Mayer Brown

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Mayer Brown
No. of offices27 total[1]
Offices71 South Wacker, Chicago, Illinois, United States[2]
No. of lawyersMore than 1,900 (2021)[3]
Major practice areaslitigation, capital markets, real estate, fund formation, finance[4]
Key peopleJon Van Gorp (Chairman)
RevenueIncrease $1.85 billion (2021)[5]
Date founded1881; 140 years ago
FounderAdolf Kraus
Levy Mayer
Company typeLimited liability partnership

Mayer Brown is a global white-shoe law firm, founded in Chicago, Illinois, United States. It has offices in 27 cities throughout the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, with its largest offices being in Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City, Hong Kong,[6] and London.


American meatpacking magnate J. Ogden Armour, left, with attorney Levy Mayer at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C, 1918.

Mayer Brown was founded in Chicago in the late 1800’s. Among its earliest clients were retail giant Sears Roebuck and Co.[7]

Adolf Kraus, lawyer and co-founder of Mayer Brown

The three firms that now form the core of Mayer Brown were all founded in the 19th century. The US portion of the firm was founded in 1881 in Chicago, by Adolf Kraus and Levy Mayer, and was shortly thereafter known as Kraus, Mayer & Brackett. After several changes in name to reflect its growing membership, the firm eventually became known in the US as Mayer, Brown & Platt.

In 2002, the firm merged with British law firm Rowe & Maw which was established in 1895 in London and operated under that name until joining with Mayer, Brown & Platt in 2002 to form Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw.[8] In 2007, the amalgamated firm shortened its name to Mayer Brown.[9]

Johnson Stokes & Master was formed in 1863 in Hong Kong, and is today known as Mayer Brown (formerly Mayer Brown JSM) after merging with Mayer Brown in 2008.[10]

Mayer Brown has offices in Asia, Europe, the Americas and the Middle East.[11] In Brazil, the firm has an association with Tauil & Chequer Advogados.[12] The firm operates as a collective of separate legal entities with offices in 14 countries.[12] In October 2022, the firm launched its own joint law venture with Singapore law firm PK Wong & Nair LLC known as Mayer Brown PK Wong & Nair PTE. Ltd (“Mayer Brown”).[13] The firms' other Asia offices are in Beijing, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai and Tokyo.[14]

As of 2009, the firm represented 89 companies of the Fortune 500.[15]

Pro bono work[edit]

Mayer Brown is a signatory to the Pro Bono Institute's Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, which commits the firm to devote 3 percent of total billable time to pro bono work[16] and a member of the UK Joint Protocol on Pro Bono Work, which stipulates that pro bono legal work must be carried out to the same standard as chargeable work.[17]

Partner John F. Halbleib represented the Milton Hershey School on a pro bono basis from 1998 to 2002.[18]

In 2001, lawyer Lee Rubin represented the National Security Archives in an effort by the U.S. State Department to recover 10,000 pages of transcripts of telephone conversations from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger[19]

Ward Johnson, a managing partner in the firm’s Northern California office, secured the release of Ken Oliver who had been convicted in 1997 to life in prison under California’s "three strikes" law. Oliver spent 23 years in prison before Johnson secured his release in 2017 along with along with a $125,000 settlement for violating Oliver’s civil rights.[20]

Attorney Brian Netter spent four years working pro bono to have the District of Columbia’s budget freed from federal control in a case tied to the 2012 Budget Autonomy Act.[21]

Partner Marcia Maack, the director of pro-bono activities for the firm, helped secure a special immigrant visa in 2017 for an interpreter who had served American forces in Iraq.[22]

In 2017 attorney Andrew Pincus represented the city of Seattle in a pro bono lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s threats against sanctuary cities that refused to aid in federal immigration crackdowns.[23] That same year, Pincus and others represented two Yemeni men who had been detained at the Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. after Trump signed the first ban on travelers from seven majority Muslim countries.[24]

