Willkie Farr & Gallagher

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Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP
Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP logo.png
HeadquartersAXA Equitable Center
787 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10019
No. of offices13 total; 6 international
No. of attorneys> 850 (2022)[1]
Major practice areasAntitrust, Asset Management, Business Restructuring, Commercial Litigation, Corporate M&A, Insurance, Intellectual Property, Private Equity, Real Estate, Regulatory, Securities Litigation, Tax
Key people
  • Steven J. Gartner, co-chairman;[2]
  • Thomas M. Cerabino, co-chairman.[3]
RevenueIncrease $1.38 billion (2022)[1]
Date founded1888; 135 years ago (1888)
FounderWilliam B. Hornblower and
James Byrne
Company typeLimited liability partnership

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, commonly known as Willkie, is a white-shoe, international law firm headquartered in New York City. Founded in 1888, the firm specializes in corporate practice and employs approximately 1000 lawyers in 13 offices across six countries. U.S. Supreme Court Justices Felix Frankfurter and Charles Evans Hughes began their careers at the firm, as did former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, and former New York Governor Mario Cuomo after leaving office. Willkie was ranked among the top ten in The American Lawyer's "The 2021 A-List" ranking of elite law firms.[4] The law firm's profits per equity partner were $3.90 million in 2021.


The firm was founded in 1888, with four lawyers.[5] The firm started as Wall Street law firm Hornblower & Byrne, which was founded by William B. Hornblower and James Byrne, and was located at 280 Broadway in New York City.[5] Hornblower was a prominent ally of President Grover Cleveland and rose to serve as President of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, as well as sit as a judge on the New York Court of Appeals.[6]

Early clients in the 1890s included the New York Life Insurance Company; the New York Securities and Trust Company (later the New York Trust Company); The Rome, Watertown, Ogdensburg and Parsons Railroad; Grant & Ward, a brokerage firm partnership between ex-President Ulysses S. Grant and Ferdinand Ward; the Otis Elevator Company; the United States Ship Building Company; and Thomas A. Edison.[5]

Two associates, Felix Frankfurter (who started his legal career at the firm in 1906) and Charles Evans Hughes, have served as Justices of the US Supreme Court, with Hughes serving as Chief Justice.[7]

Two partners have served as American Bar Association President. The first was Charles A. Boston (who became an associate at the firm in 1901 when it was Hornblower, Byrne, Miller & Potter) in 1930–31. He was followed by Harold J. Gallagher (who initially joined the firm in 1917 when it was Hornblower, Miller & Garrison) in 1949–50.[7][8][9]

In 1931, the firm merged with the law firm of Miller, Otis and Farr. At that point, in total the firm had 12 partners and 24 associates, making it one of New York's larger firms.[5] In 1939, the firm hired its first female associate, Mary MacDonagh.[7]

In January 1940 Harold J. Gallagher, one of the most influential partners in the history of the firm,[7] extended an offer to Wendell Willkie to join the firm then known as Miller, Boston & Owen. This was several months before Willkie received the Republican nomination for president.[10] After losing the Presidential election to the incumbent FDR, Willkie joined the firm and became a partner in 1941.[11] The firm's name was changed a year later to Willkie, Owen, Otis & Bailly, and later to Willkie, Owen, Otis, Farr & Gallagher.[12] Willkie later became F.D.R.'s personal envoy to many countries, promoting the Lend-Lease program. He later wrote a book about his travels entitled One World, a plea for global cooperation and peacekeeping.[13] In 1947, his estate's interest in the law firm was valued at $125,000 ($1,517,000 in current dollar terms).[14] That year, the customary hourly rate of a Willkie partner was $50 ($600 in current dollar terms) an hour.[15]

Major clients during this period included insurance companies such as Metropolitan Life Insurance Company; New York Life; Equitable; Aetna; Connecticut General; John Hancock; and Prudential for which the firm represented for a number of industry private placements.[16]

