In 1918 Judge William H. Donahue resigned from his position as Alameda County Superior Court Judge and William H.L. Hynes resigned as Alameda County District Attorney; together they founded the firm Donahue and Hynes. Hynes had worked under Donahue when Donahue was the Alameda County D.A., and became the D.A. when Donahue left to become a Judge. Two years later, in 1920, Oliver D. Hamlin, Jr. resigned as Deputy District Attorney of Alameda County and joined the firm, which became Donahue, Hynes & Hamlin. After Hynes died in 1935, Frank S. Richards joined Donahue and Hamlin; the firm became Donahue, Richards & Hamlin.
In 1947 Hamlin left to become a Superior Court Judge of Alameda County until 1953; then he served as a Judge for the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California until 1958, when he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where he served as judge until his death in 1973. When Hamlin left the firm, associates Albert R. Rowell and James E. Gallagher became partners and the firm changed its name to Donahue, Richards, Rowell & Gallagher. Donahue died in 1948. When Rowell retired, the firm became Donahue, Richards & Gallagher.
In 1953 George E.Thomas and Joseph A.Woods became partners. After Richards retired in 1968 the firm became Donahue, Gallagher, Thomas & Woods. That would remain the firm’s name for the next twenty-five years. In 1993 the name was changed to Donahue, Gallagher, Woods & Wood. When Robert Wood retired from the firm in 2003, the firm’s name was changed to Donahue Gallagher Woods LLP.
In the late 1960s, the firm’s principal client was Key System Transit Lines, the largest employer in Alameda County. Key System ran ferry boats, all of the buses and streetcars in the East Bay, and the buses and trains that crossed the Bay Bridge. The firm did all of their legal work, which included a substantial amount of litigation given that transit companies tended to generate many claims. The firm also represented PG&E, Pacific Telephone & Telegraph, Railway Express, Borden, Inc., Western Union, Royal Indemnity Company, and Lucky Stores. Ultimately, Key System was acquired by the Alameda/Contra Costa Transit District, which now runs the buses. When Key System became a public entity a major portion of the firm’s litigation practice disappeared and it increased its business practice.
In addition, Lucky Stores underwent several corporate changes which also contributed to the expansion of the firm’s business law practice. In 1956 Lucky merged into Dolly Madison International Foods Corporation, created for the purpose of this merger, by putting together a number of fragments of Foremost Dairies, which owned about twenty-five percent of Lucky Stores. At that time there was a movement in antitrust enforcement that required all dairy companies to divest their interests in retail outlets that sold dairy products. As a result, Foremost had to relinquish its interest in Lucky. Foremost combined its interest in Jim Dandy Stores with its interest in Lucky and distributed the corporation to Foremost shareholders as a dividend; thus, Foremost was out of retail and Lucky became a truly independent company. As Lucky grew, so did the amount of legal work the firm did for it. Indeed, a substantial portion of the firm’s resources were devoted to providing legal support to Lucky Stores.
In 1974 Woods took a leave from the firm to work as the Senior Associate Special Counsel for the Judiciary Committee for the House of Representatives, investigating the possibility of impeaching President Nixon. The impeachment staff was divided into four task forces; Woods headed the Constitutional and Legal force. Based on their legal research and analysis of the history of impeachment in England and the United States, this task force attempted to define “high crime and misdemeanor” to clarify the legal standard for impeachment. In an effort to provide a neutral, scholarly review of the historical and conceptual background for impeachment, the task force drafted a document titled “Grounds for Presidential Impeachment.” In addition, Woods directed the development of a set of procedures to be followed during an impeachment inquiry, both in the collection of evidence and in the impeachment proceedings themselves.
In 1986 Lucky was the subject of a hostile takeover attempt by Asher Edelman. The board resisted this attempt by simplifying the company and returning it to its core business: groceries. Before this takeover attempt, Lucky owned auto-parts stores, women’s retail clothing stores, grocery stores, and fabric stores in several states (Lucky’s business included Hancock Fabrics, Piccadilly, Checker Auto Parts, Dorman’s Auto Parts, Kragen Auto Parts, Yellow Front Discount Department Store, Gemco Membership Department Stores, Kash & Karry Grocery, and Eagle Stores). Lucky’s ventures were trimmed back and it became solely a chain in certain western states. This re-organization was very successful and Lucky prospered as a grocery chain.
In the late 1980s American Stores achieved a successful hostile takeover of Lucky Stores by making a lucrative offer for all of Lucky’s stock. Albertson’s acquired American Stores and for some time the firm worked for Albertsons. The firm continues to provide legal services to Safeway.
After having concentrated its resources primarily to support a single client in Lucky Stores, the firm faced the loss of that legal work during the era that marked advent of the personal computer industry. While developing its general law practice across many business sectors, the firm began serving as outside general counsel to fledgling software firms and providing tailored services to others. This gave the firm an opportunity to be actively involved in the evolution of technology and computer law. In 1988 the firm pioneered the concept that copyright and trademark infringement could be pursued as a profit center for its clients and began what are now the largest and most successful software anti-piracy programs in the world. Today the firm proudly counts among its clients the largest software companies and software trade associations in the industry as well as many smaller developers and consultants. It also provides a broad range of diverse intellectual property legal services and actively maintains a thriving general legal practice.
The firm has evolved from its early days to become an interdependent group of practices that include commercial real estate services, litigation, business counseling and formation, mergers and acquisitons, labor and employment matters, collections, and a complete agreement drafting practice engaged in the preparation and negotiation of contracts for a wide variety of transactions. The firm also maintains active business immigration and will and estate planning practices.