Pels Rijcken’s history follows two paths: State Advocacy and the firm itself. The history of the law firms that merged on 1 January 1969 to become Pels Rijcken & Droogleever Fortuijn can be traced back to the 19th century.
Leonard Pels Rijcken founded the Pels Rijcken firm. After completing his study of law, he then joined his father’s law firm in Breda. Leonard’s father and grandfather were both attorneys. In 1935, Leonard moved to The Hague to join the Van Doorn law firm. Van Doorn gave up his practice in 1946 and Leonard Pels Rijcken took over the practice together with four partners. At the time of the merger in 1969, Pels Rijcken had four partners. In addition to Leonard Pels Rijcken, these were C.H. Beelaerts van Blokland, E. Korthals Altes and J. Pruim.
Eduard Droogleever Fortuijn spent his youth in China and returned to the Netherlands to complete his education and graduate from gymnasium. He subsequently received his degree in law from Leiden University and was admitted to the Dutch Bar in 1938. He joined Nauta and Lambert in Rotterdam, but moved to The Hague in 1939 to join Nysingh and De Kanter. After completing his military service, which took him to the Dutch East Indies, he joined the firm of the State Advocate, G.W. van der Does. Eduard was known as a very modest man who believed that the legal profession also had a duty to society, as evidenced by the pro bono cases that he represented. He was also an unsalaried supervisory director at the Nutsspaarbank and a board member of a housing corporation for people of limited means. In 1965 he succeeded Van der Does as State Advocate. In 1969 the firm had three partners: Eduard Droogleever Fortuijn, S. E. Gratama and J.A.E. van der Does.
Pels Rijcken & Droogleever Fortuijn’s offices have been located in the New Babylon building since 2010. Notarial services were added to the practice on 1 January 1992, initially with the firm of civil-law notaries of Van Lonkhuijzen, Van Dullemen & Gallas. On 1 November 1999, virtually the entire notarial practice of The Hague branch of De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek followed, led by Wenda Kroon-Welp and Pieter Klapwijk. On 1 January 2006, Pels Rijcken’s legal form changed from a partnership to a public company.