For more than 80 years, Sutherland has built on the high standards of its founders with a commitment to integrity and to the highest quality of services for its clients.
Founded in 1924 by William Sutherland, who had earlier served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brandeis, and Elbert Tuttle, who later became the Chief Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the firm of Sutherland & Tuttle first established a national reputation in the tax field. In the ensuing years, the firm has also developed prominent practices in corporate, energy, financial services, intellectual property, litigation and real estate.
During the early years, Sutherland strengthened its tax practice by mastering the intricacies of the New Deal legislation. The firm became especially adept in this area through the work of Joseph Brennan, who became a partner in 1933. Now known as Sutherland, Tuttle & Brennan, the firm also took on many landmark pro bono matters in this era, including the landmark 1938 right-to-counsel case of Johnson v. Zerbst, one of the most oft-cited cases in the 20th century. The firm opened an office in Washington, DC in 1937, and this office grew apace after World War II when William Sutherland relocated to the city. The tandem development of the Atlanta and Washington offices gave the firm the distinction of being one of the first national law firms.
The firm was hit hard by World War II. Nearly all of the partners enlisted to fight, with only two remaining behind. Although the firm was able to find suitable part-time advocates, they still had to turn down cases. Fortunately all of the firm’s lawyers returned to carry on their legal work, and most of Sutherland’s prewar client relationships continued. Among the firm’s contributions to the war effort, two Sutherland lawyers were wounded in battle, two were awarded the Legion of Merit, and one was awarded the Bronze Star.
The postwar years saw the firm expand into real estate, insurance, education litigation and corporate law. The firm got a major boost in 1949 with the addition to the Washington office of Mac Asbill, Sr., a leader in antitrust law and litigation. In 1954, firm co-founder Elbert Tuttle accepted an appointment to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, where he went on to become one of the most esteemed federal judges of the 20th century. Upon Tuttle’s departure, the firm was renamed Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, the name it was known by for over 50 years. Also in this era, the firm was honored yet again when partner Randolph Thrower was appointed Commissioner of Internal Revenue in 1969. On the tax front, the firm began work on a set of depletion cases for mining companies, and it took on the complicated tax case of John D. Hollingsworth, then one of the wealthiest men in America.
In the 1970s and 80s, Sutherland expanded even further, building a solid foundation in the fields of energy, financial services, technology and intellectual property law. The energy group, in particular, grew into one of the nation’s most recognized such practices in a very short time. Among its early cases was the representation of Northwest Pipeline Corporation in its successful application to the Federal Power Commission to build the Alaskan Natural Gas Pipeline (1974-79).
The 1980s saw the firm’s litigation practice expand dramatically with the first of many reinsurance cases, including one that culminated in the largest reinsurance arbitration in history. In the 1990s, the firm reached the 300-lawyer mark and opened its office in Austin. During this same period, Sutherland partner Margaret Richardson followed in Randolph Thrower’s footsteps by becoming the head of the IRS. In 1995, the partners implemented a firm integration plan and named James L. Henderson III the first Firmwide Managing Partner. This move ushered in Sutherland’s most significant period of growth.
Since 2000, Sutherland has formally created an Intellectual Property Group, opened burgeoning offices in New York and Houston, and successfully integrated its operations always employing the latest in state-of-the-art technology.
In May 2005, Mark D. Wasserman succeeded Jim Henderson to become firmwide Managing Partner. The firm now has approximately 425 lawyers and represents clients around the globe from its offices in Atlanta, Washington, New York, Austin, Houston and Sacramento.