The Boston firm of Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster was established through a coming together of some of the Boston Bar's most distinguished real estate lawyers during the late 1800's. The birth of the firm can be traced back to 1873 when Francis V. Balch one of the original founders, first entered practice. In 1881, Balch formed a partnership with Charles Sedgwick Rackemann under the name of Balch and Rackemann. Located at 39 Court Street, the fledgling firm concentrated its work in varied aspects of the real estate area, specializing in conveyancing and title examination. In addition to their real estate work, the partners also devoted a considerable amount of time to estate planning and administration problems. The early work of the firm found it representing clients in matters ranging from negotiations for horse stables to sophisticated West Coast real estate transactions.
In addition to their professional interest, the early partners were also very active in a variety of social and political activities within the community. Charles S. Rackemann, particularly, was involved in such endeavors as the Constitutional Liberty League, the Trustees of Public Reservations, and the Committee of 100, a political organization group. He also drafted several pieces of proposed legislation, including a wholesale revamping of the Massachusetts Land Registration Act.
Mr. Rackemann was also president of the Abstract Club, which was founded in the 1880's and continues to serve today as a professional society for Boston real estate lawyers.
By 1884, Charles Rackemann's brother, Felix, had joined the firm. As the firm's practice continued to expand, James Dunbar was invited into the partnership in 1886, and the firm's name was changed to Dunbar & Rackemann, Mr. Balch having died earlier that year.
Shortly thereafter, Frank Brewster, who had been with the firm since its inception, was invited into the partnership, and the firm name became Dunbar Rackemann & Brewster. By this time, the firm's practice had expanded to encompass a variety of real estate matters both locally and nationally, including such interesting clients as the Boston & Alaska Gold Mine Company of California, and John Quincy, then Mayor of the City of Boston. Mr. Brewster, like Charles Rackemann, was an active advocate of legislative reform and drafted an act amending the state's mechanic client laws.
Late in 1903, Felix Rackemann and his partner James Dunbar decided to set out on their own and established the firm of Dunbar and Rackemann. Charles Rackemann and Frank Brewster continued to practice under the name of Rackemann & Brewster.
It is important at this juncture to observe the many practical concerns which animated the early development of the firm. In a large part, the growth of the firm mirrored the needs that it served. Messrs. Rackemann and Balch were among the most accomplished of the late 19th century Boston conveyancers. As their business prospered, they sought to continually expand their composite title library so as to enhance their ability to serve clients in various parts of the state. In furtherance of this goal, the firm continuously purchased the title libraries of various Boston area lawyers who had passed away or dropped out of real estate practice. As a result, the firm acquired and continues to enjoy the benefit of one of the most comprehensive title libraries in the city. Testament to this fact is the engaging article entitled "The History of A Title", written by Uriel Crocker (Crocker's Notes on Common Forms) in 1873 and which relied heavily on the title abstracts belonging to Charles S. Rackemann for its reference material.
In fact, it was precisely this type of practical motivation which led to George Sawyer's association with the firm in 1921. Prior to joining the Rackemann firm, Mr. Sawyer had been actively engaged in the prospering private practice since 1908, specializing in conveyancing and title examination. He had an extensive title library, and brought with him to the firm several examiners of the highest reputation. Mr. Sawyer died in 1922 shortly after becoming a partner in the firm.
The strength of the firm's reputation as the leading Boston title firm generated much referral work, as it does today. The early partners recognized the great value of that reputation and sought to preserve it. Thus, up until the death of Charles Rackemann in the 1930s, it was the firm policy that no work could go out the door until it had been personally reviewed by at least two of the partners. While the logistics of the modern era do not allow for such luxuries, the firm continues to pride itself on the accuracy and thoroughness of its work.
By the end of the 1920's, many of the original partners were beginning to contemplate retirement and a second generation of Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster attorneys emerged to take command of the firm. This had led, in the intervening years, not only to a growth in the number of partners and associate lawyers,--still allowing the firm to remain small enough for close relationships within a single office,--but also to a major expansion of highly specialized work in the areas of trust and probate, environmental, corporate and insurance law, and litigation.