Milbank, 'Not a Wall Street Firm Anymore,' Takes New Name

Milbank's new Hudson Yards offices (Photo: David Handschuh/NYLJ)

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, one of New York's oldest and most elite law firms, is now simply Milbank LLP.

The name change became legally effective Tuesday, on the same day the firm moved from downtown to its new office at 55 Hudson Yards. The firm had been downtown since its founding about 150 years ago. Milbank's shortened name is visible throughout its new offices.

"We are not a Wall Street firm," said Scott Edelman, the firm's chairman, in an interview Thursday. "We are so much more than that."

While many have referred to the firm as simply Milbank, the change in its legal name makes it official and marks another step, along with the Hudson Yards move, in Milbank’s evolution from its downtown roots.

The new name refers only to founding partner Albert G. Milbank and drops three partners off the firm's letterhead: Harrison Tweed, Morris Hadley and John J. McCloy, who had perhaps one of the most prominent careers among New York lawyers.

While all the former name partners served on prominent boards and positions beyond the law firm, McCloy was among the most visible in New York legal circles, serving as a "lawyer, diplomat and adviser to seven presidents,” according to an archived history from the firm’s website.

In 1952, according to the firm’s chronology, after another stint in public service, McCloy became chairman of the financial institution that would under his leadership become The Chase Manhattan Bank. He rejoined Milbank in 1961 as of counsel, but was soon pressed back into public service by President John F. Kennedy to act as special assistant on disarmament, and by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who appointed him to the Warren Commission, which investigated Kennedy’s assassination. When he returned as a general partner, the firm name became Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

While the firm is proud of its history and the partners' contributions, Edelman said, "it's been so long that they've been associated with the firm," and there's "no connection with the lawyers here today and those names."

Milbank for many years was thought of as a Wall Street firm focusing on banks, Edelman said, "and the words 'white-shoe' were associated with that."

"That's not at all what the firm is focused on today," he said, adding that the firm's business with banks accounts for a minority of its revenue. "I don’t think of Milbank as a Wall Street firm anymore."

"We’re not trying to walk away from doing that work," but Milbank also represents many other types of clients, he said.

The firm's new brand is a more accurate and contemporary reflection of what Milbank has become and its success, he said, adding the rebrand is a "tangible symbol" of Milbank now.

"We're quite diverse," he said, noting the firm has work across Latin America, Asia and Europe. He said the firm has thriving transactional, litigation and restructuring departments, represents companies, hedge funds and private equity funds, and handles work in new industries, such as satellite technology.

Two Milbank partners who helped the firm rebrand, Christopher Gaspar and Paul Denaro, said the firm's partners voted unanimously on the name change several weeks ago. But the rebranding effort stretched over months.

Denaro said the firm has been referred to over the years as Milbank, Milbank Tweed, its full legal name or just MTHC. "The whole point is to get everyone back to a common denominator," he said, "so that we could have a consistent message about who we are as a firm."

With the firm's new brand, the partners wanted to "be reflective of our modern firm but also not to lose sight of the 153-year heritage," Gaspar said.

Milbank is far from alone in rebranding and shortening its name lately. The moves come amid a wider trend in the legal industry toward more compact names and tighter brand identities. Boston-based Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo pared down to Mintz. Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott formally changed its name to Bartlit Beck.

Milbank may be the first elite New York firm in recent memory to change its name, however. Several others in New York have remained committed to their longer names, and to the ampersands that bind them.

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