Our First 100 Years

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Our First Client is Still Our Client
In 1906, Theodore S. Chapman became counsel for N.W. Harris & Co., which at the time, was the largest distributor of municipal and corporate bonds in the United States. Mr. Chapman was tasked with converting N.W. Harris & Co. into a state bank under the name Harris Trust and Savings Bank and was responsible for reviewing documentation of purchases of municipal bonds made by Harris Bank. He left the employ of Harris Bank on January 1, 1913 to start a law practice — Harris Bank remained his principal client.  Mr. Chapman’s office was in the Harris Bank Building at 111 West Monroe Street, where our Chicago office is still located today. Henry Cutler, a lawyer with Chicago Title and Trust, joined Mr. Chapman in the fall of 1913 to form Chapman and Cutler.

Growing the Practice
Harris Bank was instrumental in persuading other municipal bond underwriters to send their documentation to Chapman and Cutler for examination. Mr. Chapman continued to concentrate his attention on banking and corporate matters while Mr. Cutler assumed responsibility for the public finance practice. In the following two decades, the firm significantly expanded its practice with a number of innovations, most notable of which was that Mr. Chapman was the principal draftsman of the Illinois Securities Law of 1919. The so-called state "blue sky" laws were the predecessors of Federal Securities Laws. During the 1920s when securities regulation was a Midwestern phenomenon, the firm processed large volumes of securities registration work because of Mr. Chapman's role in this field and his connections with investment bankers nationwide.

Enduring the Depression
During the Depression, the firm diversified into corporate reorganizations, refundings and mortgage foreclosures including the Stephens Hotel (now known as Chicago Hilton and Towers), the Chicago Stadium (now known as the United Center), and the Newberry Library. Numerous corporations defaulted on their debt obligations and sought protection from creditors under the bankruptcy laws. The firm represented bondholder committees in developing plans for reorganization, conducting proceedings in bankruptcy court and arranging for the issue of securities to the creditors. At this time, the firm also established the general corporate, public utilities, real estate, probate and wills and general litigation practice areas. During World War II, the volume of business in the public finance area temporarily diminished and the firm began representing insurance companies in the private placement of corporate securities, a role that is still the backbone of its corporate finance business.

Developing Chicago
Over the next several decades, the firm was involved in numerous public finance transactions that resulted in the development of various Chicago landmarks, cultural institutions, universities, hospitals and transportation systems. Some transactions of note include the financing for the Illinois Tollway, O'Hare Airport (including the United and American Airlines Terminals), the new ballpark for the Chicago White Sox (now called US Cellular Field), the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's new Symphony Center, the Oceanarium at the John G. Shedd Aquarium, the Ape House at Lincoln Park Zoo, the North Pier Complex, and the Chicago Transit Authority. Chapman and Cutler has also been involved in financings that resulted in the acquisition of artwork for The Art Institute of Chicago, new exhibits for the Field Museum of Natural History and multimedia production costs for the Museum of Science and Industry.

Expanding Our Footprint
In 1981, the firm opened its Salt Lake City office and in 2003, Chapman expanded to San Francisco. In 2009, the firm opened an office in New York City and in 2012, expanded into Washington, DC. 2013 marks our centennial as a firm and we look forward to continuing our tradition of teamwork, innovation, and collaboration with clients for the next one hundred years.