About Us | Firm History

Bernstein Shur’s roots extend back to 1915. Its founding attorney, Israel Bernstein, was the son of poor immigrants who, due to his keen intelligence and drive, went on to Harvard and Harvard Law School. Starting out as a sole practitioner in Portland, Israel set a high standard of legal work and of service to the community that we continue to honor to this day.

In 1930, Israel Bernstein was joined in practice by his brother Louis. Their new firm (Bernstein & Bernstein) focused on commercial, real estate and probate matters. Several years after World War II, Israel and Louis Bernstein were joined by Israel’s son, Sumner.

The Bernsteins held about every civic office imaginable over the years and developed a group of closely-held businesses as clients. Those businesses grew to be some of the state’s leading companies.

In 1960, Leonard Nelson joined Bernstein & Bernstein, bringing to the firm a number of out-of-state referrals on many major transactions. The firm was renamed Bernstein, Bernstein & Nelson in January 1963.

Barnett Shur began the practice of law in Portland in 1930. Barney Shur was, by overwhelming consensus in the Maine Bar, the leading municipal lawyer in the state, serving for many years as the Corporation Counsel of the City of Portland and president of the Municipal Law Offices of America.

A strong future.
Built with pride on a strong past.

In 1949, Barney joined with Herb Sawyer to form Shur & Sawyer. A trial lawyer with a concentration in insurance and personal injury litigation, Herb Sawyer had a loyal following of clients. Together, Barney and Herb established their firm as the preeminent law firm representing public entities.

In the fall of 1963, Bernstein, Bernstein & Nelson and Shur & Sawyer agreed to a merger, and on January 1, 1964, Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson came into existence. The firm consisted of six partners and one associate.

In subsequent years, Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer and Nelson experienced substantial growth in both the number of attorneys and the range of legal services offered. The firm’s client base began to rapidly shift to publicly-held and out-of-state entities, including many of Maine’s paper companies and other industries. What started out as a small firm representing closely-held companies grew to be the leader in many disciplines in its market area. While there continued to be a substantial commercial, real estate, and municipal practice, the firm expanded to include a high level of expertise in trial, tax, bankruptcy and utility law.

Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson engaged in a number of strategic mergers to increase the firm’s reach in practice areas where it lacked requisite depth. The firm deepened its construction law expertise by merging with Burns, Ray, Delano & Macdonald in 2001.

The firm also created a number of affiliated entities in order to provide specialized non-legal services to its clients, including BSSN Resources (renamed Bernstein Shur Government Solutions in 2005), Monument Title Company and Stratex.

The firm opened an Augusta office in the late 1980′s to extend the firm’s commercial and municipal service offering throughout the state. The Augusta office continued to grow with the subsequent addition of a legislative and governmental affairs group. In 2003, the firm further broadened its geographic reach in northern New England with the opening of an office in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Now one of northern New England’s largest law firms, Bernstein Shur employs more than 100 attorneys and 100 support staff in its three offices in Maine and New Hampshire.