Morrison & Foerster
|Headquarters||425 Market Street
|No. of offices||17|
|No. of attorneys||988 (2015)|
|Major practice areas||Mergers and acquisitions, litigation and arbitration, corporate finance, corporate restructuring, securities, banking, project finance, energy and infrastructure, antitrust, tax, intellectual property, life sciences|
|Key people||Larren M. Nashelsky (Chair)|
|Revenue||$968.5 million (2015)|
|Profit per equity partner||$1.4 million (2015)|
|Company type||Limited liability partnership|
Morrison & Foerster LLP is an international law firm with 17 offices located throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe. The firm has approximately 1,000 lawyers who advise clients across a range of industries and practices, including intellectual property, patent litigation, corporate/M&A, business restructuring, and securities.
Morrison & Foerster represents a broad cross-section of clients, including leaders in technology and life sciences, Fortune 100 companies, and financial institutions. The firm also advises startup companies and investment funds, helping many over the years in their growth and development as industry leaders and familiar household brands.
The firm was the lead bankruptcy counsel to Residential Capital (ResCap), which was among the world’s largest real estate origination and servicing companies (with more than $15 billion in assets and liabilities prior to its bankruptcy filing). In December 2013, a Morrison & Foerster bankruptcy team scored a decisive victory for ResCap when Judge Martin Glenn of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York confirmed ResCap’s chapter 11 plan. Judge Glenn described the proceeding as "the most legally and factually complex case" that he had presided over in his seven years on the bench.
In July 2013, Morrison & Foerster represented SoftBank in its $21.6 billion acquisition of a 78 percent stake in Sprint Nextel. According to The Wall Street Journal, the transaction was "one of the most complex and unusual deals in the annals of takeovers." The firm also represented SoftBank, a longtime client, in Alibaba’s U.S. IPO—the largest IPO in history—and in the carve-out and restructuring of Alibaba’s financial services businesses in preparation for the IPO.
Chair: Larren Nashelsky
Managing Partners: Paul Friedman, Craig Martin, Eric Piesner, Anna Erickson White
Corporate Department Co-Chairs: Brandon Parris, Thomas Knox
Finance Department Co-Chairs: Gary Lee, Nicholas Spiliotes
Litigation Department Co-Chairs: Benjamin Fox, Rebekah Kaufman
Tax Department Co-Chairs: Craig Fields, Thomas Humphreys, David Strong
|Office||Managing Partner(s)||Year Founded|
|Berlin||Jens-Uwe Hinder, Hanno Timner||2013|
|Hong Kong||Venantius Tan||1983|
|London||Alistair Maughan, Jonathan Wheeler||1980|
|Los Angeles||David MacPowell||1974|
|New York||Brett Miller||1987|
|Northern Virginia||Daniel Westman||2000|
|Palo Alto||A.C. Johnston||1985|
|San Diego||James Mullen||1999|
|San Francisco||Philip Besirof||1883|
|Washington, D.C.||Bradley Lui||1979|
UC Hastings School of Law graduate Alexander Francis Morrison (1856-1921) founded the firm in 1883, in San Francisco, under the name O’Brien & Morrison. His mission was to practice "principally in the line of corporation business."
In 1891, Morrison formed a partnership with Constantine E.A. Foerster (1860-1898). Starting in the 1920s and 1930s, the firm developed a deep client roster, which brought stability to sustain the firm over the next three decades.
In the 1960s, a group of young partners—John Austin, Dick Archer, and Bob Raven—set out to reinvigorate the firm in response to stagnant revenue and changes in the business and social environment. The strategy, resulting from the so-called "Schroeder’s meetings" because they were held at the historic San Francisco restaurant, included ideas for modernizing the practice of law that were radical and innovative for their time. The partners, who identified themselves as the "Young Turks," replaced outmoded policies and insisted on budgets and operational plans. The firm started to recruit at law schools and began hiring women lawyers. In time, the firm rebuilt its litigation practice by training new associates on small bank cases.
In 1974, the firm expanded outside San Francisco and opened an office in Los Angeles to better meet the needs of longtime client Crocker National Bank.
Soon after, the firm expanded again, opening an office in Washington, D.C. in 1979 and its first non-U.S. office in London in 1980.
In 1987, the firm merged with prominent New York-based litigation boutique Parker Auspitz and opened its Tokyo office.
The firm merged again in 1991, this time with Ciotti & Murashige. A decade later, Morrison & Foerster become one of the largest international law firms in Tokyo when it merged with Ito & Mitomi.