Throughout the 1960s, Gallagher-lead Willkie was occupied with railroad reorganizations, setting the stage for the firm's emergence as a bankruptcy powerhouse. In 1968 the firm adopted its current name, Willkie Farr & Gallagher.[5] From 1969 to 1995, Bob Hodes was the Chairman of the firm.[17] In 1977, Patricia S. Skigen became the firm's first female partner.[7] That year, the firm moved to One Citicorp Center.[5]

The firm was long known for its representation of Major League Baseball.[5] Former Willkie Farr partner Bowie Kuhn served as Commissioner of Baseball from 1969–1984. Willkie Farr represented Major League Baseball in the famous Curt Flood free agency/antitrust case in the United States Supreme Court in 1970, and successfully litigated famous cases such as the Pine Tar Game in 1983 as well as, later in the 1980s, against Pete Rose regarding the highly publicized gambling case.

In 1993 Willkie suffered a precipitous drop in business when Shearson Lehman, which accounted for one-third of Willkie Farr billings, was sold to The Travelers Companies.[18][19] The firm consequently adopted a policy that no client would account for more than five percent of its business.

In 1994, corporate partner Nora Ann Wallace became the first female member of the firm's Executive Committee.[7] Beginning in 1995, and for the next two decades, Mario Cuomo (the former 52nd Governor of New York, the Lieutenant Governor of New York, and the Secretary of State of New York) was of counsel at Willkie Farr.[20]

In 2003, carbon monoxide and smoke inhalation from a fire at a historic bed-and-breakfast in Charlottesville, Virginia, where members of the firm were staying on a recruiting trip, killed Willkie recruiting coordinators Trish Langlade and Billie Kelly.[21][22][23]

In 2007, Willkie announced a strategic alliance with Dickson Minto, a boutique law firm with offices in London and Edinburgh that specializes in private equity, with both continuing to operate independently of each other.[24] Willkie was recognized in 2015 as being in 'Band 1' (the top ranking) on the national scale for its work in eight practice areas according to Chambers & Partners.[25]

In 2019, Gordon Caplan, then co-chairman of the firm,[26] named 2018 “Dealmaker of the Year” by The American Lawyer,[27] was indicted as a parent participant in the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal, for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud; the firm placed him on indefinite leave the next day.[28][29][30][31][32] A felony guilty plea deal was filed in March 2019, and he was sentenced to one month in prison.[33][34]

The American Lawyer ranked Willkie Farr 47th in gross revenue, with $772 million in 2017, and in the 2018 Global 200 survey it was ranked the 57th-highest-grossing law firm in the world.[35] It had 145 equity partners, and its profits per equity partner were $2.97 million, 17th-highest in the nation.[36][37] In size, it was ranked the 68th-largest law firm in the United States.[35]


The top represented law schools at Willkie Farr include New York University School of Law (the school representing the highest number of firm partners), Harvard Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Columbia Law School, Georgetown University Law Center and University of Virginia Law School.[citation needed]

Notable partners[edit]


In 2022, Willkie Farr & Gallagher was a founding member of the Legal Alliance for Reproductive Rights, a coalition of United States law firms offering free legal services to people seeking and providing abortions in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overruled Roe v. Wade.[38]

Notable alumni[edit]


Government service[edit]




