Edwin Austin joined the firm as a part-time office clerk in 1914 while in his last year at Northwestern Law School. On the weekends, he played jazz piano at school dances to supplement his partial scholarship.
In May 1920, Austin became the first associate to benefit from an important new policy, effected by managing partner William Sidley, of promotion to partnership from within. Previously, lawyers joined the firm as partners only after having gained their training and experience elsewhere. Austin’s promotion signaled a shift in the firm’s retention strategy. He became a name partner in 1937, when the firm name changed to Sidley, McPherson, Austin and Burgess.
At a reception celebrating his 50th anniversary with the firm in 1964, Austin stressed the work ethics necessary for the firm to endure through the ages: “It has established and maintained a tradition of the highest excellence in the standard of its work. … I hope and believe that the firm will adhere to its traditions. If it does, it should live for generations, its volume of work should increase and it will continue to grow.”
Sidley and Austin practiced together for more than 40 years, during which time they contributed much to the firm we know today. By the end of Austin’s 69 years with the firm, Sidley had grown to become the second largest law firm in the world.