Our Commitment Continues

Harter Secrest & Emery’s roots trace to 1894 when Nathaniel Foote and James Havens formed a law partnership in downtown Rochester. Foote and Havens’ firm has grown and evolved, and today ranks as Rochester’s largest and most honored firm, along with thriving offices in Buffalo, Albany, and across New York State. HSE remains, at heart, the small firm that Foote and Havens founded in 1894.

As we look to the future, we take stock of how we got here.

What Makes us Different

Our Story

 

1894 - 1919

In 1894, during an eventful year in the boomtown of Rochester N.Y., two prominent lawyers, Nathaniel Foote and James S. Havens, formed a law partnership that evolved into today’s Harter Secrest & Emery LLP. Foote & Havens opened its office downtown in the newly constructed Ellwanger & Barry Building, colorfully described by one historian as “resplendent with blue and yellow tile floors, imitation brick walls, and potted rubber plants and ferns”- a decorating style not exactly shared by the Firm today. The Firm’s founding coincided with the opening of the Seneca Park Zoo, the laying of the cornerstone at the Monroe County Courthouse (now the County Office Building), and the initial manufacturing of Zeiss patented optical goods by John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb.

1894

Foote & Havens opens in the Ellwanger & Barry Building in the Four Corners neighborhood of downtown Rochester. At eight stories, it is one of the city's first skyscrapers.

1895

Nathaniel Foote serves as the first elected president of the Rochester Bar Association (now the Monroe County Bar Association).

1898

James Breck Perkins joins Foote & Havens and enters politics while practicing law. He is elected to the New York State Assembly and then to the U.S. Congress where he served for ten years.

1900

Eastman Kodak Company introduces the Brownie Camera. It cost $1.00 and film cost $0.15.

1905

The Firm changes the name to Perkins & Havens.

1906

Susan B. Anthony, a pioneer leader of the women's suffrage movement, dies in Rochester at the age of 86.

1907

James S. Havens, and new associate William F. Strang, merge the Firm with Harris & Harris, changing the name to Harris, Havens, Beach & Harris.

1913

The Memorial Art Gallery on the University of Rochester's Prince Street Campus is founded. It was a gift from Emily Sibley Watson as a memorial to her son, architect James Averell.

1917

James S. Havens achieves fame for his political leadership in the State Democratic Party, and for his courtroom victories defending major newspapers in libel actions. In 1917, he accepts an offer by his friend, George Eastman, to serve as the first General Counsel of Eastman Kodak Company.

1919

As the devastating battles of World War I concluded, the Firm, then known as Havens, Mann, Strang & Whipple, celebrates its 25th anniversary.

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1895
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1900
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1906
1907
1913
1917
1919

During its second quarter, the Firm endured the national and global challenges presented by Prohibition, the excesses of the Roaring Twenties, the extreme hardship of the Depression, and the horrors and upheaval of World War II. Through it all, the Firm held its course and maintained its culture, led by the quietly forceful, unpretentious, and visionary leader, William F. Strang.

1920

Nathaniel Foote retires from the bench. The Firm he started is now known as Mann, Strang, Bodine & Wright.

1926

The Firm helped Eastman Kodak Company obtain U.S. Patent No. 1,606,447 for the photographic shutter, and assisted Bausch & Lomb Optical Company in obtaining U.S. Patent No. 1,612,693 for a magnifying glass.

1928

The Firm changes its name to Mann, Strang, Bodine, Wright & Combs. William F. Strang is elected president of the Rochester Bar Association.

1929

This era enjoys a blossoming of higher education institutions in the Rochester area (most of which the Firm currently represents), including the dedication of the University of Rochester’s River Campus.

1932

George Eastman commits suicide. His suicide note read, “To my friends: my work is done. Why wait?”

1933

Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the 32nd President of the United States and launches the New Deal to help the country recover from the Great Depression.

