Sidley Austin

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Sidley Austin LLP
Sidley Austin
Headquarters One South Dearborn
Chicago, Illinois
No. of offices 18 Worldwide [1]
No. of attorneys 1800 [2]
No. of employees about 3,440 (Dec 2012)
Major practice areas General practice
Revenue Increase $1.42 billion USD (2011)[3]
Date founded 1866
Founder Norman Williams and
John Leverett Thompson
Company type Limited liability partnership

Sidley Austin LLP, formerly known as Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP, is the sixth-largest U.S.-based corporate law firm with 1900 lawyers,[2] annual revenues of more than one billion dollars, and offices in 18 cities worldwide, with the most recent addition of Boston, MA in 2013. It is a full-service law firm, with broad experience in transaction and litigation matters. Its original predecessor firm was founded in 1866 and had former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, then the widow of President Abraham Lincoln, among its earliest clients. The firm was formed as the result of the merger of two firms: the Chicago-based Sidley & Austin, founded in 1866, and the New York-based Brown & Wood, founded in 1914.[4] The merger was completed in May 2001. The firm's headquarters is at One South Dearborn in the Chicago Loop, Chicago.[5]

In each year since the survey's inception, Sidley has received more First-Tier National Rankings than any other U.S. law firm in the Best Law Firms Survey by U.S. News & World Report.[6] The 201 US News Survey also named Sidley as the "Law Firm of the Year" in Corporate Law and Private Funds/Hedge Funds Law. As of 2011, it was the 12th largest law firm in the world (and 8th in the US) by revenue.[7]


Origins in Chicago[edit]

The firm that was to become Sidley Austin was formed in Chicago in 1866 by Norman Williams and John Leverett Thompson as the partnership of Williams & Thompson. One of the nascent firm's first clients was the Pullman Company, the manufacturer of specialty sleeping railway cars. Other early clients included Western Union Telegraph Company, which moved its Midwest headquarters from Cleveland to Chicago in 1869. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the firm represented numerous insurance companies including Equitable Life Assurance Society. In the late 19th century, Williams & Thompson counseled several utility and railroad companies expanding in the West, Sidley joined the firm after having earned an LLB from Union College of Law and a further M.A. from Harvard Law School. By 1913, the firm's name was changed to Holt, Cutting & Sidley, although Sidley would be the guiding personality for the Chicago firm through the 20th century. Three years later—the firm then 50 years old—had four partners, four clerks (associates) and ten staff employees with gross income of around $100,000 (roughly $1.9 million in 2008 dollars).

Buffeted by the Great Depression, the firm experienced a dramatic fall in revenues until the New Deal in the 1930s reinvigorated the capital markets. The firm represented Halsey, Stuart & Co., a Chicago-based underwriter in one of the first transactions under the Securities Act of 1933. In 1944, the name was changed to Sidley, Austin, Burgess & Harper and shortened to Sidley & Austin in 1967.

Towards a national firm[edit]

After the Second World War, Sidley & Austin began expanding beyond its Chicago roots as many of its clients entered new markets. In 1963, its Washington, D.C. branch was established which would soon become an important player in that city's legal market through its representation of the American Medical Association, American Bar Association and the International Minerals & Chemical Corporation. The firm developed strengths in antitrust and the representation of clients in front of the Federal Trade Commission.

Sidley & Austin was among several law firms caught up in the Savings & Loan Crisis and paid $7.5 million to settle legal malpractice claims stemming from its representation of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. Such legal work was profiled in the book by Ralph Nader and Wesley J. Smith, No Contest: Corporate Lawyers and the Perversion of Justice in America.

Expansion and consolidation[edit]

Sidley & Austin expanded tremendously in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1972, the firm merged with the 50 lawyers of Chicago firm Leibman, Williams, Bennett, Baird & Minow. Offices were established in London, Los Angeles, Singapore and New York in short order.

In 2001, the firm merged with Brown & Wood, a New York-based law firm established in 1914 with 400 attorneys additional domestic offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles and overseas branches in London, Beijing and Hong Kong (where it practiced English law in addition to U.S. law). Brown & Wood was known for its securities, structured finance and securitization practices. The firm's well-regarded publication, Accessing the U.S. Capital Markets: An Introduction to United States Securities Law, continues to be updated annually today. Brown & Wood had offices in the World Trade Center. The firm was known as Sidley Austin Brown & Wood until the name was rebranded as Sidley Austin in 2006.

Appellate Practice Group[edit]

In 1985, the late partner, Rex E. Lee, a former U.S. Solicitor General, formed Sidley Austin's national Appellate Practice Group to represent clients in all appellate courts including the United States Supreme Court, the federal courts of appeals, and state appellate and supreme courts. The group is currently led by Carter Phillps, who is the chair of the firm's executive committee.[8]

The Appellate Group has argued several landmark cases before the Supreme Court including U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton (constitutionality of state-imposed term limits on members of Congress), Missouri v. Jenkins (proper role of federal courts in imposing desegregation remedies), and United States v. Lopez (Commerce Clause challenge to a federal statute prohibiting the possession of firearms within 1,000 feet of a school).[9][10] Directly or indirectly, Sidley Austin plays a role in 40 percent of the cases the Supreme Court hears every term. Over the last 25 years, its lawyers have argued 96 high court cases.[11]

