After 115 years, our history is finally told. For this gift, we must thank Duane Wall above all, who has pursued this project since Jim Hurlock started it to commemorate the Firm’s 100th anniversary in 2001. No one knows our history better than Duane, but it is no simple feat to write history as you participate in it—especially when it keeps moving.
I say “gift” because we have a magnificent history that is a source of great pride to those who have been a part of it. More than a rich tapestry of personalities, milestones and achievements, our history reveals the strands of our identity today, if you look closely. It is also a source of wisdom, reflecting our collective experience. And it reminds us of our purpose, showing the ways we bring value to our clients and the impact we have on society. This purpose is the source of our strength.
Our history also tells the story of our journey—how we evolved from a small, distinguished New York City law firm to a new type of firm, one that hadn’t existed before. That is the global law firm: defined not by any one place, nationality or legal system but by its ability to serve clients anywhere in the world, reflecting the globalization of the economy.
Yet the global law firm we have become is not like any other. Its distinctive elements are rooted in our history: our U.S. origins, with a culture of client service, entrepreneurship and meritocracy; our strength and depth in the world’s most important markets, built up over decades, and most notably both in New York and London; and our single, global partnership, made up of the finest lawyers from all the markets in which we operate. These elements have forged a firm that is not a collection of pieces around the world, but a uniquely integrated whole, with a diversity that reflects the world of which it is a part.
Our journey of transformation into a global law firm is made up of many histories—there is one for every office around the world. These histories are briefly described in this book, but each could merit a book in its own right. In Moscow, for example, we wrote the book
to tell our story in Russia, from our first-mover entry in 1991 to our 15th anniversary, alongside the dramatic changes in that country in which we played a role. I look forward to the day when these other histories are told—and the same applies to our practices, client relationships and notable matters—because the color and nuance of these individual stories show the strength of each part of our Firm and what makes us successful. But that is the work of those who will follow, to reach further into our past to find more of the wonderful stories and contributions of thousands of people over more than a century.
One of my goals as Chair has been to connect the Firm with its storied past, a source of pride and insight, and even a competitive advantage. Making our history accessible to everyone in the Firm is an important first step in fulfilling that ambition.
But in celebrating our history, we must not allow our past successes to stop us from making the changes we need to be successful in the future. Understanding our history is not an attempt to freeze it in time; it gives us an opportunity to reflect on what needs to be changed or removed to make room for the future. We should be empowered by our history, not constrained by it.
When I think of the Firm I joined more than 30 years ago and how it has grown and changed so dramatically over the course of my career, I am excited by what it is capable of becoming in the decades ahead. For anyone at the Firm today or in the years to come, I hope this history shows you the power that lies in your hands to shape White & Case to meet the needs of the future—and inspires you to play your part.
Hugh Verrier