Our History

History of Holland & Knight

The hallmark of Holland & Knight's success has always been and continues to be legal work of the highest quality, performed by well prepared lawyers who revere their profession and are devoted to their clients. Holland & Knight remains dedicated to developing and maintaining long-term relationships. The firm's growth is due in large part to the success of our clients. We are honored to be able to contribute to their success and growth across the United States and around the world. Since our beginning, Holland & Knight attorneys have delivered focused, responsive and personalized service resulting in lasting relationships with our clients.

The Joining of Two Firms With a Common Vision

In 1968, two law firms joined together to become Holland & Knight. One rose from the early days of industry and commerce in Tampa, the business center of Florida's west coast. The other was established amid the phosphate mines and citrus groves of inland Polk County. Both were founded by men who shared a passion for the law and public service.

Spessard Holland Makes a Lasting Impact at Home and Around the Country

A young Spessard Holland rejected a contract to pitch for the Philadelphia Athletics and went on to graduate magna cum laude from Emory University in 1912. He was the top student in the University of Florida Law School class of 1916, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross after a dangerous aerial mission behind enemy lines during World War I.

Mr. Holland served as county judge eight years after the war, then established a law practice in 1929 with W.F. Bevis in Bartow, a small community near Tampa. A distinguished political career that followed included service as Florida's governor [1941-1945] during World War II and 24 years as a U.S. Senator [1946-1971]. He was the first native Floridian to serve in both offices.

When Senator Holland retired at the end of his fourth term as senator in 1970, Senator Sam Ervin said, "I have depended upon him more than any other member of the Senate for advice." He lived almost a year to practice law with Holland & Knight after leaving the Senate.

Peter O. Knight Dedicates a Lifetime of Service to a New Community

After graduating from Valparaiso University Law School at age 18, Peter O. Knight moved to Fort Myers, Florida, and was elected mayor in 1886 shortly before his 21st birthday. Following service in the Florida Legislature, the young attorney settled in Tampa in 1889, five years after the city was chartered, to start a law practice. In addition to his work as an attorney, Mr. Knight founded the area's present electric utility and a major bank.

When Mr. Knight resigned from the last political office he held, Hillsborough County State Attorney, in 1902, he announced that he would never again seek public office. He preferred, he said, "to do what I can as a private citizen." Holding to his word, Mr. Knight declined President Warren G. Harding's invitation to become a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. When Mr. Knight died in 1946, U.S. Senator Spessard L. Holland was a pallbearer at his funeral - 22 years before the names of Holland and Knight would be linked in Florida's largest law firm.

A Tradition of Service

The heritage of business and civic leadership begun by the founders of Holland & Knight has provided the basis for continued service by past and present partners in the firm. A shining example of service to the legal profession was Chesterfield Smith, who served as the architect of the present day Holland & Knight law firm. As managing partner of the firm from its founding to 1983, Mr. Smith built a national platform for the delivery of comprehensive legal services.

He was president of The Florida Bar in 1964-65, and became one of the leaders of the nation's legal profession as president of the American Bar Association (ABA) in 1973-74. Mr. Smith served also as chairman of the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission. During his 55-year professional career, Chesterfield Smith was a major force in American law and politics. He is best known as the outspoken president of the ABA who made the first public call to investigate President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate scandal.

Mr. Smith's influence in shaping Holland & Knight is legendary. He strongly believed it was possible to build a national firm with a presence in major U.S. markets, yet with the innovative premise that the local offices would not operate as individual profit centers and would be able to match the lawyer with the best skills for a particular client need, regardless of geography. Often called "America's Lawyer" and "the conscience of the legal profession," Chesterfield Smith is responsible for the shared values and core beliefs that continue to earn Holland & Knight recognition as a law firm that balances profits with public duty.

Building on a Firm Foundation

Partners of the firm include former state and local bar presidents and presidents of the American Bar Association and the National Conference of Bar Presidents. Other partners have devoted themselves to public and professional positions.  Our ranks include chairs of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, federal and state trial and appellate judges, chairs of several sections of the American Bar Association, a former governor, members of the U.S. House and Senate, and a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Many of the firm's lawyers continue to serve their communities in leadership roles in civic, charitable and social organizations. The service and values the firm was built upon years ago remain the same today. Each day in every practice, in every office, and by every lawyer and professional at Holland & Knight, our commitment to superior client service and to our profession and communities is validated.