Emmet Through The Centuries


Thomas Addis Emmet

Emmet, Marvin & Martin, LLP’s history traces the development of the tradition of excellence that characterizes the firm today.

The firm’s founder, Thomas Addis Emmet (1764–1827), was born in Cork, Ireland. After graduating as a medical doctor from the University of Edinburgh in 1784, he trained at the Temple Inn in London to become a barrister.

Emmet was a successful barrister in Dublin during the 1790s. As a man of the Age of Enlightenment, he was deeply committed to freedom and the establishment of an Irish republic. An Irish patriot and member of the Society of United Irishmen, he served as its Secretary.

Thomas Addis Emmet was imprisoned along with other leaders of United Irishmen for events leading up to the failed Rebellion of 1798 against British rule. If this rebellion had succeeded, Thomas Addis Emmet would have been the first president of a free Ireland.

In 1802, Emmet and his associates were released on condition of permanent exile. While in exile in France, his younger brother, Robert Emmet, was hanged and beheaded in 1803, after leading a second failed uprising in Dublin.

Ireland’s loss of Thomas Addis Emmet was America’s gain. Emmet and his family settled in New York in November 1804, where he was destined to become the leading lawyer in New York City, filling a void left by the death of Alexander Hamilton who had died in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr in July 1804.

For the next two decades, Emmet pursued his passion for the law, rising to the level of New York State Attorney General, and winning several important cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. It is only fitting that an ailing Thomas Addis Emmet took his dying breath in a courtroom, an advocate to the end.

Bust of Thomas Addis Emmet that resides at the rotunda of the New York State Supreme Court.

Emmet represents many prominent early New York personages in major cases, including his close friend Robert Fulton, inventor of the steamboat. In 1824, Emmet represents Aaron Ogden, a licensee of Robert Fulton, in the seminal case of Gibbons v. Ogden before John Marshall’s Supreme Court in which the principle of federal control over interstate commerce is established. During his career, Thomas Addis Emmet handles many appeals before the state’s highest court and the U.S. Supreme Court. His first appeal is on behalf of a fugitive slave, a case he takes at the request of the Society of Friends (the Quakers). A great believer in human rights and freedom, he is a friend of Thomas Paine, the famous author of The Rights of Man, who then lived in New York


Emmet serves as Attorney General of the State of New York during the War of 1812.


Emmet practices at 9 Nassau Street and is the first legal counsel of the banking firm that later became Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. Emmet dies on November 14, 1827, after collapsing in court during a trial. Only two days before his death he is in court representing John Jacob Astor in a real estate case.


Thomas Addis Emmet’s sons, Thomas and Robert, continue the practice after their father’s death. Thomas joins a group of prominent New York lawyers to found the New York Law Institute, the first publicly accessible law library in New York.


New York Life Insurance & Trust Company (the Trust Company) receives a charter from the State of New York in 1830. Thomas and Robert Emmet act as counsel for the incorporation of this new type of financial institution—a trust company. A major business of the Trust Company is to establish and manage real estate trusts as a means of protecting and passing on property to one’s heirs. The president and several directors of The Bank of New York are applicants along with Emmet lawyers for the charter for the Trust Company, which later merges with The Bank of New York in 1922


Robert Emmet is appointed to the Superior Court of the State of New York. On his appointment to the bench, Robert’s son, Richard Stockton Emmet, assumes leadership of the firm and becomes general counsel to the Trust Company


The firm’s lawyers assist in drafting the settlement of the Alaskan boundary dispute between England and the United States, signed by Lord Alverstone, Chief Justice of England, and Henry Cabot Lodge (representing the United States), among others.


Emmet, Marvin & Roosevelt


After the defeat of the Cox–Roosevelt ticket by Harding–Coolidge in 1920, Franklin Delano Roosevelt rejoins his old partner, Langdon P. Marvin, who had become a partner with Grenville T. Emmet in the Emmet firm. From January, 1921 through 1924, the firm is known as Emmet, Marvin & Roosevelt. FDR officially leaves the firm at the end of 1924 to focus on his political career. He becomes Governor of New York in 1928, and is thereafter elected President of the United States four times.


Grenville T. Emmet, as senior partner, and Langdon P. Marvin are joined by George Whitney Martin, who had come to the firm in 1921. As of January, 1925, the firm becomes known as Emmet, Marvin & Martin. George W. Martin represents former clients such as Chubb and Sons, and Dow Jones.


After 100 years of occupying various buildings in lower Manhattan, the firm moves in as a tenant of its client, The Bank of New York, in their new skyscraper at 48 Wall Street. The firm remains as a tenant in this building for 63 years representing The Bank of New York and other firms in the financial services industry.


Grenville T. Emmet Jr., is appointed by President Roosevelt as the U.S. Minister to The Hague, and thereafter as Minister to Austria. He dies suddenly in 1937 and is the last individual named as counsel to The Bank of New York.


Grenville T. Emmet, Jr., retires. He is the last member of the Emmet family to practice law with the firm, ending 164 years of continuous involvement of the descendants of Thomas Addis Emmet in the firm’s practice.

The firm wins the leading case of In re Bank of New York in which the New York State Court of Appeals establishes definitive guidelines for New York trust investments


The firm assists the New York Banking Department in drafting the law and regulations that continue to apply to the administration of common trust funds in New York.

The firm represents the issuer of the first depositary receipt representing non-U.S. sovereign debt that is sold in the United States.


Emmet, Marvin & Martin moves its New York office to its current location at 120 Broadway, after 63 years at 48 Wall Street. Thomas Addis Emmet’s law office was located on the same city block occupied by the building in which the firm’s office is presently located.


Emmet opens a branch office in Morristown, New Jersey.

The firm represents the issuer of the first depositary receipt that represented a basket of depositary receipts. That same year, the firm also represents the owner in the largest New York City commercial leasing transaction of the 1990s.


Located across Liberty Park from the World Trade Center, the firm survives the 9/11 terrorist attack with thankfully all staff safe and unharmed.

The firm celebrates its 200th anniversary, with Gubernatorial and Mayoral proclamations. N.Y. Governor Pataki recognizes Emmet as being on “the vanguard of the development of new banking and financial products.” And N.Y.C. Mayor Bloomberg declares May 12, 2005, “EMMET, MARVIN & MARTIN, LLP DAY.”


The firm’s Chairman, Brian Obergfell, is named to the New York State Charter Bank Advisory Board.


The firm recommits to Lower Manhattan, renewing its lease at the historic Equitable Building for a new 15-year term. As it proceeds into its third century, Emmet retains the DNA of Wall Street but with the sinews to tackle the diverse and challenging legal need