John Woodruff Simpson, Thomas Thacher and William Milo Barnum began 1884 with a grander New Year’s resolution than most – to start a new law firm. All three graduated from Columbia Law School and worked together as law clerks.
The 1880s marked a period of growth and development for the railroads in the United States. Simpson, Thacher and Barnum opened on Wall Street and quickly became the trusted advisor to a number of major railroad clients. The Firm acted as the railroad’s general counsel, litigating disputes and guiding mergers that marked the consolidation of the railroad industry. Out of those transactions, some of the country's largest corporations were born.
Simpson, Thacher and Barnum's railroad experience and its growing energy and commodities practices positioned the Firm to help shape the American business landscape for the next two decades. The deals in which the Firm was counsel included:
- The formation of the "Brooklyn Union Gas Syndicate" from seven separate gas operations;
- Representing General Electric in forming light and power companies around the country and abroad;
- The creation of the American Power & Light Company, which acquired utilities throughout the United States;
- The reorganization of multiple businesses merging into the International Silver Company;
- The formation of the American Locomotive Company; and
- The structuring of the American Gas and Electric Company, which connected utilities throughout the East and Midwest.
In 1904, William Barnum retired. Philip Bartlett, who joined the Firm shortly after its founding, became a name partner and the Firm became known as Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.