In 1879, Algernon Sydney Sullivan and William Nelson Cromwell founded Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City’s renowned Financial District. Throughout its long history, our Firm has been involved in some of America’s greatest industrial, commercial and financial enterprises, from the formation of Edison General Electric Company in 1882 and United States Steel Corporation in 1901 to its present work with leaders of the global economy in the 21st century.
The Early Years
Domestic and international finance has been at the core of our Firm's work since its inception. Before World War I, S&C represented European bankers and bond syndicates in financing the development of America's railroads and industrial infrastructure. William Cromwell himself proved instrumental in paving the way toward the construction of the Panama Canal.
Heading into the 20th century, as international capital flows diversified and increased, the Firm responded by opening branch offices in Berlin and Buenos Aires. By 1928, S&C's Paris facility was bustling as a full-service office. As the Firm grew during this period of expansion, we developed close relationships with leading financial intermediaries on both sides of the Atlantic. We pride ourselves in continuing these relationships to this day.
The Great Depression and World War II
The Great Depression spawned a burst of government involvement in business affairs and a new wave of business-related litigation. Several businesses called on S&C's expertise to steer them through this trying period, and before long, the Firm became known for its agility in defending shareholder derivative litigation and antitrust actions. S&C also was a pioneer among law firms to develop expertise in the complex area of federal income tax law.
Beginning with the Securities Act of 1933, the federal government enacted a series of statutes to regulate the investment industry. S&C holds the honor of having prepared the first major registration statement under the Securities Act, and our Firm continues to make substantial contributions to securities offerings and regulation today. During World War II and its political aftermath, S&C lawyers such as noted partners John Foster Dulles and Arthur Dean played important individual roles in helping shape domestic policy and international affairs.
Post-War Growth and Diversification
The explosive growth in the American economy and public sector following World War II fueled a dramatic increase in demand for and diversification of client requirements for legal services. S&C responded by adding steadily to its global practice and pioneering in new areas of legal knowledge and expertise to meet the many new challenges facing our clients.
In the postwar years, S&C’s international practice continued to be closely associated with developments affecting global economic affairs, particularly the ebb and flow of investments between the United States, Europe and the Far East, and the fluctuations in U.S. dollar exchange rates against other currencies. The Firm participated actively in the postwar development of the international capital market in the United States, and in the new so-called Eurobond market that emerged in the 1960s. S&C also became the first New York firm during this period to establish, on a permanent basis, a visiting lawyer program for promising non-U.S. lawyers. Today, the program boasts 255 alumni/ae in 42 countries.
Becoming a Global Law Firm
S&C has grown in response to the increasing volume and complexity of our clients' affairs, developing top-ranking practices in mergers and acquisitions, banking regulation, real estate finance, derivatives and private equity, among many other areas. The Firm's work in cross-border capital flows continues to thrive as evidenced by the Firm’s substantial involvement in foreign direct investment and project finance, the development of the Euro and other global capital markets and the financial flows to Asia and Latin America.
Despite its significant growth, the Firm has retained its deep commitment to remaining a unified global practice. Unlike many law firms with a multinational reach, S&C has built its international network of offices, not by acquiring other firms or hiring large numbers of lateral lawyers, but by developing offices to serve clients’ regional needs and staffing those offices with lawyers who have spent their careers at S&C.
As the Firm has expanded, the scope and nature of our practice has afforded us the opportunity to retain lawyers in locations more convenient to our clients. S&C opened new domestic branches in Washington, D.C. (1977), Los Angeles (1984) and Palo Alto (2000). Overseas, we reopened our Paris office (which had been closed during World War II) in 1962, and we opened new international offices in London (1972), Melbourne (1983), Tokyo (1987), Hong Kong (1992), Frankfurt (1995), Beijing (1999) and Sydney (2001).