In November 2013, the firm expanded its European presence by opening an office in Berlin. The following month, the German team advised Axel Springer, one of Europe’s largest media companies, on its acquisition of N24 Media, Germany’s largest independent producers of information. Juve, the leading legal trade publication in Germany, wrote that the transaction highlighted Morrison & Foerster’s "prestige mandate."
Rankings and Awards
The firm is recognized for its innovative legal advice and commitment to client service excellence.
Corporate Board Member has consistently recognized the firm as one of America’s Best Corporate Law Firms, and BTI Consulting has named the firm to its Client Service 30 List (the top 30 firms on BTI’s Client Service A-List report) for 13 consecutive years. The Financial Times has also recognized the firm as one of the most innovative law firms in North America and Asia every year that it has published its Innovative Lawyers reports in each of those regions.
In 2015, The American Lawyer named Morrison & Foerster to its A-List, which recognizes the best overall U.S. law firms across four categories: revenue, pro bono, diversity, and associate satisfaction. This was the twelfth consecutive year that the firm has been named to the A-List.
Of the more than 12,000 firms ranked in the 2015 U.S News & World Report — Best Lawyers Best Law Firms report, Morrison & Foerster was among the top five firms for the total number of tier-one nationwide rankings in the United States.
Asian Legal Business (ALB) named Morrison & Foerster Real Estate Law Firm of the Year at the 2015 China Law Awards. In 2014, ALB honored the firm’s Tokyo office with six awards, including Tax Law Firm of the Year, International Deal Firm of the Year (for the second year in a row), and Managing Partner of the Year (Kenneth Siegel). The firm also received awards for its role in SoftBank’s acquisition of Sprint Nextel and the related financing, including M&A Deal of the Year, TMT Deal of the Year, and Debt Market Deal of the Year.
Chambers Asia-Pacific recognized Morrison & Foerster as the 2015 Japan International Firm of the Year. This was the fourth time in the five years that the award has been presented that Morrison & Foerster has received this honor.
Morrison & Foerster has been a leader in the pro bono field for more than two decades. It was one of the first firms to create a full-time pro bono counsel position, which resulted in a broad and sustained engagement that has been replicated by virtually every major U.S. law firm.
In 2014, the firm’s lawyers devoted nearly 98,000 hours to pro bono work. Highlights include two appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court in the same month in closely watched cases involving reproductive rights and marriage equality.
Working in tandem with the National Center for Youth Law, the firm achieved a $2.075 million settlement for seven former foster youths who were injured while in Clark County (Las Vegas) custody. The suit was originally filed in 2010 as a class action seeking systemic changes to Clark County’s child welfare system.
In 2014, the firm was successful in bringing a suit against the FBI that forced the agency to disclose information that had been improperly withheld and covered up details about its illegal surveillance of Muslim Americans in Northern California.
In New York, the firm’s finance lawyers regularly participate in the Bankruptcy Assistance Project run by Legal Services NYC, which provides pre-petition assistance to low-income individuals filing chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions.
The firm also serves as pro bono counsel to numerous nonprofits, such as The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The firm helped TNC restructure its impact investment program, which raises funds to conserve critical landscapes, advance practices and policies, and broaden support for conservation. The firm has also advised on the corporate structure for sustainable fisheries, as well as a reverse auction to purchase from rice farmers the right to flood fallow fields to create temporary wetlands for migratory shore birds.
MoFo also acted as pro bono counsel to Illuminate the Arts, which created the large-scale light installation known as The Bay Lights. The monumental light sculpture uses 25,000 LED lights to create computer-generated patterns on the north side of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge.
Outside the United States, the firm provides pro bono services on a range of global issues through engagements with Advocates for International Development, the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, and pro bono clearinghouses run by TrustLaw and PILnet.
In its annual pro bono survey, The American Lawyer ranked the firm in the top 10 for both U.S. and internal pro bono work for 2015. Morrison & Foerster was also named a 2015 Pro Bono Firm of the Year by Law360, as well as Who's Who Legal s 2015 Pro Bono Firm of the Year.
In 1992, Morrison & Foerster issued a diversity mission statement, expressing a firm-wide commitment to continue its work "to break down barriers to equal opportunity, to value fully the differences among people in our organization while recognizing our similarities, and to create an atmosphere in which each individual can develop his or her potential to the fullest extent possible."