Partners Nicole Saharsky, Michael Scodro and Marcia Goodman along with associates Minh Nguyen-Dang and Carmen Longoria-Green, obtained a landmark settlement for the players on the US Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) in their 2019 equal-pay lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation (USSF).[25] The parties agreed to settle for $24 million in backpay damages and a guarantee of equal pay going forward for all games, including for the World Cup. This is the first commitment from a major US sports federation to pay female and male athletes equally.[26]

In 2019, Mayer Brown obtained a nationwide injunction against the US government and its decision to terminate temporary protected status for 60,000 Haitians.[27]

Attorneys Matthew Ingber, Christopher Mikesh, and Justin Perkins secured asylum in the United States for a 12-year old Nigerian chess prodigy and his family.[28]

Attorneys from Mayer Brown represented a group of migrants in 2021 and successfully argued that asylum seekers coming to U.S. ports of entry have rights under U.S. law that cannot be denied by preventing them from physically crossing the border.[29]

Beginning in 2021, the firm led a coalition of 20 law firms and corporate legal departments working to evacuate nearly 150 Asian University for Women (AUW) students in Afghanistan and placing them at universities throughout the U.S. to continue their studies.[30]


  • Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2023: ranked in 40 practice categories.[31]
  • 2023 City Bar Justice Center Award for commitment to promoting racial, social, and economic justice through philanthropy and pro bono legal work.[32]
  • IFLR Asia Pacific Awards 2021: “Financial Services Regulatory Team of the Year” and "High-Yield Deal of the Year" Awards [33]
  • Received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate Equality Index 2021.[34]
  • 2020 Asia IP Awards: "Hong Kong Copyright Law Firm of the Year"[35]
  • The Law Society of Hong Kong's 2020 Pro Bono and Community Service Award: "Distinguished Pro Bono Law Firm Award" and "Silver Law Firm Award for Pro Bono" [36]
  • Law360 Firm of the Year 2016-2020[37] and Practices of the Year for: Appellate,[38] Banking,[39] Benefits,[40] Consumer Protection,[41] Environmental,[42] Project Finance,[43] Securitizations,[44] and Tax.[45]
  • On Law360's "Global 20" 2019 list of law firms doing the most substantial, complex and diverse global work[46]
  • 34 top-tier national and 80 top-tier metropolitan Best Law Firms 2019 rankings[47]
  • Earned the highest overall scores in client service performance among law firms in the 2019 BTI Client Service 30.[48]
  • Received Private Equity, Projects & Energy and Real Estate deal of the year honors at the China Law & Practice Awards 2018.[49]
  • Mayer Brown named Top Law Firm for Training Contracts and Vacation Schemes at AllAboutLaw Awards 2018[50]

Notable lawyers and alumni[edit]

Significant matters[edit]

Mayer Brown represented AT&T before the U.S. Supreme Court in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion.[74]

In Credit Suisse First Boston Ltd. v. Billing, the firm represented Credit Suisse[75] in a precedent-setting case which determined that banks and mutual funds could not be sued under antitrust law over stock losses.[76]

The firm represented Phillip Morris USA before the U.S. Supreme Court in Philip Morris USA v. Williams which held that a jury may not punish a defendant for injuries suffered by non-parties.[77]

Mayer Brown represented Spokeo before the U.S. Supreme Court in Spokeo v. Robbins, a 2015 case with broad implications for class action suits.[78]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm advised Goldman Sachs Lending Partners LLC on a $6.8 billion financing for United Airlines MileagePlus loyalty program.[79]

Mayer Brown helped Citibank recover $500 million[80] in mistakenly wired funds[81] in a multi-year case that was resolved in 2022.[82]

The firm represented Nestle in $7.15 billion agreement with Starbucks Corporation for perpetual marketing and distribution rights of products including Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee, Starbucks Reserve, Teavana, Starbucks VIA and Torrefazione Italia.[83] The transaction was noted for its importance in expanding the business reach of both companies.[84]

Role in Refco Inc. collapse[edit]

Refco was a New York-based broker of commodities and futures contracts. In 2005, the company filed for bankruptcy after significant evidence of accounting fraud surfaced.[85] In the wake of the collapse, a lawsuit was filed in 2007 against Mayer Brown and one of its partners, Joseph Collins,[86] alleging that the firm knowingly participated in securities fraud.[87] In November 2012, Collins was found guilty on multiple charges of conspiracy and fraud for his role in preparing Refco's IPO.[88][89] The law firm itself agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to settle the legal claims against it.[90]

Role in the removal of a Tiananmen Square massacre statue[edit]

In October 2021, Mayer Brown was hired by the University of Hong Kong to help remove a statue memorialising the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre from its campus.[91] The statue, known as the Pillar of Shame, was on loan from its creator, Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt,[92] had been placed in the campus for more than 20 years.

