Firm History

Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP celebrated its 150th year of legal practice in 2004, tracing our roots to 1854 and Dexter A. Hawkins, a native of Maine, whose practice was located at #10 Wall Street.  Hawkins' son, Eugene D. Hawkins, brought to the Firm the practices of trusts and estates and charitable organizations, as well as representation of coal and real estate companies.  Lewis L. Delafield, Sr., a member of a prominent New York family and a well known financial and business lawyer, started a law practice in 1857, which grew steadily thereafter. The Hawkins law firm and the Delafield law firm merged in 1892 to form Hawkins & Delafield, which was later expanded by a merger in 1909 with the firm of Delafield & Longfellow.  Delafield & Longfellow, founded by Frederick P. Delafield and Frederick W. Longfellow, specialized in railroads and development projects.

Hawkins, Delafield & Longfellow quickly gained a reputation for specialized expertise in the area of governmental finance.  From the late 19th Century the Firm was known to be active in the financing of municipal projects and continues to maintain records of opinions that date back to the 1880's and cover borrowings by governmental entities throughout the States and Territories of the then emerging country.  In the ensuing years, attorneys from the Firm participated actively in the design, implementation and financing of many of the country's most important governmental programs.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the Firm helped create special taxing districts for municipalities and private utilities to meet their growing need for power and communications.  During the 1930's, the Firm assisted in the restructurings that followed the Great Depression.  The Firm assisted in the creation of the "revenue bond authority," which permitted the financing of large public works projects but did not rely on general tax receipts.  The Firm was active in the establishment and development of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Power Authority of the State of New York and the New York State Thruway Authority, among others.

During World War II and afterwards attorneys from the Firm were involved with various war-related efforts, including being closely associated with the drafting of the new post-war Japanese Constitution. In 1945, the Firm adopted the name Hawkins, Delafield & Wood when Franklin S. Wood, a corporate attorney, joined the partnership and continued the tradition of the Firm's involvement with large public authorities.  During the 1950's and 1960's, attorneys in the Firm were again leaders in extending the revenue bond authority concept to cover not only bridges and tunnels, but highways (New Jersey Turnpike, Connecticut Turnpike and others), airports and other mass transit systems, as well as publicly owned utility systems.  For example, Hawkins, Delafield & Wood attorneys created the legal framework for the Washington Metropolitan Transportation System.  In the late 1960's and 1970's, Hawkins, Delafield & Wood pioneered the development of major governmental loan programs, helping state governments to replace the federal capital assistance that had been withdrawn from colleges, universities, hospitals and public housing projects.

Through work on such projects throughout the country, the Firm played a significant part in the development of project financing in the United States, helping to create many of the financing techniques in common use today, and played a prominent role in obtaining judicial recognition of the so-called "moral obligation" financings that enabled many public projects to be successfully underwritten.

More recently, Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP has helped to develop loan programs for housing, small businesses and individuals.  The Firm participated in the initial structuring and financing of numerous state housing finance agencies and state student loan agencies.  The Firm has excelled in housing finance and providing legal assistance to housing finance agencies.

The Firm developed a unique expertise in stabilizing distressed governmental operations, beginning with the Great Depression and extending to the post-War period, when it served as counsel to the state commission created to reform New Jersey's local government finances.  The Firm drafted the Local Bond Law that has governed the borrowing practices of local governments in New Jersey ever since.  The Firm's experience in developing new credit entities led to its participation in the design and structuring of the workout for New York City during the fiscal crisis of the mid 1970's, when the Firm acted as Bond Counsel for the Municipal Assistance Corporation for the City of New York ("MAC").  In fact, the firm played a crucial role in the first sale of MAC bonds by providing opinions that assured investors that certain last-minute litigation was without merit. According to Paul Hoffman, in his 1982 book Lions of the Eighties (Doubleday & Co.) recalling the bailout:

Wall Street veterans could not recall when a municipal-bond counsel last rendered a no-merit opinion.  "Without Hawkins' opinion, there would have been no MAC," said MAC's Eugene Keilin. "It's that simple. Hawkins gave us an unequivocal opinion. Without it, MAC would never have sold a bond. People weren't sure Hawkins was right, but they knew the firm wouldn't take chances."   

In subsequent years, the Firm has been actively involved with Nassau and Erie Counties in New York when those counties also experienced fiscal stress.  The Firm has also been a pioneer in the emerging field of municipal asset securitization for a variety of applications, including tax receipts, federal grants, and tobacco settlement proceeds.

In the process of designing and implementing these programs, Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP participated in legislation and litigation that has shaped both the national and international financial markets.  Hawkins lawyers have drafted laws that have been enacted in every state as well as the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  The Firm has also successfully represented its clients' interests before the courts and administrative agencies of state and federal government including the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Firm's deep commitment to client service is reflected in the opening of offices in Hartford, Connecticut, Newark, New Jersey, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento, California, Portland, Oregon and Ann Arbor, Michigan.  With the opening in 2001 of the Sacramento office, the Firm enhanced our commitment to California, where we have consistently ranked among the top municipal law firms in the State.  Since the early 1990's, the Firm has acted as counsel to the underwriters for the California Housing Agency and since 1996 as Bond Counsel for the Veterans Mortgage programs of the State of California. The Firm's extensive experience in public power, project finance, and contract negotiation contributed to its being selected as Bond Counsel to the California Department of Water Resources for its massive restructuring and financing of California's accrued energy liabilities. The ultimate financing, aggregating over $11 billion, was the largest in municipal finance history.

Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP recently celebrated our 160th anniversary with continued optimism.  As we reflect upon our past achievements, we look forward to the future with confidence in our ability to continue the Firm's tradition of the highest quality service to our clients.


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