In 2001, the firm became one of the first major U.S. law firms to elect an openly gay man to serve as chair. Keith Wetmore led the firm for 12 years. In addition to helping the firm grow its presence in key technology and financial centers in Asia, Europe, and the United States, he helped set new standards for LGBT equality within the legal profession, including the expansion of same-sex partner benefits and health care tax offsets to lawyers and staff in same-sex domestic partnerships. For his visionary leadership, The American Lawyer named Wetmore in 2013 to its inaugural list of the top 50 innovators in the legal profession.
Since the 1990s, the DSC has sponsored professional development workshops for U.S.-based lawyers of color. The workshops were expanded in 2014 to include LGBT lawyers and became known as the MoFo Diversity Summit.
In 2012, the DSC established the firm’s 1L Diversity Fellowship Program to recognize and support the career development of promising law students from historically underrepresented groups in the legal profession. To date, diversity fellowships have been awarded to 28 law students.
The firm also sponsors pre-law interns through such programs as Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), Initiative for Diversity in Education and Leadership (IDEAL), and Legal Employment Action Program (LEAP).
As its first project, the WSC created a clearer articulation of the firm’s reduced-hours policy, which has consistently been recognized as a model within the legal industry.
In 2015, the firm joined Diversity Lab’s OnRamp Fellowship program, an initiative that gives experienced women lawyers returning to the legal profession an opportunity to expand their skills and networks through paid, one-year fellowships at a major law firm.
The firm has 24 affinity groups that provide a support network and professional development opportunities for lawyers of color, women lawyers, LGBT lawyers, working parents, and veterans.
Every year since 2010, The American Lawyer has recognized Morrison & Foerster as a top 10 firm on its annual Diversity Scorecard. Yale Law Women named the firm to its Top 10 Family Friendly Firms in 2014 and 2015, and Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers recognized Morrison & Foerster in 2014 and 2015 as one of the top 50 firms with best practices for retaining, supporting, and promoting women lawyers. The firm has also earned a 100% ranking in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index every year since 2003.
Morrison & Foerster Foundation
Formed in 1986, the Morrison & Foerster Foundation is one of the oldest law firm-affiliated charitable foundations in the United States. Funded mainly by the firm’s partners, the Foundation contributed $3.6 million to various charitable organizations in 2014. In total, the Foundation has donated $44 million to nonprofit organizations since its inception.
The Foundation’s charitable donations frequently focus on programs serving disadvantaged children and young people or that provide free legal services to low-income people. The foundation also supports fellowship and scholarship programs to encourage diversity in higher education and the legal field.
Other causes funded by the Foundation support community-based initiatives that involve food and shelter, health, and the arts.
In 2015, Law360 recognized Morrison & Foerster as one of the 10 Most Charitable Law Firms.
- Drew S. Days, III, who served as the United States Solicitor General from 1993 to 1996, and who served as of counsel until 2011.
- Beth Brinkmann, former assistant to the solicitor general of the U.S. from 1993 until 2001, and who served as a partner until 2009.
- Tony West, former acting United States Associate Attorney General, who served as a partner until 2009.
- Ketanji Brown Jackson, judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia since 2013, former commissioner on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, who served as of counsel until 2013.
- Crystal McKellar, former child actress who played Becky Slater in the hit series The Wonder Years, former associate with the firm
- Shirley Hufstedler, first U.S. Secretary of Education from 1979-1981, who currently is a senior of counsel.
- Paul Goldstein, Stanford Law School professor and a leading expert on intellectual property law, currently serves as of counsel.
- James M. Peck, who served as a United States Bankruptcy Judge for Southern District of New York - presided over the Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy and is currently Global Head of the firm's Business Restructuring and Insolvency practice
- LaShann M. DeArcy, judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York since 2015
The firm is frequently referred to by its nickname "MoFo." The nickname’s roots date to the 1970s, when "mofo" was selected as the firm’s teletype.
The nickname has earned the firm some public notoriety. In 2003, Jay Leno joked on The Tonight Show that the firm’s clients could shout, "Get me my MoFo lawyer!" Also, in its most recent version of the game, Trivial Pursuit asks the question, "What four-letter nickname is used by the law firm Morrison & Foerster?"
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- Bargzie, Nasrine and Julia Harumi Mass (March 23, 2015). FBI Ordered to Disclose its Surveillance Tactics on Communities. The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
- Sustaining the Planet. Morrison & Foerster. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
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