​Our History

Our History

Orrick’s history is defined by the character and innovative and collaborative spirit of generations of lawyers and staff over the course of a century and a half. Rooted in pioneering post-Gold Rush California, ours is a story that extends to virtually every major world market, from New York to Paris and Los Angeles to Shanghai—wherever our clients have needs for dedicated “company lawyers.”

Our Beginnings

In 1863, our founder John R. Garboe became chief legal counsel to the newly organized German Savings and Loan Society (which would later be part of the First Interstate Bank of California), establishing his office as one of the leading legal authorities of San Francisco as the city was emerging as the center of commerce of the western United States. In 1885, he joined with colleagues Ralph C. Harrison and W.S. Goodfellow to practice under the name of Jarboe, Harrison & Goodfellow, a firm that would participate over the next century in many of the most significant events in California history. Mr. Harrison left the practice in 1891 upon his appointment as justice to the California Supreme Court, and Mr. Goodfellow formed a new partnership Goodfellow & Eells in 1901.

The Twentieth Century

During the early part of the century, Goodfellow & Eells assembled the corporations that became the Pacific Gas & Electric Company, our valued client to this day; helped to reorganize Fireman's Fund Insurance Company after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire; and resolved a dispute over the development of hydroelectric power in the Truckee River/Lake Tahoe region—a case led by William H. Orrick after he joined the firm in 1910.

In 1927, George Herrington joined our firm and laid the foundation for Orrick’s future as the premier U.S. bond firm with his work on the financing of the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Southern Pacific Railroad, which owned the Golden Gate Ferry Company and stood to lose a significant source of income when the bridge was completed, unsuccessfully contested the validity of the bonds.

Eric Sutcliffe joined our firm in 1932 to work on the Golden Gate Bridge financing as well as registration statements for PG&E, which were among the first processed by the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Securities Act of 1933. In 1947, Mr. Orrick chose Mr. Sutcliffe to become managing partner, a position he held for more than 30 years.

In 1975, we welcomed Maryellen Cattani as the first woman in the partnership. Finance partner Marie Riehle became the first woman practice group leader in the 1980s, pioneering the way for the formation of our award-winning diversity program in 1990.

Our firm name became Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in 1980. Three years later, we began our expansion outside of San Francisco, opening an office in California’s capital to support our growing bond practice. The launch of our New York finance practice followed in 1984. The New York office steadily grew in size and scope, particularly with the addition of the litigation department of Donovan Leisure in 1998. Today, New York is our second-largest office. We opened in Los Angeles in 1985.

Orrick Today

In 1990, Ralph Baxter, one of California’s leading employment litigators, became chairman, setting in motion Orrick’s transformation into a firm that today is recognized among the 20 leading global law firms.

Over the next two decades, we steadily built out our geographic platform, adding Washington, D.C. (1993), followed by Silicon Valley (1995). We later established our Pacific Northwest presence with the opening of our Seattle office (2000), followed by Portland (2002). We launched our international practice, beginning with Tokyo (1995), by adding teams of leading local practitioners with deep experience representing international clients. We expanded to Europe, opening in London (1998) and then Paris (2002), Milan (2003) and Rome (2004). Paris soon became our largest European office through a combination with the market-leading French firm of Rambaud Martel. We entered Moscow and Hong Kong (2005), followed by Beijing and Shanghai (2006).  We combined with the German firm of Hölters & Elsing in 2008, giving us a presence in Düsseldorf, Berlin and Frankfurt, and later added Munich (2011). Brussels followed in 2012. All together, Orrick quadrupled in size over the course of less than 20 years, while maintaining our focus on consistently delivering the highest-quality advice and building enduring client relationships.

Today, Orrick’s practices are concentrated in five areas: Corporate, where we advise companies of all sizes in the technology sector and beyond; Energy & Infrastructure, where we have particular strength in renewable energy transactions and in public private partnerships; Finance, where Orrick continues to be a leading bond firm and also is a pioneer in structured and leveraged finance; and in Intellectual Property and Litigation, where the firm represents more than a third of the Fortune 100 and has an extraordinary record of wins in high-stakes disputes.

Orrick also is well-known for bringing innovation to the law firm client service model. In 2002, we launched the industry’s first global insourcing center in Wheeling, West Virginia. We then introduced an innovative talent model, replacing the traditional lockstep system with merit-based advancement for associates and creating the role of career associate to handle process-driven tasks embedded in even the most complex legal work. In addition, we have pioneered the use of alternative pricing models. Our introduction of these and other innovations is driven by our goal of providing clients with services of distinctive value, thus better aligning Orrick with our clients.

In Spring 2013, Silicon Valley-based corporate partner Mitchell Zuklie succeeded Mr. Baxter as chairman. With our strong focus on the technology, energy and financial sectors and global platform, Orrick enters yet another new era in our history guided by our enduring core values: Excellence and Integrity; Cooperation and Individual Respect; and Enthusiasm and the Pursuit of Improvement.

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