Rose Law Firm
Rose Law Firm of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is the oldest law firm west of the Mississippi River. The firm traces its origins to November 1, 1820, before Arkansas was a state, when Robert Crittenden, first secretary and acting governor of Arkansas Territory, and Chester Ashley, a land speculator, entered into a “Partnership in the Practice of Law.” This hand-inked agreement remains on display at the firm.
Crittenden and Ashley ultimately ended their partnership over political issues, but the firm continued its existence when Ashley partnered with George C. Watkins in 1837. Ashley and Watkins practiced law together until Ashley was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1844. In 1852, Watkins became the chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, but after two years on the bench, Watkins resumed the practice of law. In 1865, he partnered with Uriah M. Rose, and from that date until the present, “Rose” has been a part of the firm’s name. In 1980, the firm changed its name for the last time to “Rose Law Firm, a Professional Association.”
Uriah Rose was a charter member of the American Bar Association and served as its president in 1901. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Rose as the U.S. representative to the Second Hague Peace Conference in 1907. Rose’s contributions to the country were recognized by the placement of his statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol.
Rose’s son, George B. Rose, joined the partnership in 1881. The younger Rose authored the book Renaissance Masters: The Art of Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Correggio and Botticelli (1898), which is still in publication today. Uriah Rose’s grandson, George Rose Smith, became a partner of the firm in 1937 and was elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1948, retiring in 1987; he died in 1992.
Other distinguished scholars joined the firm over the next several years, including Wilson E. Hemingway, a former justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court; Deaderick H. Cantrell; William N. Nash, a Rhodes Scholar, former dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law, and author of state legislative proposals on municipal finance; Harry E. Meek, the principal author of many of the state’s banking, commercial, and inheritance laws; Gaston Williamson, a Rhodes Scholar and one of the state’s preeminent authorities on inheritance and estate planning; and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the firm’s first female partner, the first lady of the United States during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and later a U.S. senator for New York and then secretary of state of the United States.
From Rose Law Firm have come two chief justices and two associate justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court, one president of the American Bar Association, six presidents of the Arkansas Bar Association, two presidents of the Pulaski County Bar Association, two namesakes of Arkansas counties (Crittenden and Ashley), and one first lady of the United States.
The attorneys at Rose Law Firm practice primarily in the areas of corporations, securities, commercial transactions, complex litigation, estate planning, environmental law, labor and employment law, public finance, taxation, and utilities.
Rose Law Firm has been involved in a number of significant cases. The firm represented the Little Rock School Board for several years before the 1957 desegregation of Central High School. As the crisis developed, Archie House of Rose Law Firm and several other prominent Little Rock lawyers assisted the school board in drafting a desegregation plan and planning the board’s role in the pending litigation. In the U.S. Supreme Court case of Frank Lyon Co. v. U.S. (1978), Rose Law Firm successfully represented a taxpayer who claimed tax deductions related to a sale-leaseback transaction, a type of tax depreciation arrangement then under attack by the Internal Revenue Service. In 1992, the firm successfully represented the Audubon Society of Central Arkansas in a challenge to the Army Corps of Engineers’ issuance of a permit, the effect of which would have allowed a throughway from west Little Rock to Murray Park and Riverfront Drive. Rose Law Firm was also co-counsel in one of the largest reorganization cases in Arkansas history, when a resort developer client and twelve of its subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy protection. The case included properties in nine states and the U.S. Virgin Islands and involved thousands of claims totaling several billion dollars. The company was successfully reorganized, saving several hundred jobs.
In early 2022, Rose Law Firm announced plans to merge with Smith Hurst of Rogers (Benton County), with the combined firm operating under the Rose name. Rose Law Firm also has an office in Fayetteville (Washington County).
For additional information:
Bird, Allen W., II. “U. M. Rose: Arkansas Attorney.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 64 (Summer 2005): 171–205.
Rose Law Firm. http://www.roselawfirm.com (accessed September 3, 2021).
Robyn P. Allmendinger
Rose Law Firm
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