“Our firm has not grown by accident. Our strategic plan and policies remain quite simple: hire ethical, intelligent, energetic, ambitious people; pay them fairly; disregard gender, sexual orientation and ethnic background; don’t borrow money; show up every day; return calls promptly. Think all the time about giving good value to your clients.” LENNY NELSON Founding Partner
A different kind of law firm since 1915.
Bernstein Shur Sawyer & Nelson is a New England-based law firm that advises clients from across the U.S. and around the world. Our 125+ award-winning attorneys and professionals practice in more than 20 critical areas and a variety of industries. In 2020, Bernstein Shur was named one of Maine’s Best Places to Work for the ninth time.
While we’re proud of our roots, accolades, and wide-ranging expertise, it’s not only our substance that sets us apart; it’s also our approach. We relish simplifying the complex. We believe that sophisticated doesn’t have to mean stuffy, and we’re not just accessible—we’re approachable. We fight hard for our clients, but calm persistence and collaboration are often our weapons of choice. Most importantly, we believe that being mindful of our clients’ bottom lines is ultimately better for our own. Over the past century, these values have become the essence of Bernstein Shur. And they produce better results—and better experiences—for our clients.
An auspicious beginning.
Our founding attorney, Israel Bernstein, was the son of poor immigrants. But he was smart, driven, determined, and committed to strengthening his home community and helping its local businesses grow.
Pursuing a career in law seemed the best way to do both. After making his way through Harvard and, later, Harvard Law School, Israel began to practice law as a solo practitioner in Portland.
As his reputation for providing exceptional legal work grew, so did his clientele. Israel soon brought in partners: In 1930, Israel’s brother Louis contributed his insight and expertise to the practice. Soon after World War II, Israel’s son Sumner joined the firm. Leonard Nelson followed, bringing a number of out-of-state referrals on many major transactions.
To better serve their clients, the partners soon added municipal and litigation expertise, merging with Shur & Sawyer—a leading municipal attorney and trial lawyer, respectively—in 1963.
On January 1, 1964, Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson was born.
Growth for clients’ sake.
Over the last 100 years, the desire to build the firm to better serve our clients has continued to drive our growth:
- We developed a broad-based litigation practice to defend our clients in almost any conflict.
- We became Maine’s member of Lex Mundi to provide seamless, cross-border support to clients all over the world.
- We built many nationally ranked practice areas, including our asset management and securities practice.
- We created affiliated entities that provide specialized, non-legal services, complement our legal teams, and help advance clients’ business goals.
- We opened Augusta and Manchester offices to better serve our local clients.
- We became one of New England’s largest law firms.
- We continued our founders’ legacy of civic engagement, proudly holding leadership positions in many charitable, political, bar, and civic associations.
- We recruited, developed, and held on to attorneys: More than half of our shareholders are listed in Best Lawyers in America.
We’ve come a long way since 1915, and we continue to look for the best possible ways to meet our clients’ needs. But no matter how much we grow, expand, and evolve, our fundamental goals will always remain the same: To provide world-class legal counsel and smart, strategic, cost-effective solutions to best serve our clients and communities.