Our Heritage

Woods Oviatt Gilman traces its origin to the mid 19th Century when William H. Bowman and Soloman Wile began the practice of law in Rochester. Their legacies combined in 1965 when the offspring of these two pioneer law firms merged. We honor their commitment and the commitment of those who have followed in their footsteps, dedicating their careers to making a difference in the lives of individuals and businesses in Rochester and Western, NY.

The first path was forged when William H. Bowman was admitted to the New York State bar in 1852. He succeeded his father, Judge John Bowman, and maintained a practice for 50 years. He later brought his son, John P. Bowman, into the firm and the two maintained an office in the Wilder Building from 1886-1919. In 1922, John P. Bowman formed a partnership with George S. VanSchaick. Over the next 43 years the firm evolved to Woods, Strathman, Sturman & Schantz.

The second path began when Solomon Wile was admitted in 1875 and began practicing in Rochester in 1880. In 1902 he was joined by Percival D. Oviatt and the firm Wile & Oviatt was established. Andrew L. Gilman became associated with them in 1910 and became a member of the firm in 1916, the firm being known as Wile, Oviatt & Gilman. In 1933 Percival Oviatt was appointed to the post of Mayor of Rochester.

Thereafter, several prominent attorneys such as J. Emmett O'Brien, Harold Barnsdale and Fred Forman were admitted to the partnership and the firm name after the death of Mr. Wile became Oviatt, Gilman, O'Brien & Barnsdale. Later, it was known as Oviatt, Gilman, O'Brien & Forman. After World War II, Robert W. Clarke, Percival D. Oviatt, Jr., John S. Gilman and John Greisberger joined the firm.

In 1965 the two paths merged with the formation Woods, Oviatt, Gilman, Sturman & Clarke. In 2000 the name of the firm was shortened to Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP.

Woods Oviatt Gilman's long tradition of legal service and the historical ties with Rochester are a source of great pride within the firm. Through the years, the lawyers who joined the firm looked to the founding fathers as an example of excellence in the legal profession. Although Woods Oviatt has grown over the years, the standards set in the mid 1800's remain the same.

We are proud of Woods Oviatt's standing in the community and of the clients that we serve.