Founded in 1885, Fennemore was born out of the audacious dream of two law students. With little more than a few dollars and an inspiring vision, they set out west from Ohio by train to create a unique law firm. Their goal was not only to provide top-level service but also to build a firm that prioritized people, relationships, and communities. As they traveled the vast expanse of the country, their plan took shape. After traveling through the Pacific Northwest and California, they eventually started their venture in Arizona. Their vision became a driving force that turned Fennemore into a national law firm that covers the areas they once traversed by train and beyond. Today, we stand as a testament to our founders’ foresight—leading the market in employee retention, job satisfaction, and unparalleled client service. At Fennemore, we continue to uphold the principles of our founders, constantly striving to shape the future while remaining rooted in our historic past.
1885: Two Entrepreneurs, One Bold Vision
Richard Sloan, one of the founding members of what is now officially known as Fennemore Craig, P.C., in his book, Memories of an Arizona Judge, recalls his arrival in Phoenix in 1884, “The train slowed down, and the brakeman stuck his head in the car door and shouted, ‘Maricopa- all out for Phoenix!’ I stepped from the train, somewhat surprised that I was the only passenger to do so.”
As Mr. Sloan stood alone on that train platform in 1884, only 5,500 people lived in Phoenix and the city covered one and a half square miles. Today, Phoenix is now the 5th largest city and home to approximately 1.4 million people.
Mr. Sloan was joined by a fellow Ohio law school graduate, Louis Chalmers. In January 1885 they presented their credentials to the Territorial Supreme Court. Sloan & Chalmers subsequently opened in downtown Phoenix at what is now the intersection of Washington and First Avenue. Mr. Sloan went on to serve as Associate Justice on the Arizona Territorial Supreme Court, and as the 17th and final Governor of the Arizona Territory. As Governor, he oversaw Arizona’s transition from territory to statehood in 1912.
years helping businesses thrive.
lawyers and allied legal professionals.
legal professionals located in 16 offices and 40 cities across the U.S.
A history of innovation since 1885. The bold, entrepreneurial vision of our founders has transformed Fennemore into an Am Law 200 firm that’s setting the pace in the legal industry.
Fennemore today is about taking our past and using it to fuel fresh ideas and better ways to serve our clients. Our founders had a clear vision: put people, relationships, and communities first. That’s not just our history, it’s our roadmap. As we move forward, we’re focused on embracing new ways of doing things, driving change, and ensuring our clients get the highest level of service and advice.
Early 1900s: Winning the West
When Arizona became a state in 1912, Edward Kent joined the firm after serving on the Territorial Supreme Court. Judge Kent authored the seminal “Kent Decree,” which established water rights for nearly all of the Salt and Verde River systems. The “Kent Decree” stood the test of time and still governs water rights in Central Arizona after nearly a century.
Harry Fennemore joined the firm in 1916. Mr. Fennemore drafted Arizona’s workmen’s compensation law and sales tax act. Mr. Fennemore also brought with him as a client the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company, now known as CenturyLink and still proudly represented by Fennemore Craig to this day. For over a century, Fennemore Craig has been involved in the development of Arizona’s telecommunications system through policymaking and shaping administrative regulation of communications companies.
Jubal Early Craig and Virgil Bledsoe joined us in 1927. Mr. Craig helped organize the State Bar of Arizona, contributed to the writing of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and helped form the Maricopa County Legal Aid Society.
Jubal Craig’s son Walter Craig joined us in 1936. The younger Mr. Craig served as the president of the Arizona Bar Association and, in 1963, became president of the American Bar Association, a rare accomplishment for an attorney from a then small western state like Arizona. Walter Craig also served as special counsel to the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 1963, following his service to the Warren Commission, he was appointed as a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. He served until his death in 1986. The State Bar of Arizona named its Distinguished Service Award after Walter E. Craig. It is awarded to the attorney who has manifested adherence to the highest principles and tradition of the legal profession and service to the public in the community in which he/she lives. The following Fennemore attorneys have received this award: Philip E. Von Ammon – 1988; Calvin H. Udall – 1993; Kenneth Sherk – 1999; and Neal Kurn – 2014.
1954: Fennemore at the Forefront of Change
Beginning in 1954, Calvin Udall served as an attorney for Arizona in the massive legal and political battle between Arizona and California for control of Colorado River water. Mr. Udall was part of Arizona’s legal team in 1963, led by attorney Mark Wilmer when the United States Supreme Court allocated the rights to Colorado River water. Without Colorado River water, growth of Arizona’s major cities, particularly Phoenix and Tucson, would never have materialized.
Continuing our enduring presence on water issues facing the Southwest, Fennemore Craig’s Jim Johnson and Jim Bush were principal negotiators and drafters of the Arizona Groundwater Management Act, which was vital to balancing the growth in Arizona with the available water supply. Without the sustainable water supply that resulted from the state’s Groundwater Management Act, growth in Arizona would certainly have slowed decades ago.
1974: Fennemore Preps Sandra Day O’Connor
In 1957, John O’Connor joined Fennemore Craig. He met his future wife, Sandra Day, while they served as editors of the Stanford Law Review. She went on to serve as the first female justice of the United States Supreme Court. When Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1981, she relied on attorneys from the firm to help her prepare for her confirmation hearings.
In 1974, Fennemore Craig hired our first two female attorneys, Ruth McGregor and Toni McClory. We subsequently became one of the first law firms in Arizona to elect females as shareholders. When Justice O’Connor joined the Supreme Court in September 1981, she hired Ms. McGregor as her first law clerk.