On 19 March 2015 the Federal Appellate Court for the Federal Circuit ruled that a client of Sidley Austin, AT&T Inc., filed its appeal too late in a patent infringement case (by which AT&T lost its right to appeal a $40 million adverse judgment) because its outside law firm, Sidley Austin, did not read key court rulings on time. The Appellate Court held that a team of lawyers from the firm failed to file a notice of appeal within the requisite 30 days after a Federal District Court denied several post-trial motions. The Appellate Court affirmed the District Court's ruling in which the District Court held that it was "troublesome" that none of the 18 lawyers and assistants who received the electronic notices "bothered to read the orders issued by the court." The District Court admonished the attorneys for relying only on emailed notifications.[12][13] The District Court judge stated further that it was "inexcusable for AT&T's multiple counsel to fail to read all of the underlying orders they received, or - at minimum - to monitor the docket for any corrections or additional rulings."[14]

Rankings and recognition[edit]

The firm frequently appears at the top of various industry rankings. In 2005, the BTI Consulting Group named Sidley to its Client Service Hall of Fame—one of only two law firms to rank in BTI's Client Service Top 10 for five consecutive years—and Sidley was named No. 1 Power Elite Firm for 2005. The firm also showed up in 14 categories on The American Lawyer's Corporate Scorecard, landing in the No. 1 spot for its roles as issuer's counsel in equities offered by U.S. corporations, issuers' and underwriters' counsel for investment grade debt, and underwriters' counsel for REIT debt. Other recent honors include the 2005 Catalyst Award, conferred in recognition of the firm's impressive initiatives to retain and promote women attorneys, and its second consecutive year as No. 1 in the rankings by Thomson Financial for top issuer counsel and manager counsel for U.S. debt and equity-related activity.[15]

The firm is particularly known for its securities practice[16] and its international trade practice,[16] both of which have consistently ranked first in the respective specialty rankings of Chambers and Partners. The trade group currently represents the Airbus/European Communities side in the ongoing WTO dispute with Boeing/US. The group was recently named Global WTO Law Firm of the Year [17] and ranks first, before Wilmer Hale and Steptoe & Johnson, in the European Legal 500 ranking.[18] Its appellate and US Supreme Court practice is also particularly well-known and has been featured in USA Today, BusinessWeek, the American Lawyer, the Legal Times, and the National Law Journal.[19]

In 2008 Sidley Austin was awarded Deal of the Year - Debt Market Deal of the Year at the 2008 ALB Hong Kong Law Awards.[20] In 2011 Sidley Austin was named Competition and Regulatory Team of the year at the Lawyer awards in London.[21]

Sidley Austin during the September 11 attacks[edit]

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 personally affected the employees of Sidley Austin. Prior to the merger creating Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, which took place just four months before the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the head office of Brown & Wood was in the World Trade Center, while Sidley & Austin was located in offices on Third Avenue. Out of 600 employees who worked in the World Trade Center at the time of the attacks, one perished, a switch board operator named Rosemary Smith.[22] [23]

Sidley Austin reopened its New York office on Monday, September 17, 2001 in the old Sidley & Austin office on Third Avenue that it had planned on closing on September 16. Instead, it leased four additional floors in that location, in a deal completed less than three hours after the collapse of the World Trade Center. Sidley Austin later opened its permanent new office in the Equitable Center building on Seventh Avenue in July 2002.[22]

Name changes[edit]

In the 1920s, the firm was named Cutting, Moore & Sidley. Following a number of changes, it was known as Sidley & Austin for many years until it merged with the New York capital markets firm Brown & Wood in the 1990s. Its name was changed to Sidley Austin LLP on January 1, 2006.

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ "Sidley Austin LLP". 
  2. ^ a b "Sidley Austin LLP". 
  3. ^ "FIRM PROFILES - Sidley Austin". Retrieved 2012-04-27. 
  4. ^ "Sidley & Austin Plans To Merge With Wall Street Power". Chicago Tribune. February 22, 2001. 
  5. ^ "Chicago." Sidley Austin. Retrieved on December 17, 2009.
  6. ^ "For the Fourth Consecutive Year Sidley is Recognized With the Most First-Tier National Rankings in the 2014 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” Survey - 11 - 2013 - News - News & Insights - Sidley Austin LLP". 
  7. ^ "The 2011 Global 100: Most Revenue". The American Lawyer. 
  8. ^ Matthew Huisman. "Carter Phillips Named Sole Chair of Sidley's Executive Committee". The Recorder. 
  9. ^ "Sidley Austin". 
  10. ^ "Supreme Court and Appellate". 
  11. ^ Claire Zillman. "A Higher Calling". The Amterican Lawyer. 
  12. ^ "U.S. court rules AT&T's lawyers too late to appeal patent loss". March 19, 2015. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Two Way Media LLC v. ATT Inc.". March 17, 2015. Retrieved March 28, 2015. 
  14. ^ "AT&T Has To Pay $40 Million Because It Didn't Read Document". March 19, 2015. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Page Not". 
  16. ^ a b "Sidley Austin LLP". 
  17. ^ Sidley Austin LLP (17 November 2006). "Sidley Austin LLP's International Trade and Dispute Resolution Group Honored by Chambers... -- LONDON, November 17 /PR Newswire UK/ --". 
  18. ^ "The Legal 500". 
  19. ^ Sidley Austin LLP - Our Practice[dead link]
  20. ^ "Asian Legal Business". 
  21. ^[dead link]
  22. ^ a b In Re 9/11: Law Firm Moves On, Still Recovering
  23. ^ "Special Reports -". 
  24. ^ "Supreme Court Justices Pay Tribute to the Late Rex E. Lee". 
  25. ^ Obama '85 masters balancing act[dead link] from The Daily Princetonian
  26. ^ Pang, David (2011-03-22). "David the Goliath". Chicago Tribune. p. 1. Retrieved 2011-03-23. 
  27. ^ "Senior White House International Economic Advisor Rejoins Sidley Austin LLP - Business Wire". 

External links[edit]