based in San Francisco. In another 2000 merger and acquisition, Weil Gotshal served both companies planning to merge. Its London office provided British law advice to Flextech, while the New York office provided Telewest Communications with American legal advice. The law firm pointed out that the two teams of attorneys worked completely separately to avoid any conflict of interest.
The Lawyer Awards 2000 honored Weil Gotshal as the Corporate Finance Team of the Year for helping Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst on its bid for Hillsdown Holdings, a public company in the United Kingdom. Such cross-border transactions were quite complicated due to the necessity of meeting legal requirements of both the United States and the United Kingdom.
The firm's practice grew in Central and Eastern Europe as foreign businesses began operating there, local companies expanded, and government-controlled entities became privatized. Its lawyers advised the Hungarian government on developing sound environmental laws. The firm's Warsaw office helped organize Central Europe's first mortgage bank. It also had offices in Budapest and Prague. According to the Weil Gotshal Web site, some of its Central European clients in 2000 were American Airlines, Bankers Trust, Citibank, Coastal Power Corporation, CP Holdings, Dow Chemical, Egis Pharmaceuticals, Estee Lauder, General Electric Capital, Internationale Nederlanden Bank, Rohr Gas, RWE Energie AG, Thyssen AG, the Hungarian telecommunication company MATAV, and MOL, Hungary's national oil company.
Weil Gotshal also increased its international practice by opening in 2000 a branch office in Frankfurt. The new office was started due to more demands on the firm's London office to serve clients in Germany, a key center for private equity, finance, new technology, and mergers and acquisitions.
As the U.S. economy showed signs of a downturn in 2000 and 2001, more companies declared bankruptcy. The American Bankruptcy Institute reported in The Wall Street Journal of February 16, 2001 that bankruptcy filings by big public companies in 2000 increased 21 percent from 1999. Those businesses needed legal help, so Weil Gotshal planned to add to the firm's 85 bankruptcy specialists. This development was similar to what happened in previous eras, such as the Great Depression of the 1930s or the slowdown in the early 1990s.
Like many law firms, Weil, Gotshal & Manges provided some legal services on a pro bono basis to needy organizations or individuals. Its lawyers have been involved in cases involving the death penalty, AIDS, and the rights of children, among others. For example, it provided counsel to 45,000 Vietnamese refugees being held in Hong Kong. It also has served the Children's Defense Fund, the ACLU, and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights on a variety of issues. The www.law.com Web site in 2001 ranked Weil, Gotshal & Manges as number 42 for its pro bono services.
Based on the law firm's 1997 gross revenue of $354 million, The American Lawyer ranked it as the United States' tenth largest law firm. The same magazine in November 1998, in cooperation with London's Legal Business, used the same financial statistics to rank the firm as number 14 in its first listing of the world's largest law firms. Based on its 661 lawyers, the firm ranked as number 26. It had offices in six countries, and 14 percent of its lawyers were based outside of its home country. That contrasted with Baker & McKenzie, the most internationalized firm, with offices in 35 nations and 80 percent of its lawyers based outside of its home nation. By 2000, Weil Gotshal had reached the number ten spot in The American's Lawyer's annual rankings of American firms by revenue, up from 11th year before. The firm ranked fifth among New York firms.
As the U.S. economy tanked in the early 2000s, the climate proved highly profitable for Weil Gotshal in the area of bankruptcy representation. Weil Gotshal gained considerable press as lead counsel in the bankruptcy proceedings of client Enron Corporation, which hired the firm in October 2001, a month before the energy giant collapsed. Weil Gotshal's prominent, bankrupt clientele also included WorldCom, Global Crossing, Armstrong World Industries, and Bethlehem Steel. In August 2002, Harvey Miller left the firm after 33 years as head of the firm's bankruptcy department. While Miller's departure caused some analysts to speculate on the continued success of Weil Gotshal's bankruptcy practice, the firm's status as a top-level firm involved in all aspects of corporate law seemed assured.
Principal Operating Units:Business Finance & Restructuring; Business & Securities Litigation; Corporate; Corporate Governance; Litigation; Real Estate; Tax; Trade Practices & Regulatory Law; Trusts & Estates.
Principal Competitors: Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP; Shearman & Sterling; Sullivan & Cromwell LLP.
- "Bankruptcy Specialists at Legal Firms Become Growth Industry in Chilly Times," Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2001, p. B10.
- Barrett, Paul M., "Legal Eagles: New York Law Firm Goes a Bit Native to Thrive in London," Wall Street Journal (European edition), April 27, 1999, p. 1.
- Byrne, John A., and Keith Naughton, "The Guru of Good Governance," Business Week, April 28, 1997, p. 100.
- Cherovsky, Erwin, "Weil Gotshal & Manges," in The Guide to New York Law Firms, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991, pp. 213-16.
- Ferguson, Nick, "Singapore Opens Its Doors to Foreign Firms," International Financial Law Review, September 2000, p. 55.
- "Firm's Lawyers Lived It Up As Enron Went Belly Up," Houston Chronicle, September 18, 2002, p. 8.
- Koppel, Nathan, "Knee Deep in Debt," American Lawyer, May 12, 2003.
- Malkani, Sheila V., and Michael F. Walsh, "Weil, Gotshal & Manges," in The Insider's Guide to Law Firms, second edition, Boulder, Colo.: Mobius Press, 1994, pp. 435-38.
- "Mopping Up: Weil, Gotshal & Manges," Economist, July 6, 2002.
- "The Morticians Move In," Business Week, January 21, 2002, p. 26.
- Schmitt, Richard B., "Bankruptcy is a Field of Gold for Weil Gotshal," Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2002, p. B1.
- "Weil Gotshal Suffers London Losses," International Financial Law Review, March 2000, p. 4.
- "Weil Gotshal to Open Frankfurt Office," International Financial Law Review, May 2000, p. 4.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 55. St. James Press, 2003.