Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP
Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP
Founded: 1904 as Hughes, Rounds & Schurman
Employees: 750 (est.)
Sales: $125 million (1999 est.)
NAIC: 541110 Offices of Lawyers
The New York-based law firm of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP boasts an illustrious history, with roots that reach back into the 1800s and connections to many of today’s major New York law firms. Its most famous partner was Charles Evans Hughes, whose practice was interrupted by calls to public service. He not only served as Governor of New York, he was also appointed Secretary of State, ran for the Presidency of the United States, and eventually was named Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Hughes Hubbard, though far from the largest law firm, consists of some 300 attorneys who are engaged in 30 specialty practices. In addition to its New York headquarters, Hughes Hubbard maintains offices in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Miami, and Paris. A Latin American practice operates out of the Miami office, while the Paris office serves clients throughout Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Hughes Hubbard is known for its progressive culture that is especially conducive to the advancement of women to its top ranks. In the 1960s, Hughes Hubbard became the first New York City law firm to name an African-American woman to the partnership, then in 1999 became the first to name a woman as its chair.
1871 Chicago Fire Instrumental in the Firm’s Founding
The progenitor of Hughes Hubbard, as well as a number of major New York law firms, was attorney Walter S. Carter. He was born in 1833 in Barkhamsted, Connecticut, the son of a farmer of modest means. He began his study of law in 1850, serving in the office of a Connecticut judge. At the time, even the best law schools were just extensions of law offices in which the teachers were also practicing attorneys. Carter was admitted to the bar in 1855 and began practicing law in Middleton, Connecticut, as well as publishing a newspaper. He then decided in 1858 to move west, relocating to the burgeoning city of Milwaukee, which already boasted a number of distinguished firms and presented more opportunities for a young attorney than did the Northeast. By 1860, he was able to start his own firm, Carter & Whipple, and over the next several years would partner with an assortment of attorneys. In 1869, he moved to Chicago and was admitted to the bar of Illinois. After practicing by himself for a year, he headed the firm of Carter & Becker, which in 1871 became Carter, Becker & Dale. The devastating Chicago fire in October of that year would then result in Carter moving again. Claims from the fire bankrupted 15 fire insurance companies in the East, and Carter went to New York to represent Chicago creditors. It was here that he formed a partnership with attorney Leslie W. Russell, who had studied law in Milwaukee and very likely knew Carter at that time. Carter & Russell was the firm that would evolve into today’s Hughes Hubbard.
Although Carter maintained his Chicago partnership until 1876, his heavy workload in New York would lead to his complete relocation to the city. It would also force him to engage help. He turned to the graduates of the new law schools. While other firms provided further training for the aspiring lawyers, Carter paid a salary. He began to keep close tabs on students enrolled in area law schools, and his offices became a place where many turned for advice and employment. A number of “Carter’s Kids“ became associates who then went on to found important New York law firms, including Paul D. Cravath, Henry Abbott, Henry W. Taft, and George W. Wickersham.
Charles Evans Hughes Joins Firm in 1884
Charles Evans Hughes worked two summers with Carter, Hornblower & Byrne, then upon graduation from Columbia Law School and gaining admission to the bar began a regular clerkship with the firm in 1884. The only child of a minister, Hughes was born in 1862 at Glen Falls, New York. He studied at home until the age of nine and was precocious enough to begin college at the age of 14, attending Madison University, now known as Colgate, before transferring to Brown University. He taught school for a year in Delhi, New York, while reading law under a local attorney, then entered Columbia Law School in 1883. Carter, Hornblower & Byrne proved to be a perfect situation for the ambitious young man. The firm had a thriving general practice that exposed Hughes to a wide range of the law as well as the leading attorneys of the day. By 1888 he became a full partner in the firm, which after the departure of Hornblower and Chamberlain became Carter, Hughes & Cravath. Hughes also married Carter’s daughter, Antoinette.
