Reid Schar, a former federal prosecutor known for his work on “Bridgegate” and prosecuting former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, has been named co-chair of Jenner & Block’s nearly 400 lawyer litigation department.
In the short-term, Schar will co-chair the department alongside David Bradford, another Chicago-based partner, who has been in the position for nearly a decade. Schar will eventually take the reins of the department that accounts for nearly 80% of the firm’s lawyers as part of a generational transfer of leadership.
Schar joined Jenner & Block in 2012 after a 13-year tenure as a federal prosecutor in Chicago, where he led the prosecution of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. In private practice, Schar’s high-profile assignments have included serving as special counsel to probe the New Jersey “Bridgegate” scandal. He also led a team that obtained a more than $1 billion judgment on behalf of steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal SA in a breach of contract case. His practice is split between litigation and investigations.
In an interview, Schar cited promoting diverse lawyers as a top goal in the new role. He said it was a “moral imperative” for law firms to hire and promote diverse lawyers while also ensuring they develop the types of relationships and career opportunities that allow Big Law careers to advance.
“You have to staff your pitches to clients with diverse lawyer and then follow through and make sure those diverse lawyers are staffed on those matters,” Schar said. “And make sure they get significant responsibility and are getting in front of clients and developing the relationships that will propel their careers up the hierarchy at our law firm and any other law firm. That can only be done through very intentional efforts.”
Jenner & Block is considered one of the more democratically-run Big Law firms, and is no stranger to shared leadership. Its managing partner role, for instance, is currently split between New York-based Katya Jestin and Chicago-based Randy Mehrberg.
“Reid leads with integrity, accountability, and a commitment to the firm’s core values – excellence, collaboration, diversity and inclusion, and pro bono and public service,” Jestin and Mehrberg said in a statement.
The litigation department had previously been led by former firm chair Craig Martin, who departed the firm to join Willkie, Farr & Gallagher. Jenner & Block named Tom Perrelli, the former associate attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, its firm chair in March.
The litigation department has remained busy during the coronavirus pandemic, Schar said, even though some trial work has been delayed by court closures. He said some clients have pushed to settle cases after the pandemic changed their financial circumstances but others have been motivated to continue fighting as the economy falters.
“You see it cut both ways, and it is really highly dependent upon how distressed the entity is and how long they feel they can play it out,” Schar said.