The law firm issued a letter to Hong Kong Alliance,[93] a pro-democracy organization which had erected the statue, requesting that that sculpture be removed. The request to remove the statue attracted global criticism.[94] Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod raised the matter with the Chinese government[95] while United States Senator Pat Toomey criticized the removal attempt as an attempt to "rewrite history".[96] Galschiøt, the sculpture's creator, compared the law firm's handling to Italian mafia methods[97] and said, "I believe that Mayer Brown is morally and ethically responsible for helping to destroy the only mark of remembrance of the Tiananmen peace plan that exists on Chinese territory."[97]

In response, the university defended its position by saying that the decision was based on “the latest risk assessment and legal advice”.[98] In a statement, Mayer Brown said, "We were asked to provide a specific service on a real estate matter for our long-term client, the University of Hong Kong... Our legal advice is not intended as commentary on current or historical events."[99] This response prompted the press and activists to draw comparisons with the law firm's reaction following the murder of George Floyd.[100][101] The firm had issued a statement following Floyd's murder in June 2020, that "[a]s members of the legal community, we bear a special and heightened responsibility. We understand that the rule of law requires that everyone, and especially those in power, be held accountable for their actions."[102]

Two days after the removal deadline set by the law firm, and while the sculpture was still in place despite the deadline had already passed, Mayer Brown confirmed that they would stop representing the university regarding the sculpture removal.[103]


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    'The freedom to express opinions peacefully – through speech, art or other means – is a fundamental right of all human beings. This goes for Hong Kong too.'
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  99. ^ "A Hong Kong university orders the removal of a memorial to the Tiananmen massacre". NPR. Archived from the original on October 13, 2021. The firm told Hong Kong Free Press that it was being retained "as outside counsel [to] help our clients understand and comply with current law."
    "We were asked to provide a specific service on a real estate matter for our long-term client, the University of Hong Kong," the firm said. "Our legal advice is not intended as commentary on current or historical events."
  100. ^ Chau, Candice (October 13, 2021). "University of Hong Kong told to contact Tiananmen Massacre statue artist as removal ultimatum nears, despite T8 typhoon". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Retrieved October 14, 2021. Previously the firm has commented on political events – namely the Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests in the US.
  101. ^ "Rights groups, U.S. senators blast Mayer Brown over Tiananmen statue". Reuters. October 13, 2021. Archived from the original on October 14, 2021. "American firms should be ashamed to be complicit" in the statue's removal, Cruz told journalist Eli Lake in a Substack column published Wednesday. Graham in the article lamented that "American law firms are doing the bidding of the Communist Party." A spokesperson for Graham declined to comment further. Cruz's office did not respond to a request for comment.
  102. ^ "Statement from Mayer Brown on the Death of George Floyd". Mayer Brown. June 1, 2020. Archived from the original on October 12, 2021. At Mayer Brown, our core values are grounded in the principle that every individual—each and every individual—is equally worthy of respect and appreciation. We recognize the value that diversity and inclusion bring to our business and to our communities and we have a corresponding responsibility to speak up when our core values are undermined.
    As members of the legal community, we bear a special and heightened responsibility. We understand that the rule of law requires that everyone, and especially those in power, be held accountable for their actions. Those who failed to protect or even recognize George Floyd's human rights should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Mayer Brown stands in solidarity with all who lawfully seek justice for those who have been denied their civil liberties and human rights, and particularly when that denial has such tragic and irreversible consequences.
  103. ^ Taylor, Adam (October 15, 2021). "U.S. law firm Mayer Brown to cease work for Hong Kong University in dispute over Tiananmen memorial removal". The Washington Post.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]