LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, L.L.P.
LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, L.L.P.
Founded: 1929 as LeBoeuf & Winston
Sales: $225.5 million (1997)
NAIC: 54111 Offices of Lawyers
One of the world’s largest law firms, LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, L.L.P., maintains 15 offices across the United States. The firm represents over 2,500 corporate clients of various sizes in over 50 nations, and operates seven overseas offices, including locations in Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyz, as well as an associated office in Sao Paulo. From its beginnings in 1929, LeBoeuf has been known for its representation of energy and public utility firms, and since 1965 it has been preeminent in serving insurance companies. The firm’s major clients include ITT, Niagra Mohawk Power Corporation, Lloyd’s of London, the Equitable Life Assurance Society, and Alcoa.
Origins and Early Decades
Randall J. LeBoeuf, Jr., the firm’s founder, was born in Albany, New York, in 1897. After serving in World War I, he began practicing law in his father’s office in Albany in 1920. In 1925 he began a two-year period as assistant attorney general for New York in charge of legal matters surrounding water utility companies. While still in solo practice in 1929, LeBoeuf became general counsel to Niagra Hudson Power Company and the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA). As his work-load increased, LeBoeuf recruited his friend Bill Winston from another Albany law firm to form the partnership LeBoeuf & Winston on October 7, 1929, just before the stock market collapsed. Within six months, the new partnership had moved to New York City, where it shared offices with Niagra Hudson Power at 15 Broad Street.
The LeBoeuf law firm began with clients in the utilities and energy industry, but in a few years those early clients needed help in areas other than just water rights law. So in 1934 Horace Lamb joined the expanding young partnership to enhance its expertise in a wider variety of legal matters. Characterized as an aggressive litigator, Lamb came to the firm after working for the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice as well as in private practice. Lamb would soon become a name partner at the firm.
Business continued in the 1940s, and the 1950s brought new clients and partners to the still modest-sized law firm. In 1952 Adrian C. Leiby, a former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, left his position at the firm of DeForest & Durr to join LeBoeuf, which was renamed LeBoeuf, Lamb & Leiby. Leiby brought with him 20 years of experience in corporate securities and finances.
Anticipating the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission to regulate the new civilian use of fission plants, LeBoeuf opened its first branch office in 1952 in Washington, D.C. to help utilities license nuclear plants. According to a firm chronology, the new branch also did a “modest amount of secret, but routine work for the CIA,” the U.S. intelligence agency created in the late 1940s at the start of the Cold War.
Cameron F. MacRae, Jr., left the rival law firm of Whitman Ransom in 1958 to join LeBoeuf. With 20 years experience as one of the nation’s top public utility lawyers, the new lateral hire brought several important clients with him. The following year, the firm took a major step forward when company founder Randall LeBoeuf became the special assistant attorney general representing New York in a water rights dispute over the amount of Great Lakes water that could be diverted through the Chicago Drainage Canal. This conflict pitted the lakes states against those next to the Mississippi River. This drawn out battle helped the firm enjoy high profits for over a decade as it represented New York.
From 1961 to 1965 LeBoeuf represented seven large utility companies that filed 42 antitrust lawsuits against large electrical equipment manufacturers, including General Electric, Westing-house, and Allis Chalmers. To handle these major cases, LeBoeuf in 1961 laterally hired Taylor Briggs to enhance the firm’s litigation department, and we eventually go on to serve as the company’s chairperson, though not a name partner. At the time, the firm included 24 lawyers, half of whom were partners. In 1962 the growing partnership moved to larger offices at the Chase Manhattan Bank headquarters in New York.
In 1965 Lloyd’s of London chose LeBoeuf as its new general counsel in the United States. This appointment led to the law firm representing other major insurance companies, including Aetna, All State, Chubb, Cigna, Crown Life, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Metropolitan Life, Transamerica Life, Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, and others. By helping such insurance corporations deal with the ever-changing laws and regulations of 50 states and the federal government, as well as with litigation, restructuring, antitrust suits, and other matters, LeBoeuf became the nation’s preeminent firm in the insurance industry.
Growth in the 1970s and 1980s
In the 1970s, the firm lost its three os its name partners, who died in successive years: Randall LeBoeuf in 1975, Adrian Leiby in 1976, and Horace Lamb in 1977. Cameron MacRae, who had been formally installed as presiding partner in 1970, remained at the firm, which had become known as LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby & MacRae.
The company moved to grow through acquisition in the 1970s. In 1978 it acquired the New York law partnership of Reed, McCarthy and Giordano, founded in 1910. The attorneys brought over to the firm in the takeover would help found LeBoeuf’s municipal bond practice. Also during this time, LeBoeuf named its first female partner, attorney Sheila Marshall, who had begun with the firm as a legal secretary to founder Randall LeBoeuf. By 1978 the firm numbered 106 lawyers in New York and Washington, D.C. offices. Later in the year LeBoeuf opened its first foreign office in London, mainly to oversee the business generated by client Lloyd’s of London.
