Willkie Farr hires former Jenner & Block chairman to launch Chicago office

Craig Martin joins firm as partner along with five other ex-Jenner & Block attorneys
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Top 50 US firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher has appointed former Jenner & Block chairman Craig Martin to open a Chicago office.

Martin joins Willkie Farr as a partner and chair for the Midwest region after stepping down as chair of Chicago-based Jenner & Block in February having only been in post for a little over a year.

He will lead Willkie Farr's Chicago business, bringing with him five other ex-Jenner & Block partners: Amanda Amert, Matt Basil, Sara Horton, Barbara Grayson and Matthew Thomas. The team will bolster Willkie Farr's litigation and private wealth practice.

Thomas Cerabino, Willkie Farr's chairman, said: “Even at this moment of uncertainty, we feel that the opportunity to secure Craig, whom we have admired for years, and his team, is too good to pass up. We are thrilled to welcome this powerhouse team of first-chair trial lawyers, who are an excellent strategic fit for us.”

He added: “In the coming months, we anticipate a flight to quality to handle the unprecedented legal issues arising from the current crisis. Craig and the team will provide clients with the highest level of expertise and service to navigate these matters.”

Martin, who will also serve on Willkie Farr's executive committee, spent more than 30 years at Jenner & Block, having joined the firm straight from Harvard Law School. When he was succeeded as chair by Washington DC-based Thomas J. Perrelli he described the role of chair as “the job of a life, but not for a lifetime” adding: “I believe the partnership benefits from the introduction of new leadership and new ideas.”

Explaining his decision to join Willkie Farr, he said: “Our clients require the multi-faceted solutions that Willkie’s partners and attorneys deliver every day. Willkie’s strengths in financial services, asset management, private equity and real estate, among others, enhance our ability to provide such solutions. We hope our intense focus on critical trials and investigations enhances the firm’s offerings to its Midwest and national clients.”

Martin’s Chicago litigation team has worked together for well over a decade. Amert spent more than 18 years at Jenner & Block, where she was chair of the firm’s ERISA litigation practice. Thomas, an experienced first-chair trial litigator, clocked up 23 years of service, while patent and tech-litigator Horton arrives at Willkie Farr after more than 14 years at Jenner. Basil, a commercial dispute expert, had been at Jenner & Block since 2005. 

Private wealth lawyer Grayson joins Willkie Farr after four years at Jenner, where she co-chaired the firm’s private wealth practice. She previously spent almost 15 years at Mayer Brown, seven of which as partner.

The Chicago office is 700-lawyer Willkie Farr's sixth US office. It opened in San Francisco in 2019 and Palo Alto in 2018 - the New York-headquartered firm also has offices in New York, Washington DC, Houston, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Brussels, Milan and Rome.

The opening months of 2020 have witnessed several US office openings by firms seeking to grow their US footprints.

BakerHostetler has opened offices in San Francisco and Dallas, Shearman & Sterling has also opened in Dallas, while Perkins Coie opened in Austin.

Ashurst is targeting West Coast projects work with its second US office, in Los Angeles, while Texas firm Winstead hired two airline financing lawyers from Debevoise to open in New York.

In January Dentons’ two US combinations — Dentons Bingham Greenebaum and Dentons Cohen & Grigsby — opened for as part of its plan to build a ‘truly national law firm’. Dentons Bingham Greenebaum and Dentons Cohen & Grigsby 

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