Wolcott Dunham (“Dick”) is a retired partner, and a preeminent insurance industry lawyer with a list of deals and clients that includes many of the most prominent transactions in the sector and most of the major industry participants. His practice included state, federal and international regulatory matters, corporate governance and general corporate counseling. He regularly advised non-profit organizations and boards on governance matters.

Since its first publication, Chambers USA ranked him above the top tier in the Insurance: Transactional and Regulatory category. “The undisputed leader of the field, Wolcott Dunham is widely considered to be the finest transactional insurance practitioner in the USA,” according to the publication, which has also described him as “the dean of the New York insurance Bar” and “the pre-eminent insurance law expert in the USA.” Further, commentators in Chambers USA have stated that “he understands the regulatory structure better than most of the regulators do.”  Mr. Dunham was also cited by The BTI Consulting Group in 2010 as one of five U.S. lawyers providing superior client service. Through 2010, he served as global Co-Chair of the firm’s Financial Institutions Group.

Mr. Dunham advised the boards of directors and led the Debevoise teams as outside counsel to most of the U.S. life insurance companies in their demutualizations. Mr. Dunham has advised boards and managements in negotiated M&A deals, hostile takeover situations, and capital markets transactions. He has advised clients on the convergence of insurance and banking. He was instrumental in legislative drafting efforts that facilitated reorganization of mutual life insurers and advised the American Council of Life Insurers on the streamlining of state regulation and on federal regulatory reform.

In addition to establishing and building one of the world’s leading insurance practices, Mr. Dunham has actively participated in many insurance-related bar and professional activities. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the Association of Life Insurance Counsel (2005-2012), and at its centennial annual meeting in May 2013 he received the Association’s Buist M. Anderson Distinguished Service Award for outstanding service to the Association and to the life insurance bar, the life insurance industry, and colleagues in the life insurance bar. In May 2007, he was appointed by the Governor of New York as a member of the New York State Commission to Modernize the Regulation of Financial Services. He was the Executive Director of the Heimann Commission (the New York State Executive Advisory Commission on Insurance Industry Regulatory Reform) in 1982 and is a former Chair of the Committee on Insurance Law of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York and a former Chair of the Committee on Insurance Law of the American Bar Association Section on Administrative Law. Mr. Dunham is a Fellow of the American College of Investment Counsel and a member of the Union Internationale des Avocats and the American Society of International Law.

Mr. Dunham has spoken and written on many insurance-related topics and was chair of the annual Practising Law Institute program on Insurance Industry Mergers & Acquisitions. He originated and serves as the general editor and co-author of the four-volume treatise, New York Insurance Law, first published in 1990 and a new edition, New Appleman New York Insurance Law, Second Edition, updated semiannually. He also originated and was for many years editor-in-chief of Insurance and Investment Management M&A.

Mr. Dunham received his A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1965 and his LL.B. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1968. He joined Debevoise as an associate in 1969 and was a partner in the firm from 1977 through 2010.

Beyond the firm, Mr. Dunham is Chair Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, former Senior Warden of St. James’ Church, a member of the boards of directors of the Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter and Dutchess Land Conservancy, and President of the Fund for Astrophysical Research. From 2012 through 2014 he served on the members committee of Terrafirma Risk Retention Group, LLC, a non-profit insurer organized by Land Trust Alliance. He was a trustee of the Episcopal Diocese of New York (2011-2016) and a member of the board of directors of Episcopal Charities of the Diocese of New York (2005-2012). In 2011, he received the Servant of Justice Award of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.


  • Harvard Law School, 1968, LL.B.
  • Harvard University, 1965, A.B.

Bar Admissions

  • New York