Sidley Austin

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Sidley Austin LLP
Sidley Austin logo.svg
HeadquartersOne South Dearborn
Chicago, Illinois, United States [1]
No. of offices20 Worldwide [2]
No. of attorneys2,000[3]
Major practice areasGeneral practice
RevenueIncrease 2.337 billion USD (2019)[4]
Date founded1866[5][6][7]
FounderNorman Williams[8]
John Leverett Thompson[9]
Company typeLimited liability partnership

Sidley Austin LLP, formerly known as Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP, is a general practice law firm based in the United States, with a focus on expertise in transactional and litigation matters. The current firm was formed as the result of the 2001 merger of two predecessors: the Chicago-based Sidley & Austin, founded in 1866, and the New York–based Brown & Wood, founded in 1914.[10] The firm's headquarters is at One South Dearborn in Chicago's Loop.[11]


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.[citation needed] Among the firm's first clients were the Pullman Company, the manufacturer of specialty sleeping railway cars, and former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, then the widow of President Abraham Lincoln.[citation needed] 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 1892, William Pratt Sidley joined the firm after having earned an LLB from Union College of Law and a 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 fifty 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).[citation needed]

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 significantly in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1972, the firm merged with the 50 lawyers of Chicago firm Leibman, Williams, Bennett, Baird & Minow. Additional offices were then established in London, Los Angeles, Singapore and New York.

In 2001, the firm merged with Brown & Wood, a New York-based law firm established in 1914 with 400 attorneys and 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, U.S. Solicitor General Rex E. Lee founded Sidley Austin's 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. Following Lee's death, the group was led by Carter Phillips, who has argued more cases before the Supreme Court than any lawyer in private practice[12] and who now chairs the firm's executive committee.[13] The current co-chairs of the practice group are former Acting Attorney General Peter Keisler and former Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Joseph Guerra.

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).[14][15] Directly or indirectly, Sidley Austin plays a role in 40 percent of the cases the Supreme Court hears every term. Over the last 30 years, its lawyers have argued 115 high court cases.[16]

On March 19, 2015 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that a client of Sidley Austin, AT&T Inc., filed its appeal too late in a patent infringement case, which cost AT&T its right to appeal a $40 million adverse judgment. The Federal Circuit held that a team of lawyers from the firm failed to file a notice of appeal within the requisite thirty days after a federal district court denied several post-trial motions. The court affirmed the district court's ruling that it was "troublesome" that none of the eighteen lawyers and assistants who received the electronic notices "bothered to read the orders issued by the court."[17][18]

Rankings and recognition[edit]

Sidley Austin is currently the eleventh-largest U.S.-based corporate law firm, with approximately 2,000 lawyers[3] and annual revenues of more than two billion dollars. The firm is one of the highest-paying companies in the U.S.[19] (with a base salary of $190,000 for first year associates and $340,000 for eighth year associates; partners see a profit of $2.8 million annually).[20] Sidley currently maintains offices in 20 cities worldwide, with the most recent addition being Munich in 2016.

Sidley has received the most First-Tier National Rankings a total of eight times since the inception of the U.S. News & World Report Best Law Firms Survey in 2010.[21] The 2020 U.S. News Survey also named Sidley as the "Law Firm of the Year" in FDA Law and Securities Litigation.[22] As of 2019, it was the eighth largest law firm in the world (and sixth in the US) by revenue.[23]

The firm frequently appears at the top of various industry rankings. In 2020, the BTI Consulting Group named Sidley to its BTI Client Service A-Team—one of only three law firms to rank in BTI's Client Service Top 30 for 19 consecutive years.[24] The firm earned the top spot in Asset-Backed Alert’s 2019 league tables for most active underwriter counsel in U.S. asset- and mortgage-backed securitization transactions.[25] Other honors include the American Bar Association’s 2019 Champions for Disability Inclusion in the Legal Profession Award[26], conferred in recognition of the firm’s measurable progress in recruiting, retaining, and advancing to leadership lawyers with disabilities, and being named a 2019 “Litigation Department of the Year” finalist by The American Lawyer.[27]

The firm is particularly known for its securities practice[28] and its international trade practice,[28] 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 named a 2019 International Trade Group of the Year by Law360[29] and has been honored as "Law Firm of the Year" in Trade & Customs by Who’s Who Legal for 15 consecutive years.[30] 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.[28]

In 2020, Sidley was named “Firm of the Year” in Capital Markets (Overseas); Corporate Compliance; Healthcare, Pharma and Life Sciences; and Real Estate and REIT by China Business Law Journal.[31] In 2018, Sidley was named Competition & Regulatory Team of the Year at The Lawyer Awards in London.[32]

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 New York office 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 switchboard operator, Rosemary Smith.[33][34]

Sidley Austin reopened its New York office on Monday, September 17, 2001 in the old Sidley & Austin office on Third Avenue which 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.[33]

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.

