OUR FIRM’S HISTORY
Our history is rooted in the legal tradition of the Backes family, one of the most prominent families in the annals of New Jersey jurisprudence.
In 1848, John Backes immigrated to America from Germany, and found work as a blacksmith at Cooper, Hewitt & Company’s rolling mill in Trenton. The father of six boys died in 1874 from injuries sustained in an explosion at the mill.
Five of the six Backes sons went on to distinguished legal careers. John H. Backes served as Vice Chancellor of the New Jersey Court of Chancery from 1913-1935. Theodore was assistant attorney general, William J. served as advisory master in chancery, and Albert practiced law in Newark.
Our firm’s beginnings can be traced back to 1886 in Trenton, when Peter, the eldest son, was admitted to the bar. Among Peter’s first clients was the Catholic Diocese of Trenton, which the firm continues to represent to this day. In 1888, Peter represented the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia in their purchase of an entire city block on Hamilton Avenue for the construction of St. Francis Hospital.
In 1913, Peter took his son Herbert W. as a partner, calling the firm Backes & Backes. His other son, William Wright Backes, joined the firm in 1930, which by that time was one of the most renowned law firms in the city. Over the years, the firm’s clients included New Jersey National Bank, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company, Transamerica Delaval, Inc., Thiokol, Inc. (which later became Morton Thiokol), Roller-Bearing Company of America, Goodall Rubber, and the Trenton Saving Fund Society.
In 1929, Backes & Backes represented Maddock Pottery of Trenton in its acquisition by American Standard. During its heyday, Maddock Pottery accounted for 86% of the nation’s production of bathroom fixtures.
The firm also served as counsel to John A. Roebling’s Sons Company in the 1953 sale of the company to Colorado Fuel & Iron. Roebling designed and built the Brooklyn Bridge, and supplied the “wire rope” for the construction of the George Washington and Golden Gate bridges.
By the time Peter died in 1941, his grandson Robert Maddock Backes had joined the firm. Robert’s many activities included serving as counsel to the Medical Society of New Jersey, president of Mercer Medical Center, and president of the Mercer County Bar Association. During World War II, Robert was an artillery battalion commander in Germany, and served again in Korea during the Korean War. He was awarded five Battle Stars, a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Clusters, the French Croix de Guerre, the U.N. Service Medal, New Jersey Medal of Honor, and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal. He retired from the Army National Guard with the rank of brigadier general. Robert practiced law at the firm until 2007, the year he died.
In 1954 James A. Waldron, became the first non-Backes to join the firm, followed in 1958 by Harry R. Hill, Jr. The name of the firm changed to Backes, Waldron & Hill in 1980, and eleven years later it was shortened to Backes & Hill. The firm has always remained small, never having more than nine attorneys.
Mr. Hill, a former president of the Mercer County Bar Association, was named the Professional Lawyer of the Year in 1999 by the N.J. Commission on Professionalism in the Law, and in 2011 the Benerementi Medal was bestowed upon him by Pope Benedict XVI. He was also a founder of the Better Business Bureau, NJ Chapter, and has served on the boards of many organizations including: St. Francis Medical Center; Franciscan Health Corp.; Neumann Insurance Co.; American National Red Cross, Trenton Chapter; and the United Way of Greater Mercer County. Mr. Hill continues to practice as the senior partner of the law firm.
From 1892 until 1925 the offices of Backes & Backes were located in the Forst-Richey Building at State and Warren in Trenton. The firm then became the first tenants to move into the new Trenton Trust Building at 28 West State Street, and in 1984 it moved to 15 West Front Street. To better serve our clientele, in 2008, Backes & Hill relocated its offices to 3131 Princeton Pike, Bldg. 5, Suite 114, in Lawrenceville, NJ, where we continue the firm’s long standing legacy of integrity, personal concern, attention to detail, and fair billing practices.