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Our history

Celebrating 275 years

We are the world’s oldest global law firm, but we are constantly reinventing ourselves.

Technological disruption, economic crises, political risk – the challenges facing the world’s biggest businesses have been the same throughout history. We know because we have been at their side for 275 years, giving them the confidence to shape the future. 

In 2018 we celebrate our 275th anniversary and we will be taking a look at the past, present and future through global events and changing landscapes.

Read our story so far.

 

 

  • 1743

    Our first client

    Samuel Dodd appointed attorney to the Bank of England. The bank is still a client today.

  • 1788

    The Industrial Revolution

    Winter & Kaye, the antecedent of Freshfields, begins advising ‘father of the factory’ Sir Richard Arkwright, whose invention of the ‘water frame’ ushered in the Industrial Revolution.

     
  • 1801

    The first Freshfield

    James William Freshfield, who started his working life as a teenage apprentice to a London watchmaker, becomes a partner. His adopted coat of arms includes the archangel Saint Michael, which we still use today.

     
  • 1824

    Lloyd's

    James Freshfield is made an honorary member of Lloyd’s – his firm had already been conducting the institution’s legal affairs for some time.

     
  • 1800s

  • 1840

    Stegemann

    The precursor firm of Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber is founded in Hamburg and builds a solid ‘Hanseatic’ shipping and trade practice and through that a public international law practice. In the 1890s Stegemann acted for the Imperial German Government on the international treaty between the German Empire and the UK to transfer Zanzibar and British and German interests in East Africa.

     
  • 1847

    'The Panic'

    Freshfields takes a central role in responding to the effects of a serious UK economic and social crash caused by the bursting of a railway investment bubble and the Irish Potato Famine.

     
  • 1853

    Making the law

    James William Freshfield (the younger) advises Prime Minister William Gladstone on the Succession Duty Act, an important inheritance tax development.

     
  • 1856

    The Great Eastern

    Charles Freshfield advises on contractual issues around the construction of the Great Eastern steam ship. He communicates directly with Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

     
  • 1871

    Building global trade

    Freshfields’ international clients include the East Indian Railway Company, the Ottoman–Smyrna Railway Company, the Copiapó Mining Company of Chile, the East and West India Dock Company, Australia’s Peel River Land and Mineral Company and the National Bank of New Zealand.

  • 1900s

  • 1931

    The Great Depression

    Freshfields is heavily involved in a commission that meets throughout the 1930s at Rothschilds to deal with the fallout of the Credit-Anstalt collapse.

     
  • 1935

    Law Society president

    Sir Leslie Peppiatt, who became president of the Law Society, joins the firm. His brother Kenneth was Chief Cashier at the Bank of England.

     
  • 1944

    A new beginning

    Old Freshfields Jewry offices destroyed by a WWII ‘doodlebug’ V-1 bomb. The firm moves to the Bank Buildings.

     
  • 1962

    A German partnership

    Arved Deringer, a German lawyer and politician, founded law practice in Bonn together with Claus Tessin.

     
  • 1963

    Dispute resolution

    Alan Redfern is hired, the first litigator in what will become our world-leading DR practice.

     
  • 1972

    Continental Europe

    The Paris office opens. Another 13 offices across continental Europe follow in the next 28 years.

     
  • 1974

    Modernisation

    Partners agree to move the focus from private clients to corporate law. The lockstep remuneration model is adopted. Freshfields is regularly involved in complex corporate transformations such as the bailout of Rolls-Royce.

     
  • 1977

    The US

    The New York office opens, followed by a Washington office in 1998.

     
  • 1980

    Asia

    Freshfields’ Asia presence is established with a Singapore office, followed by Beijing, Shanghai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

     
  • 1986

    The ‘Big Bang’

    Freshfields gets an enormous boost from the ‘Big Bang’ deregulation of London’s financial services markets, laying the foundation of Freshfields’ world-leading M&A practice.

     
  • 1989

    Brussels

    Our Brussels team’s work in Europe lays the foundation of our peerless ACT practice.

     
  • 1993

    250 years

    Freshfields celebrates its 250th anniversary with 125 partners and more than 400 lawyers.

     
  • 1998

    First German–Austrian cross-border merger

    Bruckhaus Westrick Stegemann merges with Vienna-based Heller Löber Bahn & Partner to form Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber.

     
  • 2000

    A merger of equals

    Freshfields merges with German firm Deringer Tessin Herrmann & Sedemund and German–Austrian firm Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber to form Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. This unprecedented merger of equals brings together more than 270 years’ of experience.

     
  • 2000s

  • 2005

    Dubai office

    The Dubai office opens followed by the Bahrain office and the Abu Dhabi office over the next three years. Freshfields has been advising clients in the UAE since its establishment.

     
  • 2007-9

    Global financial crisis

    A snowballing global banking crisis sees our lawyers called on to address unprecedented restructuring and insolvency matters, and advise governments worldwide (including drafting over a single weekend new legislation for the German government).

  • 2009

    Olympic Games

    Freshfields is appointed as the first official legal services provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

     
  • 2015

    A global service centre

    The Global Centre opens in Manchester, UK, to ensure Freshfields stays ahead in a fast-changing world. Among its services is the Legal Services Centre, a lower-cost, high-quality alternative for process-oriented legal services.

     
  • The future

    With more than 270 years’ experience globally, Freshfields continues to help clients grow, strengthen and defend their businesses – building on its history of thinking ahead.