1936

C. Vincent (Bud) Wiser becomes a partner in the Firm. His work on the City Planning Commission set his reputation as the dean of real estate lawyers. His lectures on real estate practices are compiled into a booklet that became a standard reference for Monroe County real estate lawyers.

1939

World War II begins following Germany's invasion of Poland on September 1.

1942

The Firm becomes Strang, Bodine, Wright & Combs after James Mann’s death in 1941. Donald R. Harter (pictured) joins as a trusts and estates attorney.

1943

Cobbs Hill Park is used as a Prisoner of War camp, housing both Italian and German POWs.

1920
1926
1928
1929
1932
1933
1936
1939
1942
1943

The end of World War II gave rise to a booming economy. Low interest rates, newly built suburban homes, urban renewal, and corporate growth led to brisk business for the Firm, then known as Strang, Wright, Combs, Wiser & Shaw.

1948

The Haloid Company, later known as Xerox, unveils the first xerographic printer.

1949

After a highly decorated military career, Richard (Dick) B. Secrest joins the Firm and becomes a partner in a record three years.

1953

Partner Hyman B. Freeman is elected president of the Monroe County Bar Association. The Firm is now known as Strang, Wright, Combs, Wiser & Shaw.

1954

Aided by the arrivals of R. Clinton (Clint) Emery (pictured) in 1954, and Nathan (Nick) J. Robfogel and Thomas A. Solberg in 1959, Harter Secrest & Emery becomes the “go-to” Firm for closely held corporations in the region.

1955

Rosa Parks refuses to relinquish her seat in the "colored section" of a Montgomery, Alabama bus, to a white passenger, after the "whites-only" section was filled. This initiated the black community to boycott Montgomery city buses for over a year.

1961

President John F. Kennedy creates the Peace Corps. By September, over 1,000 volunteers are providing assistance in underdeveloped countries.

1962

Lawrence (Larry) R. Palvino (pictured) and Bud Wiser serve as legal architects for Midtown Plaza, the nation’s first indoor downtown shopping mall, and Midtown Tower, its adjoining 18-story office building.

1964

The Rochester Race Riots take place for three days in July and mark the beginning of riots throughout the United States during the civil rights movement.

1967

As part of continuing urban renewal, Xerox Corporation begins construction of a 30-story office tower (Xerox Tower) at Broad Street East and Clinton Avenue South.

1968

The Firm, known as Wiser, Shaw, Freeman, Van Graafeiland, Harter & Secrest, moves from The Powers Building to Midtown Tower.

1969

Upon her death, longtime client Margaret Woodbury Strong left a remarkably flexible will drafted by Don Harter. As a result, Mrs. Strong’s eclectic collections of dolls, doll houses, and toys were transformed into The Strong, National Museum of Play and the National Toy Hall of Fame. (photo provided by The Strong)

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1949
1953
1954
1955
1961
1962
1964
1967
1968
1969

By 1970, the Firm was among Rochester’s largest law firms, having grown to more than 40 lawyers as new, specialized practice groups formed to serve clients in developing areas of the law. In 1975, Ellsworth Van Graafeiland, a recent president of the New York State Bar Association and the leader of the Firm’s litigation practice, was appointed by President Gerald Ford to serve as a judge on the prestigious United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. As a result, a name change was in order, and the Firm became Harter Secrest & Emery LLP.

1974

Gerald Ford becomes the 38th president, declaring "our long national nightmare is over," after Richard Nixon resigned.

1975

The Firm becomes Harter Secrest & Emery LLP.

1976

Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne launch Apple Computers.

1977

Rochester is known as the leading jazz town in Upstate New York. Famous jazz musicians played all night long, from club to club, on Clarissa Street. Rochester’s jazz trumpeter, Chuck Mangione, wins his first Grammy Award in the category Best Instrumental Composition.

1980

Robert N. Latella, a partner in the corporate group, is chosen as the first Managing Partner of Harter Secrest & Emery.

