The history of the firm can be traced back by examining its two different origins: the origin of State Advocacy and the origin of the firm in its own right.

The origins of the State Advocacy  date back to the start of the fourteenth century, long before those of the firm, which has only been called Pels Rijcken & Droogleever Fortuijn since 1969. However, the history of the two different law firms that merged on 1 January 1969 to become Pels Rijcken & Droogleever Fortuijn reaches back as far as the nineteenth century.

Pels Rijcken

The law firm Pels Rijcken was founded by Leonard Pels Rijcken. After his graduation, he began working for his father's firm in Breda; his father was a lawyer too, as was Leonard's grandfather before him. In 1935, he moved to The Hague to work at the office of Van Doorn, Esq. His first cases there involved joy-riding, something which was not punishable by law at the time which meant that the joy rider could only be charged with the theft of petrol. He also worked on the case of a widow who had been swindled by a civil-law notary. In 1946, Van Doorn retired from the practice, and the practice was therefore continued by Leonard Pels Rijcken and four partners. At the time of the merger, in 1969, the firm Pels Rijcken had four partners. In addition to Pels Rijcken these partners were C.H. Beelaerts van Blokland, A. Korthals Altes and J. Pruim.

Droogleever Fortuijn

Eduard Droogleever Fortuijn was brought up in China, but returned to the Netherlands to attend the gymnasium, a pre-university grammar school. He went on to study in Leiden, and after graduating, started work as an attorney at Nauta en Lambert in Rotterdam in 1938. By 1939, he had already left to work for Nysingh and De Kanter in The Hague. After his military service, during which he was posted to the Dutch East Indies, he was employed by the firm of G.W. van der Does, Esq. LL. M., who was the State Advocate at that time. Eduard was known to be a very modest person, who placed a great deal of importance on the social aspects of the legal profession, as evidenced by the pro bono cases he took on. In addition, he also worked as an unpaid supervisory director of the Nutsspaarbank and was on the board of a housing corporation for people of little means. He succeeded Van der Does, Esq. to the position of State Advocate in 1965. In 1969, his firm consisted of three partners. Besides Eduard Droogleever Fortuijn, these partners were S. Gratema and G.W. van der Does.

After the merger

Pels Rijcken & Droogleever Fortuijn initially set up office on the Javastraat, and later moved via the Stichthage office building (the office building that serves as the entrance to The Hague Central Station) to Babylon in 1984. Since 2010 Pels Rijcken & Droogleever Fortuijn has had its office in New Babylon.

On 1 January 1992, civil-law notary services were added to the practice, initially only with civil-law notary firm Van Lonkhuijzen, Van Dullemen & Gallas. On 1 November 1999, an agreement was signed with almost the entire civil-law notary department of the The Hague branch of De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, led by Wenda Kroon-Welp and Pieter Klapwijk. On 1 January 2006, Pels Rijcken's business structure was converted from a partnership into a public company.

Over the years, Pels Rijcken has handled innumerable cases and has given thousands of legal recommendations.