Paul Cravath joined the firm after graduating from Columbia Law School. Born in Ohio, he too was the son of a clergyman. After earning a degree from Oberlin College in 1882 he moved to Minneapolis where he intended to study and practice law. Instead he worked as a salesman for an oil company for a year, but he saved enough money to attend Columbia, where he took part in the “quiz classes“ that Hughes taught after he graduated from the school. Although Cravath planned to return to Minneapolis, he stayed in New York after he graduated cum laude in 1886 and went to work for Carter, Hornblower & Byrne. Cravath brought in significant business from the prolific inventor George Westinghouse, whose chief assistant worked with Cravath’s uncle. Westinghouse made his fortune with the invention of the railroad air brake, but also made significant contributions to the commercialization of electricity and other fields. In all, he founded 60 companies. The amount of work that came into Carter, Hughes & Cravath soon required the opening of a branch office, and by 1891 Cravath, by mutual agreement, left the firm, taking the Westinghouse business with him. Cravath would go on to found today’s well-known law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
After Cravath left, Frederick R. Kellogg became a partner and the firm became Carter, Hughes & Kellogg. Hughes’ devotion to his work, in the meantime, compromised his health, and he left the firm for two years, teaching at the Cornell Law School before returning to his New York City practice. When Carter died in 1904, Hughes became the senior partner, reorganizing the firm as Hughes, Rounds & Schurman. At this point, Hughes would begin his career of public service that would take him away from the business for long periods of time. He was asked by the state legislature in 1905 to investigate corruption in New York City’s utilities. He uncovered a number of irregularities and proposed regulations that were subsequently enacted. He was then enlisted to serve as counsel to an investigation of the insurance industry, which was under attack by city newspapers. Hughes not only exposed questionable business practices, but political corruption as well. He was causing such damage to New York Republicans that party leaders tried to draft him to run for mayor just to get him off the panel. He refused, continued his work, and, as a result, the reputation of so many Republican candidates were so tarnished that, ironically, he became the Party’s only viable hope to win the 1906 governor’s race. He then defeated publisher William Randolph Hearst and left his law firm, which now became known as Rounds, Schurman & Dwight.
Hughes served two terms as governor, then in 1910 President Taft named him to the Supreme Court, where he served as the youngest member. After rejecting entreaties to run for the presidency in 1912, he resigned from the Supreme Court in 1916 to run against President Woodrow Wilson, at a time when his party was out of power and a devastating European war threatened to involve the United States. After a decisive defeat that ended his career in elective politics, Hughes once again rejoined his old law firm, which now became Hughes, Rounds, Schurman & Dwight.
Hughes son, Charles Evan Hughes Jr., also joined the firm as a partner after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1912 and worked at the offices of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. When the United States entered World War I, he took a leave of absence to serve as a lieutenant in the Army. The senior Hughes left the firm once again in 1921 when he was named by President Warren Harding to serve as Secretary of State, and once again the firm reverted to the Rounds, Schurman & Dwight name. After serving a year with the Coolidge administration, Hughes returned to his law practice in 1925. His major focus over the next few years was serving as a special master to the Great Lakes water diversion case, in which Chicago was accused of using water from the Great Lakes to flush its sewage into the Mississippi River. This practice caused the level of the lakes to lower, creating a great deal of damage to property as well as hindering navigation on the lakes. Hughes’ report would prove instrumental in the Supreme Court’s eventual decision that forced Chicago to cease its actions.
In the meantime, the younger Hughes became Herbert Hoover’s Solicitor General in 1929, but resigned from the position in 1930 when his father was named the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Because the son returned to the law practice just as the father was leaving, the firm remained Hughes, Schurman & Dwight, although Richard E. Dwight was now the senior partner and head of the firm. While many law firms devoted to corporate work suffered a severe loss of business during the Great Depression, Hughes Schurman prospered, mostly due to the senior Hughes’ emphasis on litigation work. A major client during this period was the Fox Film Corporation, which was reorganizing its studio operations and chain of movie theaters.
Our docket covers the full range of courts and administrative agencies through the U.S., management of litigation in foreign courts and alternative dispute resolution. Our litigation specialties include, among other things, antitrust; insurance damage claims arising from toxic torts, product liability, and mass disasters; and intellectual property and professional liability.
In 1937, the firm was dissolved, apparently because Dwight was under attack by President Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury, and the younger Hughes wanted to provide some distance for his father, the Chief Justice. Two groups of partners then formed new law firms. Dwight headed Dwight, Harris, Koegel & Caskey, which is the forefather of today’s Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells. Hughes created Hughes, Richards, Hubbard & Ewing, becoming the senior partner of the firm. It opened offices at One Wall Street, assuming an entire floor which had been the headquarters of a financial firm that had failed during the Depression. It would remain the home of the firm for the next 50 years, during which time it would grow to occupy four floors, as well as space in other buildings, and the number of lawyers grew from eight partners and eight associates to over 200 lawyers. When the new firm moved into One Wall Street, however, the partners were uncertain of their business prospects, but on the first day, the chairman of Alcoa contacted Hughes about defending his company in an antitrust suit. Aside from providing the firm with the business it needed to launch a prosperous practice, the Alcoa case also entered the annals of legal history. Because so many justices had to disqualify themselves, the Supreme Court lacked a quorum and for the only time in the Court’s history, a designated court, the Second Circuit, ruled on the case.