Like many other law firms, LeBoeuf grew rapidly in the 1980s. In 1981 the firm moved west, opening an office in Salt Lake City, only the second “outside” firm to break into Utah. By offering high salaries and opportunities to work on high-profile cases, outside law firms attracted some of the best local attorneys. By 1994 LeBoeuf’s Utah office employed 14 attorneys who represented local clients as well as some in other states, such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The Salt Lake City’s local managing partner, Ralph Mabey, handled several notable cases during this time, including representing the airline pilots of TWA, the creditors in the bankruptcy case of Federated Department Stores and Allied Stores, and also Bonneville Pacific in a controversial bankruptcy case.
Further intrastate expansion continued, as in 1987 the law firm started a one-attorney office in Jacksonville, Florida, its first branch in the South and the first started by a New York firm in that city. LeBoeuf began its Florida operations with two insurance clients, Metropolitan Security Life and Guarantee Security Life. The following year, LeBoeuf represented the National Farmers Union Acquisition Company, when it acquired the Loyalty Life Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Continental Insurance Company. By 1990 the Jacksonville office had grown to maintain a staff 11 lawyers.
Other branch offices were established in the 1980s, including sites in Boston, Albany, Newark, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hartford, Harrisburg, and Brussels, Belgium. In 1987 LeBoeuf opened an office in Raleigh, North Carolina, merging with the local law firm of Moore, Ragsdale, Liggett, Ray & Foley. The branch had only a six-year history, however, closing in 1993 following conflicts with the New York headquarters, as well as reported low morale and a high rate of associate turnover. The resultant new firm of Ragsdale, Liggett & Foley, formed by former LeBoeuf attorneys, planned to maintain a correspondent relationship as needed with LeBoeuf.
This period of expansion was not without its challenges. The American Lawyer noted, for example, that from 1986 to 1988 Leboeuf increased its work force of attorneys by 29 percent, from 281 to 362, while its profits per partner increased only 12 percent. Moreover, according to The Guide to New York Law Firms, one legal consultant criticized the firm’s management, alleging that LeBoeuf was “not well-managed... and takes in marginal people. It is not picking off good laterals.” Other critics pointed to LeBoeuf’s financial performance or maintained that such rapid growth had resulted in internal strife at the work place. With the growth of legal specialization, such developments were not surprising.
The growth of many law firms, including LeBoeuf, was fueled by several trends or changes. First, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1970s that restrictions on professional advertising were unconstitutional, paving the way for more competition in the industry. Also, in 1979 The American Lawyer magazine was introduced, which featured articles on internal practices at law firms as well as financial and salary rankings, information not generally made public until that time. With increased demand for legal services, given a good economy and ever more litigation, law firms were hiring more associates and competing for lateral hires of experienced lawyers from rival firms. For many, the days of lifetime employment at one firm became an outmoded concept.
Practice in the 1990s
In 1991 LeBoeuf established an office in Moscow headed by James I. Mandel, making it one of just five American law firms to operate there. Having doubled in size between 1982 and 1992, LeBoeuf soon needed larger and more efficient office space. In July 1992 the firm moved from its Madison Avenue facilities into new headquarters at 125 West 55th Street, signing a 20-year lease for eight floors as well as space in the basement and ground floor of the 23-story building.
In fall 1993 the law firm opened its Denver office, which was soon enhanced by the addition of prominent Denver bankruptcy attorney Carl Eklund and four associates, who were recruited laterally. Eklund brought to LeBoeuf his major client, America West Airlines, whose bankruptcy reorganization he had managed since 1991. Later in 1994 six prominent trial lawyers also joined LeBoeuf s Denver office, bringing the Denver total to 29 lawyers, and making Denver the fifth largest of LeBoeuf’s 16 branch offices.
In 1993 the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) announced that it planned to shut down its own litigation staff of six attorneys and give its national litigation duties to the newly formed Pittsburgh office of LeBoeuf. LeBoeuf had become Alcoa’s product liability counsel for cases in New York and New Jersey in 1982. The Alcoa-LeBoeuf deal was unusual for two reasons. First, it contradicted a trend in which corporations were hiring more inhouse attorneys. Alcoa had started hiring its own litigation attorneys about ten years before, and had saved money for about six years before its legal business necessitated outside hirings and thus dramatically increased expenses. By giving all litigation to LeBoeuf, Alcoa expected significant savings, important because the firm lost $1.1 billion in 1992. The move was also unique in that the two firms agreed on a flat annual fee, rather than the more typical practice of hourly billing.
In 1994 the firm changed its name to LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. Name partner Donald Greene had been with the firm since 1965 and was named to replace Briggs as chairperson in 1989. Under Greene, the firm began seeking to create a truly multinational practice, commencing to hire British lawyers to work in its London office. By the end of 1995 about a dozen London attorneys had joined LeBoeuf s London office and plans were to increase that number to 50.