1982

Kenneth A. Payment successfully defends popular entertainer, Dolly Parton, in a breach of performance case before the U.S. Court of Appeals.

1984

Susan M. Brandt becomes Harter Secrest & Emery’s first female partner.

1987

Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, is elected to Congress, defeating incumbent Fred J. Eckert. She served 31 years until her death in 2018.

1988

The Monroe County Bar Association awards the Adolph J. Rodenbeck Award to Nathan (Nick) J. Robfogel.

1989

The Firm opens offices in Albany and Syracuse, New York.

1993

The Firm’s growth to more than 100 attorneys is fueled by a merger with the litigation firm of Brennan, Centner, Palermo & Blauvelt.

1994

The partnership decides to adopt an uncommon compensation system for the legal industry known as “lockstep.” The result is a highly cooperative, collaborative environment among all lawyers and support staff.

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1977
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1984
1987
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1989
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1994

1994 - 2019

 

With offices in Albany, Buffalo, Corning, Rochester, and New York City, Harter Secrest & Emery proudly represents a wide range of clients from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, municipalities to human services organizations, universities, retail merchants, not-for-profits and more, from sole proprietorships to companies with over 150,000 employees.

1995

Led by partners John G. Horn (pictured left) and Anthony D. Mancinelli (pictured right), the Buffalo office opens and grows to more than 30 attorneys. The Firm has taken its place among the most influential Buffalo law firms, representing many of the most significant institutions throughout the Buffalo Niagara region.

1998

Harter Secrest & Emery partner James C. Moore becomes president of the New York State Bar Association.

2001

Harter Secrest & Emery moves its headquarters from 700 Midtown Plaza Tower to the Bausch & Lomb Place, currently named Legacy Tower.

2001

Militants associated with the Islamic group al-Qaeda hijack four airplanes and carry out suicide attacks against targets in the United States, killing nearly 3,000 people and injuring 6,000 others.

2004

Maureen T. Alston is elected as the first female Managing Partner. She served in that role for eight years.

2005

The University of Rochester becomes the area’s top employer with over 17,200 employees.

2006

For the third year in a row, Harter Secrest & Emery receives the #1 ranking in The American Lawyer Midlevel Associates Survey.

2007

Harter Secrest & Emery partner Thomas G. Smith becomes president of the Monroe County Bar Association.

2008

Barack H. Obama defeats John S. McCain to become the 44th President, making him the first African-American president in the history of the United States of America.

2011

American soldiers kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at his compound near Islamabad, Pakistan.

2012

Every year since 2012, the Firm’s immigration practice has been recognized by Chambers USA as a leader in New York State. The Firm is also awarded the National Law Journal’s “Midsized Hot List” recognition.

2016

Craig S. Wittlin becomes Managing Partner of Harter Secrest & Emery.

2016

The Buffalo office experiences significant growth with the addition of 11 attorneys, including three partners: Rowland Richards (pictured left) and Michael J. Berchou (pictured right) who joined in August, and Patrick M. Tomovic, who joined three months later.

2017

Harter Secrest & Emery receives the President’s Award from the United Way of Greater Rochester. Picture L-R Melissa Lyons, Maura C. McGuire, Barbara Tydings, Kimberly I. Shimomura, Joseph G. Casion, Rhonda Noto, and Rayza Santiago.

2018

Harter Secrest & Emery’s Securities and Capital Markets team, led by partner James M. Jenkins (pictured third from left) helps Jerash Holdings (US), Inc. become the first Jordanian company to be listed on a major U.S. stock exchange.

2018

Partner and founder of the Firm’s Government and Internal Investigations practice group, Brian M. Feldman, was selected by the New York Law Journal as a recipient of the Rising Stars award.

2019

Harter Secrest & Emery receives 35 U.S. News - Best Lawyers® 2019 "Best Law Firms" top tier practice group rankings–more Western New York rankings than any other law firm. The Firm also earns national rankings in Corporate Law and Land Use & Zoning Law.

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