Hughes Dies in 1948
Hughes senior retired from the Supreme Court in 1941, but did not return to private practice, instead devoting his final years to preparing historical records of his life and distinguished career. He died in 1948 of congestive heart failure at the age of 86. Two years later his son would also die suddenly. A Harvard Law School classmate, Allen S. Hubbard, then became senior partner of the firm, now known as Hughes, Hubbard & Ewing. In 1952 the name would change to Hughes, Hubbard, Blair & Reed, and would remain unchanged until 1968. Francis C. Reed would succeed Hubbard as senior partner in 1959.
Reed was responsible for establishing a culture that would endure within the firm. In contrast to the staid atmosphere at most Wall Street law firms, Reed encouraged his lawyers to keep their doors open and address each other by their first names. It was Reed who also oversaw the opening of an office in Paris in 1966, the firm’s first office outside of New York. In addition, one of the firm’s attorneys, Amalya L. Kearse, became the first African-American woman to be named a partner in a major New York firm. In 1968 the firm became Hughes Hubbard & Reed, then in 1971 Reed was succeeded as senior partner by Orville H. Schell, Jr. A year later, under his leadership, the firm would open offices in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. He retired as senior partner in 1975 and would go on to become president of the New York City Ballet and an influential figure in the creation of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Jerome G. Shapiro succeeded Schell as senior partner of the firm, which at the time included 105 lawyers. During his tenure, Hughes Hubbard established a Far Eastern Practice. A branch office in Miami was also opened in 1987, the result of the break-up of Sage Gray Todd & Sims, which had been plagued by disagreement among its partners. While a 30-lawyer banking department joined Hughes Hubbard’s New York office, Sage Gray’s Miami office with its 14 lawyers and international banking law practice was also added. The firm would subsequently organize a Latin American practice, which would be based in the Miami office.
Robert Sisk succeeded Shapiro in 1989 as head of the firm. Charles H. Scherer, who had left the firm to serve as general counsel of Collins & Aikman, returned to become Hughes Hubbard’s first full-time managing partner. Under Sisk and Scherer the firm consolidated its New York offices at One Battery Park Plaza. Then in 1999, Sisk was succeeded by Candace K. Beinecke, who became the first woman to chair a major New York law firm, while Scherer remained as managing partner. Beinecke grew up in Patterson, New Jersey. Her father was a practicing attorney and her mother, a radio personality in the 1940s, encouraged her to become a lawyer. After graduating from Rutgers Law School, she joined the firm as an associate in 1970, then made her reputation as an international corporate lawyer.
Despite Hughes Hubbard’s reputation as a progressive firm, it suffered some negative effects from its success in a controversial Supreme Court decision in 2000 that upheld the Boy Scouts of American’s right to exclude a gay scoutmaster. The firm represented gay and lesbian groups in other litigation, as well as provided benefits for same-sex domestic partners. Moreover, several gay and lesbian groups filed amicus briefs supporting the Boy Scouts’ right to association. Yet, Hughes Hubbard was criticized both from within its ranks and from outside. Hughes Hubbard recruiters were regularly asked about the case by law students. It was unlikely, however, that the criticism, which many decried as guilt by association, would cause any long-term damage to the firm’s sterling reputation of many years.
Baker & McKenzie; Latham & Watkins; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
- Chicago Fire litigation sends attorney Walter S. Carter to New York to establish Carter & Russell.
- Charles Evans Hughes joins the firm.
- Upon Carter’s death, Hughes organizes Hughes, Rounds & Schurman.
- Hughes leaves firm to serve as Governor of New York, then as a justice on the Supreme Court.
- Hughes rejoins firm after failed Presidential bid; Charles Evans Hughes, Jr. also joins firm.
- Hughes, Sr. leaves firm to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
- Firm splits, and Hughes, Jr. forms Hughes, Richards, Hubbard & Ewing.
- Firm becomes known as Hughes Hubbard & Reed.
- Candace K. Beinecke named chair.
Carter, Terry, “Sins of the Client,” ABA Journal, March 2001, p 20.
Goldstein, Matthew, “Making NY Legal History,” Crain’s New York Business, May 24, 1999, p. 31.
Gray, Patricia Bellew, “Sage Gray Todd & Sims Is Making Plans to Split up the Law Firm by March 31,” Wall Street Journal, March 5, 1987, p. 1.
Hoffman, Jan, “Charm at the Top: It Only Looks Easy, Folks,” New York Times, June 2, 1999, p. 2.
Koehel, Otto Erwin, Walter S. Carter, Collector of Young Masters, New York: Round Table Press, 1953, 491 p.
Puseym, Merlo John, Charles Evans Hughes, New York: Macmillan, 1951, 829 p.