Davis Polk & Wardwell ("Davis Polk") is a law firm, headquartered in the United States, with approximately 1000 attorneys located in ten offices around the globe, including the United States (New York, Menlo Park, Washington D.C.), South America (São Paulo), Europe (London, Paris, Madrid), and Asia (Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing).
One of the oldest law firms in the United States, Davis Polk specializes in corporate matters but is a full-service law firm and offers a range of legal services. In 2020, the firm boasted a $1.7 billion gross revenue, placing fifteenth on The American Lawyer's 2021 AMLAW 200 ranking. On the 2021 Global 200 survey, Davis Polk ranked as the twentieth highest-grossing law firm in the world.
In 1849, Davis Polk & Wardwell was founded in New York City by Francis N. Bangs. Soon thereafter, Francis L. Stetson joined the firm, bringing his experience as a government attorney in which he handled high-profile anti-corruption and corporate matters. In 1887, the firm was retained by J.P. Morgan and has remained a key client since.
In 1967, the firm voted to assume its current namesake to reflect its three most influential partners: John W. Davis, Frank L. Polk, and Allen Wardwell. In 1909, Wardwell became a named partner and was soon considered the firm's de facto leader. Wardwell is credited with recruiting both other named partners at the firm, John Davis and Frank Polk. In 1920, Polk joined the firm after previously serving as Acting United States Secretary of State and in other diplomatic and administrative roles in the State Department. In 1925, Davis became the head of the firm. Previously, Davis served in government as the Solicitor General of the United States, the United States Ambassador to Great Britain, and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Over the course of his career, Davis argued 140 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Davis Polk's three main areas of practice include corporate, litigation, and tax.
Davis Polk’s corporate department advises businesses and financial institutions on complex business matters and transactions around the globe.
Davis Polk's litigation department represents clients in trials, investigations (both criminal and regulatory), congressional matters, arbitrations, and other potentially adversarial matters before an array of judicial and administrative bodies.
Davis Polk's tax department advises on complex transactions, corporate structures, derivatives, and other financial products.
In addition to the above practice areas, Davis Polk offers counsel in the following areas:
- Antitrust & Competition
- Capital Markets
- Civil Litigation
- Data Privacy & Cybersecurity
- Derivatives & Structured Products
- Executive Compensation
- Financial Institutions
- Investment Management
- IP & Tech Transactions
- IP Litigation
- Mergers & Acquisitions
- Private Equity
- Real Estate
- Trusts & Estates
- White Collar Defense & Investigations
- Counsel to J.P. Morgan in the creation of General Electric (1892)
- Counsel in the establishment of International Paper Company (1898)
- Counsel to J.P. Morgan in the establishment of the United States Steel Corporation (1901)
- Counsel to AT&T in obtaining a $150 million bond (1905)
- Represented Erie Railroad before the U.S Supreme Court in Erie v. Tompkins, in which Justice Louis Brandeis introduced the Erie doctrine (1944)
- Represented U.S. Steel before the U.S. Supreme Court in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, successfully challenging the constitutionality of President Harry S. Truman's attempted takeover of the company. Established important precedent used to assess the limits of executive branch power (1952)
- Represented the state of South Carolina before the United States Supreme Court in a companion case to Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
- Counsel to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in a variety of matters (starting as early as 1960)
- Counsel to the United Kingdom on the initial public offering (IPO)of British Airways (1987)
- Counsel to United Parcel Service for its IPO (at the time, the largest IPO in the United States) (1999)
- Counsel to JP Morgan during billion merger with Chase Manhattan Bank to form JPMorgan Chase (2000)
- Retained by Elon Musk for the acquisition of Twitter (2022)
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