The firm has 700 lawyers, in 13 offices in six countries (including offices in New York, Washington, D.C., Houston, Palo Alto, Paris - created in 1921, London, Rome, Milan, Frankfurt, and Brussels).[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b [1] The American Lawyer.
  2. ^ Gartner's firm profile
  3. ^ Cerabino's firm profile
  4. ^ "The 2021 A-List: With Change a Constant, Top Performers Are Always Reevaluating".
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "About Us"
  6. ^ Brian Dalton. Vault Guide to the Top 100 Law Firms
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Firm History"
  8. ^ "Charles A. Boston, 1863-1935 In Memoriam," 21 American Bar Association Journal 1935.
  9. ^ "H.J. GALLAGHER, 86, WILLKIE ASSOCIATE," The New York Times.
  10. ^ "Veteran Lawyer recalls Wilkie's '40 campaign," The Hawk Eye, Page 3, August 24, 1972
  11. ^ "Willkie Returning to the Practice of Law As Senior Partner of a New York Firm". The New York Times. April 17, 1941.
  12. ^ George Derby, James Terry White (1945). The National Cyclopædia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States as Illustrated in the Lives of the Founders, Builders, and Defenders of the Republic, and of the Men and Women who are Doing the Work and Moulding the Thought of the Present Time, Volume 32.
  14. ^ Trusts and Estates, Volumes 84-85, 1947.
  15. ^ Federal Supplement: Cases Argued and Determined in the District Courts of the United States and the Court of Claims, with Key Number Annotations, Volume 68, West Publishing Company, 1947.
  16. ^ International Directory of Company Histories – Google Books
  17. ^ Kurt F. Stone. The Jews of Capitol Hill: A Compendium of Jewish Congressional Members
  18. ^ Vault Reports Guide to America's Top 50 Law Firms - H. S. Hamadeh, Vault Reports, Mark Oldman, Marcy Lerner, Edward Shen, Dough Cantor, Michael Hasday - Google Books
  19. ^ Vault Guide to the Top 100 Law Firms – Brook Moshan – Google Books
  20. ^ "Mario Cuomo" | Society for American Baseball Research
  21. ^ Miller, Adam (2003-11-15). "Inn Blaze Kills Law Recruiters From Top N.Y. Firm". The New York Post. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  22. ^ "Clifton-hanger: Inn reopens as lawyers press claims". The Hook. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  23. ^ "Tragic files: Three lawsuits target Clifton". The Hook. 2004-07-15. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  24. ^ Willkie Forms Alliance With UK's Dickson Minto
  25. ^ "Chambers 2015 Directories Recognize Willkie with 91 Attorney and 35 Practice Area Rankings"
  26. ^ "Willkie Cuts Ties as Gordon Caplan Plans Guilty Plea in College Cheating Case", Law.com, The American Lawyer, April 5, 2019. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  27. ^ Rick Mitchell. "Others, in College Entrance Bribery Case", March 13, 2019, Bloomberg Law, BigLaw Business.com. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  28. ^ "A Top Lawyer Will Plead Guilty in the College-Admissions Scandal", by Matthew Goldstein, The New York Times, April 5, 2019. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  29. ^ "Willkie's Gordon Caplan Is Obscure No More",The American Lawyer.
  30. ^ "Operation Varsity Blues - Department of Justice". www.justice.gov.
  31. ^ Owens, David (12 March 2019). "Former Yale soccer coach and prominent Greenwich lawyer among dozens indicted in sweeping college admissions bribery scandal". courant.com. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  32. ^ Strom, Roy. "Willkie Co-Chair Gordon Caplan Placed on Leave Amid Admissions Scandal". The American Lawyer. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  33. ^ dal-probe/ "Caplan's Plea Deal With Prosecutors Calls for Prison Time", by Jack Newsham, The American Lawyer, April 8, 2019. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  34. ^ Andrew E. Lelling, U.S. Department of Justice, District of Massachusetts, March 27, 2019. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  35. ^ a b "Willkie Farr Gallagher" | Law.com
  36. ^ "Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP" | Law.com
  37. ^ "The 100 Top Law Firms by Profits Per Partner in 2018"
  38. ^ Lancaster, Alaina (June 1, 2022). "20 Law Firms Offer Pro Bono Legal Services to Defend Abortion Rights". Law.com. Retrieved 6 July 2022.
  39. ^ "Danielle K. Citron". December 2020.
  40. ^ "About the Contributors"
  41. ^ The Virginia Bar Association Journal
  42. ^ "Lawyer to Head Jewish Group," The New York Times, June 10, 1984.
  43. ^ James F. Peltz (December 30, 1986). "Lawyers, Bankers Rush To Close Deals by Yearend"
  44. ^ Charles A. Boston, 1863-1935 In Memoriam 21 American Bar Association Journal 1935
  45. ^ H.J. GALLAGHER, 86, WILLKIE ASSOCIATE - The New York Times

External links[edit]