Jenner & Block’s Craig Martin has stepped down as chair of the Chicago-based firm just over a year after he took on its top leadership role.
Martin will be replaced effective immediately by Thomas Perrelli, a Washington-based partner who was the No. 3 lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Obama administration. Perrelli in 2012 returned to Jenner and founded the firm’s government controversies and public policy litigation practice.
The surprise departure marks the third major leadership change at Jenner since Martin was installed as chair 14 months ago.
“It’s the job of a life, but not for a lifetime,” Martin said in a statement obtained by Bloomberg Law. “I believe the partnership benefits from the introduction of new leadership and new ideas. That’s why I thank Tom Perrelli, who will do a wonderful job, keeping all eyes on delivering unsurpassed legal services in today’s demanding global economy.”
Martin was not available for an interview and did not provide further comment on the reasons for his leadership exit.
Jenner & Block said after stepping down from the chair position Martin will remain on its 11-lawyer policy committee.
Perrelli, who began his career as a Jenner associate in 1992, will be the fifth chair in the firm’s 100-plus year history. He joins the ranks of Albert Jenner, Jerold Solovy, and Anton “Tony” Valukas, who served in the role for a decade before stepping down in 2017. The position, which the firm calls “ambassadorial,” was vacant before Martin’s appointment in 2019.
“Tom Perrelli lives and breathes Jenner’s values, and we think this is an exciting time to collaborate with folks across the offices and practice groups and continue to move us forward,” Jestin said in an interview.
While serving as the U.S. associate attorney general, Perrelli was responsible for negotiating a $20 billion trust fund with BP that compensated victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He also led negotiations on settlements worth more than $25 billion with mortgage servicing companies over allegations of robo-signing and other violations of the foreclosure process.
Since returning to the firm, he has served as an independent monitor for Citigroup’s compliance with a $2.5 billion consumer relief fund created to settle claims brought by the U.S. government and states that the bank misled investors about the mortgages inside securities it sold.
Perrelli said in an interview that he would continue to practice full time while his work as chair would involve promoting collaboration and client service among its partners.
“The firm has continued to be unmatched in its commitment to public service and pro bono,” Perrelli said. “But I also see the extraordinary group of young lawyers who are developing and having tremendous successes for their clients.”
Martin is a high-powered trial lawyer who represents companies including Aon, General Dynamics, MacAndrews & Forbes, United Airlines, and the Crown family, a longtime Jenner & Block client.
When Martin was named chair last year, Lester Crown, the 94-year-old billionaire whose family office owns an 11% stake in General Dynamics, according to Bloomberg data, called him “the best lawyer business adviser I have ever worked with.”
Martin is credited with developing the firm’s wealth management practice that launched in 2016 with the hires of longtime Crown family estate planning lawyers Debra Levin and Barbara Grayson. He also helped build the firm’s aviation practice, which launched in 2017 with multiple hires including the former leader of Crowell & Moring’s aviation group, Marc Warren.
Martin has appeared in at least 10 federal court cases in 11 of the past 12 years, according to data from Bloomberg Law.
He also keeps an active pro bono practice. In December he won an $11 million jury verdict on behalf of an Illinois prisoner who sued the state’s healthcare provider for inmates.
Martin is also highly active in Chicago’s civic society, serving on the boards of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the Crown Family Philanthropies, the Urban League of Chicago, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and the University of Chicago Law School Advisory Council.