He had left Yale only a year and a half before and could hardly have suspected that, in bravely beginning practice, he would be founding a legal institution. As he shelved his Blackstone in his thrifty walk-up office, he listened to the summer sounds of his city: the rustle of elm and maple leaves, the tolling of church bells, the muffled clop of horses trotting down the soft dust of Main Street, an occasional shout from the river wharves close by.
The law practice he began alone at age 21 as "Lucius F. Robinson, Attorney" has grown through the last century and a half into the regionally prominent and highly respected Northeast law firm of Robinson & Cole.
Since our founding in 1845, partners have included eight lawyers from four generations of the Robinson family and three lawyers from two generations of Coles. Their combined legal practices add up to a family achievement unequaled in New England, and perhaps the nation. Beyond the simple fact of family consistency, the generations of Robinsons and Coles, and the lawyers who have joined them, have carried on traditions of learning, legal excellence, and public service set by the first Robinson.
With much of the rest of the industrialized world still rebuilding from the damage caused by World War II, the United States economy greatly expanded. New England prospered with its solid manufacturing base, and Robinson & Cole prospered as well.
From the beginning of the 1940s until the middle of the 1970s, the firm grew from a 10-lawyer organization of general practitioners to a 40-lawyer office with a diverse and comprehensive range of legal specialties.
As a historic footnote, in the 1940s, it was common for associates to be jacks-of-all-trades and only gradually focus on a particular area of law. Before the advent of paralegals, an innovation that did not start to develop until the early 1970s, associates were called upon to perform a wider variety of tasks in the firm than they are today. They searched titles, prepared probate accountings, handled real estate closings and perhaps most importantly researched the law, writing analytical memoranda and briefs for submission to the courts. Associates also took their turn at attending "short calendar" in the superior court for the argument of pretrial motions, a good training ground and opportunity to rub shoulders with other lawyers. This training has evolved toward specialized study of the law, allowing new associates to hone their skills more sharply than ever.
The decade and a half starting in the mid-1970s was a period of exceptional economic growth and optimism for New England. Insurance companies and banks, along with brokerage, accounting and law firms, were increasing in size and influence. New businesses and regional offices were going up everywhere. The country was recovering from the national disgrace of Watergate, and a marked feeling of prosperity prevailed as personal incomes steadily rose in what seemed a never-ending upward surge.
In keeping with the economic climate and the mood of the times, the firm grew at a rapid rate, from 37 lawyers in 1974 to 113 lawyers in 1988. The firm solidified its reputation for quality and professionalism built during the previous decades. Under the leadership of a newly elected Managing Committee, the firm would become more efficient and businesslike in delivering legal services to its clients. As a consequence, client base steadily increased.
Taking an outward-looking approach in the 1990s, the firm dealt with efforts to expand our client base. The Managing Committee envisioned Robinson & Cole as a multioffice Northeast firm. We prepared a statement which stressed the importance of measuring the level of client satisfaction and working to increase that level by assessing clients' needs and delivering prompt service of high quality at a competitive cost. We also emphasized training of new lawyers and career development to ensure a continued high level of quality. We attached importance to building a reputation as a regional law firm with a strong partner presence in each of the firm's offices in all important substantive areas of the law.
The firm could not be more different from the one-man office that Lucius F. Robinson opened in 1845 near the docks on the Connecticut River. Yet many of the principles and traditions established in the early years remain. Even as our geographical reach has expanded from Boston to Florida and we have clients from Maine to Honolulu and as far away as Asia, we recall our roots. While we have come a long way from our humble beginning, we remain firmly planted in our tradition of excellence.