In the United States, the firm was kept busy with events in California. In December 1994, Orange County, California, declared Chapter 9 bankruptcy, having lost $1.64 billion in bad investments. In June 1996, the county filed five lawsuits in U.S. Bankruptcy Court against those it claimed had known of the imminent financial distress and had done nothing to stop it. LeBoeuf—along with Rauscher Pierce Refsnes, Standard & Poor’s, Morgan Stanley, and the Student Loan Marketing Association—was among those sued, having been employed by the county as bond counsel. In all, the county was asking for about $7 billion, $500 million of that total from LeBoeuf. LeBoeuf was also named in a related suit during this time brought by the North Orange County Community College.
In early 1998 LeBoeuf, without admitting guilt, settled its two lawsuits before either went to trial, agreeing to pay the community college $10.2 million and Orange County $45 million. As the college was a party to the Orange County suit, it agreed to cede $2 million as its share of the $45 million county suit. LeBoeuf’s total cost thus came to around $53.2 million, one of the largest settlements against a law firm in the nation’s history.
Also during this time, LeBoeuf was expanding into Texas. In January 1998 four attorneys, including the managing partner, of the Houston law firm Hutcheson & Grundy left to establish the Houston office of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. The 44 remaining partners voted to dissolve Hutcheson & Grundy due to its inability to win corporate clients. LeBoeuf was the third New York law firm to open a Houston office. Representing PanEnergy Corporation, Texas Utilities Company, and PG&E Corporation in various acquisitions had created a significant Houston base of operations for LeBoeuf in Houston. The Houston office planned to employ about 50 attorneys within a couple years as it focused on energy, insurance, and Latin American project financing.
Based on its 1997 gross revenue of $225.5 million, the LeBoeuf law firm was ranked by The American Lawyer as the USA’s 26th largest law firm in the United States. That publication, in cooperation with London’s Legal Business, listed LeBoeuf as number 33 based on 1997 revenue and number 20 based on number of attorneys (736) in its first ranking of the world’s largest law firms.
As the new century approached, LeBoeuf met the same challenges facing other megafirms. Globalization of the economy was stimulating the internal growth of law firms as well as prompting many to form alliances or joint ventures with other firms abroad. New currencies, such as Europe’s “euro,” and new trade agreements including the North American Free Trade Agreement, were changing the way international business would be conducted in the next century. Competition was generated not just from other law firms but also from accounting firms that were hiring their own attorneys. Moreover, as more women and minorities became attorneys, law firms faced new management challenges. Many were having to offer either part-time or more flexible scheduling for their work force as well as programs to combat sexual harassment in the work place. Finally, with rapid developments in technology, increasing numbers of attorneys were performing more of their duties from offices in their homes. Dealing with such internal changes, as well as meeting the expectations of clients and government regulations, gave LeBoeuf s leaders plenty to ponder.
Boselovic, Len, “Alcoa Hires Outside Lawyers,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 20, 1993, p. B2.
Cherovsky, Erwin, “LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby & MacRae,” The Guide to New York Law Firms, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991, pp. 118-121.
Campbell, Ronald, and Chris Knap, “O.C. Sues Its Former Advisers,”Orange County Register, June 12, 1996, p. A1.
Campbell, Ronald, “Bond Lawyers Settle with O.C.,” Orange County Register, April 15, 1998, p. B1.
Conner, Chance, “Top Lawyers Quit Patton, Boggs,” Denver Post, September 29, 1994, p. C1.
Day, Janet, “Bankruptcy Attorney Eklund Joins LeBoeuf,” Denver Post, February 1, 1994, p. C1.
DeMarco, Anthony, “LeBoeuf, Lamb Leases New Law Space with Vision,” Facilities Design & Management, June 1994, p. 42.
Funk, Marianne, “Local Opportunities Blossom as National Law Firms Branch Out,” Deseret News, April 3, 1994, pp. M1-M2.
Hirsch, Jane, “Ellis Zahra: He’s Constantly Challenged by the Law,” Jacksonville Business Journal, April 20, 1990, p. 8.
Holzinger, Albeit G., “Bulletin Boards’ Global Reach,” Nation’s Business, February 1995, p. 33.
The LeBoeuf Story, New York: LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, self-produced historical video, 1994.
Livingston, Skip, “N.Y. Law Firm Wins Top Local Attorney in First Foray in South,” Jacksonville Business Journal, November 23, 1987, p. 4.
Mollenkamp, Carrick, “Tracing the Roots of LeBoeuf Split,” Triangle Business Journal (Raleigh, N.C.), December 6, 1993, p. 1.
Olson, Thomas, “Alcoa Moves to Trim Legal Staff, Hire NYC Firm,” Pittsburgh Business Times Journal, July 26, 1993, p. 1.
Perm, Monica, “Hutcheson Dissolves in Departures’ Wake,” Houston Business Journal, January 16, 1998, p. 1.
—David M. Walden