Ms. McGregor later served 11 years as a justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. Justice McGregor served as an associate justice until 2005, when she became the court’s second female chief justice. Ms. McClory went on to serve as an Arizona Assistant Attorney General from 1976-1991.
The 1980s Make Way for the 21st Century
Fennemore expanded into Tucson in October 1989 and then into Nogales in September 1999 with the addition of Kim and Hector Arana and a robust cross-border trade practice. We opened a Las Vegas office in September 2006, welcoming attorneys from Morse and Mowbray, and later that year, opened an office in Denver with the addition of intellectual property attorneys from the Dahl firm.
In July 2012, we welcomed 25 attorneys from Jones Vargas, a law firm with offices in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada. Like us, Jones Vargas had a rich history and deep local roots. The Jones Vargas attorney roster has included governors, state senators, state assembly representatives, state bar governors and presidents, governors of the American Bar Association, and community leaders. Fennemore’s Ann Morgan, a former Jones Vargas shareholder, now serves on the State Bar of Nevada Board of Governors.
In 2015, we embarked upon our 130-year anniversary and added 19 lawyers in the Las Vegas and Reno offices from the prominent Lionel Sawyer & Collins firm. The arrival of the Lionel Sawyer lawyers included the legendary Sam Lionel, who co-founded the Lionel Sawyer firm in 1967 with former Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer. Mr. Lionel was instrumental in the evolution of the legal profession in Nevada. In fact, he was known as the “Dean of the Nevada Bar.” Joining Mr. Lionel was former U.S. Senator Richard Bryan, who also served as Governor of Nevada for two terms prior to serving in the U.S. Senate.
During this period of change and growth at the firm. High-profile attorney Sarah Strunk was elected Chair of the Board of Directors at Fennemore.
California Expansion: Signaling Strength in a Pandemic
In life, as in the law, change is the lifeblood for success. In 2020, while other law firms remained frozen on the sidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, our firm acted strategically and boldly by welcoming the nearly 100 legal professionals from California firm Dowling Aaron. The combined firm expanded to offices in 9 cities in the western US, including three in California.
2021: Continued Growth and Denver Expansion
Fennemore was named the #1 fastest-growing law firm in 2021 by Law.com and on August 1, 2021, Fennemore struck again adding Reilly LLP, a Denver-based trial firm, to the roster. Bringing 155+ years of combined experience and talent together, The Reilly LLP lawyers continue to provide Fennemore’s business clients with national litigation experience now supported through the diverse service offerings of Fennemore.
2022: Explosive Growth in California
Fennemore’s strategic growth plan includes the addition of lawyers who fit with the firm’s entrepreneurial culture and practice in areas that are in high demand in the region. On April 1, 2022, Fennemore added 50 attorneys and allied legal professionals to its roster and opened new offices in San Bernardino and San Diego.
The growth in the Inland Empire of Southern California, its close proximity to the massive Los Angeles market, and alignment with Fennemore’s core practice strengths made it an ideal launchpad for our continued strategic growth in the future and new business opportunities. This expansion deepens the firm’s significant experience in the areas of real estate and land use, business, and natural resources.
On July 1, 2022, Fennemore formally combined with Wendel Rosen, LLP, one of the oldest and largest full-service business law firms in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay area. Fennemore added their 56 attorneys and 45 allied legal professionals to its roster along with Wendel’s three offices in Oakland, Walnut Creek and Modesto. Fennemore’s expansion deepens the firm’s significant experience in the areas of real estate, land use, litigation and trusts & estates. The combination increases Fennemore’s office count to 14 locations across the rest of its footprint in Southern California, Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.
On October 1, 2022, Fennemore continued its strategic expansion in California with the addition of lawyers and legal professionals from Rynn & Janowsky, LLP, one of the most highly regarded agribusiness firms in the Western U.S. Fennemore’s new office in Orange County becomes its fifteenth in the U.S., and ninth in the Golden State—further strengthening its service offerings, particularly in the areas of agriculture, employment law, and business and finance.
Rynn & Janowsky developed a solid history of success in California by representing clients in the state’s high-profile agribusiness sector. The firm gained notoriety by handling marketing disputes governed by the California Food and Agricultural Code, and the federal Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA). Rynn & Janowsky’s expertise in PACA law, including enforcement of PACA Trusts rights, litigating and resolving disputes in the produce industry, defense of disciplinary and license revocation actions, and drafting of grower, shipper and marketing agreements is recognized nationwide. In addition to Rynn & Janowsky’s agribusiness practice, they bring their skills as management-side employment law attorneys counseling and representing agribusinesses and California employers.
On October 2, 2023, Fennemore combined with Fresno-based Sullivan McGregor & Doerr LLP (SMD), a firm recognized in California’s Central Valley for its outstanding Taxation, Trusts & Estates, Business and Water and Agriculture practice groups. The attorneys and allied legal professionals formerly associated with SMD now occupy Fennemore’s existing office in Fresno.
Sullivan McGregor & Doerr LLP was a specialty law firm with an emphasis on tax planning and tax controversy resolution, estate planning and estate planning and estate and trust administration, water and agriculture, and business planning and transactions. Located in an incredibly important agricultural region, Fresno is often referred to as the “breadbasket of the United States,” and one of the largest food producing regions in the world with more than 300 different crops raised in the area.
As Fennemore moves into the future, we remain committed to channeling our rich history as a catalyst for growth, innovation, and exceptional client service.