Political contributions[edit]

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Sidley Austin was one of the top law firms contributing to federal candidates during the 2012 election cycle, donating $1.45 million, 66% to Democrats (however, one of its former summer associates, Barack Obama, was running on the Democratic ticket).[35] By comparison, during that same period Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld donated $2.56 million, 66% to Democrats,[35] while oil conglomerate ExxonMobil donated $2.66 million, 88% to Republicans.[36] Since 1990, Sidley Austin has contributed $6.88 million to federal campaigns.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chicago". Sidley Austin. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  2. ^ "Sidley Austin LLP".
  3. ^ a b "Sidley Austin LLP". U.S. News & World Report.
  4. ^ Austin LLP Austin LLP Check |url= value (help). Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  5. ^ Seth, Shobhit. "The World's Top 10 Law Firms". Investopedia. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  6. ^ February 09, Roy Strom |; International, 2018 at 02:46 PM | The original version of this story was published on. "Sidley Tops $2 Billion as Profits, Revenue Rise Again". Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  7. ^ Dalton, Brian. "The Loop Elite: The Go-To Firms Of Chicago". Above the Law. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  8. ^ Glink, Ilyce R. "FINDING SPACE LESS OF A TRIAL FOR SMALL LAW FIRMS". Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  9. ^ Glink, Ilyce R. "FINDING SPACE LESS OF A TRIAL FOR SMALL LAW FIRMS". Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  10. ^ "Sidley & Austin Plans To Merge With Wall Street Power". Chicago Tribune. February 22, 2001.
  11. ^ "Chicago". Sidley Austin. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  12. ^ "Supreme Court and Appellate Practice". Sidley Austin.
  13. ^ Matthew Huisman. "Carter Phillips Named Sole Chair of Sidley's Executive Committee". The Recorder.
  14. ^ "Sidley Austin".
  15. ^ "Supreme Court and Appellate".
  16. ^ Supreme Court and Appellate | Practice Areas | Services | Sidley Austin LLP
  17. ^ "U.S. court rules AT&T's lawyers too late to appeal patent loss". March 19, 2015. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
  18. ^ "Two Way Media LLC v. ATT Inc" (PDF). March 17, 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 22, 2015. Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Sidley Earns Most First-Tier National Rankings for Second Consecutive Year, Eighth Time Overall".
  22. ^ ""Law Firm of the Year" Awards". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  23. ^ Unsworth, Ryan (8 September 2020). "Sidley's Profile". New York: Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  24. ^[1]
  25. ^ "Green Street News". Retrieved 2020-09-08.
  26. ^ "2019 Champions Award". Retrieved 2020-09-08.
  27. ^ December 29, Gina Passarella Cipriani |; PM, 2019 at 08:00. "Built to Win: Sidley Austin, Litigation Department of the Year Finalist". The American Lawyer. Retrieved 2020-09-08.
  28. ^ a b "Sidley Austin LLP".
  29. ^ "International Trade Group Of The Year: Sidley - Law360". Retrieved 2020-09-08.
  30. ^ "Winners – Lawyers & Law Firms". whoswholegal. Retrieved 2020-09-08.
  31. ^ Editor, Vantage Asia (2020-04-08). "China Business Law Awards 2020 | China Business Law Journal". Vantage Asia. Retrieved 2020-09-08.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  32. ^ "Winners 2018". The Lawyer | Legal insight, benchmarking data and jobs. Retrieved 2020-09-08.
  33. ^ a b In Re 9/11: Law Firm Moves On, Still Recovering
  34. ^ "Special Reports -".
  35. ^ a b "Lawyers & Lobbyists: Top Contributors to Federal Candidates, Parties, and Outside Groups". Center for Responsive Politics.
  36. ^ "Energy/Natural Resources: Top Contributors to Federal Candidates, Parties, and Outside Groups". Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  37. ^ "Organizations: Sidley Austin". Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved 9 June 2016.

External links[edit]