Cravath, Swaine & Moore
New York City
|No. of offices||2|
|No. of attorneys||472|
|Major practice areas||General Corporate, Mergers & Acquisitions, Securities and Banking, Litigation, Tax, Executive Compensation, Trusts and Estates|
|Key people||Faiza Saeed|
|Founder||Richard M. Blatchford and William H. Seward|
|Company type||Limited liability partnership|
The firm arose from two predecessor firms, led by Richard M. Blatchford in New York City, and William H. Seward in Auburn, New York, respectively. In 1854, these firms merged to form the firm of Blatchford, Seward & Griswold. Named partner Samuel Blatchford had been appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1882 by President Chester Arthur, and served for 11 years until his death. Named partner Seward later served as both Governor and then Senator from New York. As Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln, Seward kept Britain and France from intervening during the Civil War by threatening war, supported the 1865 passing of the Thirteenth Amendment, and in 1867, under Andrew Johnson, he negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in a transaction contemporaries derisively called "Seward's Folly." Paul Drennan Cravath, who joined the firm in 1899, developed and instituted the "Cravath System", which combines a distinctive way of approaching the hiring, training and compensation of lawyers. In 1944, after a series of name changes, the name Cravath, Swaine & Moore was established and has not been altered since.
Cravath has represented some of America’s great inventors, from Samuel F.B. Morse in the late 1840s, Cyrus McCormick, Elias Howe, and Charles Goodyear in the 1850s, to Thomas Edison in the 1880s. Some current client relationships that began in the 1800s are with CBS, JPMorgan, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The firm has had a long record of clients in the US railroad industry beginning with the New York & Erie and Union Pacific railroads, and express delivery businesses such as Adams, Southern, and Wells Fargo. Its 19th century history includes the 1808 insanity defense of William Freeman for the murder of John G. Van Nest, the 1848 Jones v. Van Zandt challenge to the constitutionality of slavery, and the Pollock v. Farmers' Loan and Trust Company tax case of 1895. Cases of mention before the Supreme, appellate and Chancery courts in more recent decades have been Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. and Westfed Holdings Inc. v. United States, and City of Providence v. First Citizens BancShares Inc. et al. Important litigation work with IBM has included two landmark antitrust cases, one of which was a 13-year battle dubbed by Time magazine as “the case of the century."
The firm has represented entities in the United Kingdom and Europe since the 1820s from the Bank of England, to landmark public offerings by EU predecessors since the 1950s. Entities such as HM Treasury, Grupo Modelo, Santander, and HDFC Bank are among more recent international clients. Cravath drew attention to its bankruptcy practice on November 10, 2010, by offering free representation in advance of a likely Chapter 9 filing for Harrisburg, PA. The firm's restructuring work traces back to clients such as Goodyear in 1921. After their 1916 reorganization of corporations lectures before the Bar of the City of New York, Paul D. Cravath and William D. Guthrie were reviewed to be "men of wide experience in these matters," and several of their partners including Alexander I. Henderson and Robert T. Swaine "ranked among the leaders of the reorganization bar."
In November 2014, Cravath handled three M&A transactions in one day, spanning advertising, spirits, and pharmaceutical industries; and acted as legal advisor in a recently announced deal backed by 3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. that will create the third-largest food and beverage company in North America. Other significant representations have included legal work necessary to form NBC, United Airlines in its merger with Continental Airlines, the world's largest airline, to Unilever in its acquisition of Alberto-Culver. In 2010, its litigation department won summary judgment for Morgan Stanley on its breach of contract claim against Discover Financial Services. In a subsequent settlement, Discover agreed to pay Morgan Stanley $775 million to resolve the litigation. In the same year they successfully represented Barnes & Noble in a landmark "poison pill" trial. In the past several decades Cravath has represented Netscape in its antitrust suit against Microsoft, resulting in a $750 million settlement; major merger and acquisition deals, such as the DuPont-Conoco merger, the Ford-Jaguar merger, the Bristol-Myers-Squibb merger, the Time-Warner merger, and the AOL-Time-Warner merger; and two famed libel suits: defending Time Inc. against Israeli General Ariel Sharon, and also defending CBS against U.S. Army General William Westmoreland.
Unlike others, Cravath has remained relatively small. Its approximately 500 lawyers are located primarily in the New York Office, with just a few dozen in the London office, which opened in 1973.
Cravath was ranked the #1 law firm in the 2017 Vault Law 100. Chambers and Partners ranks Cravath in the top tier among U.S. law firms for Banking & Finance, Capital Markets (Debt & Equity), Corporate/M&A (The Elite), Environment (Mainly Transactional), Media & Entertainment (Corporate), Securities Litigation, General Commercial Litigation (The Elite) and Tax.
In 2015, Cravath was ranked eighth in The American Lawyer's annual listing of highest profits per partner.
Under the Cravath System, the firm is known for focusing its hiring on associates straight from law school, with a strong emphasis on grades, then over years of apprenticeship rotations, immersing them in details of every aspect of corporate law practice. Under this philosophy, lateral hires are rare, with some exceptions. In 2005, Cravath hired Andrew W. Needham, formerly a tax partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, as the first lateral partner since Herbert L. Camp, also a tax partner, from the now-defunct Donovan Leisure Newton & Irvine in 1987. Camp, however, had previously been a Cravath associate and is therefore not considered a true lateral because he started his career there. Before that, Roswell Magill, a former Treasury Department official, became a Cravath tax partner in 1943. In 2007, the firm brought in Richard Levin from Skadden, Arps to boost its new bankruptcy practice. In 2011, Cravath hired Christine A. Varney, a former U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division for the Obama Administration. In 2013, the firm hired David Kappos, who served as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Notable current and former employees
The firm has numerous alumni in business, the law, academia, publishing, cinema, and government service.
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- Cravath Hires Tax Partner, Its First Lateral in Decades
- Cravath starts a bankruptcy practice
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