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Jones Day Chief Brogan to Step Down, Shumaker to Take Helm (1)

Nov. 18, 2022, 7:13 PMUpdated: Nov. 18, 2022, 9:42 PM

Longtime Jones Day leader Stephen Brogan is stepping down from his role at the law firm and has tapped Greg Shumaker as his successor.

Brogan, a singular Big Law leader, signaled to firm partners this year he planned to relinquish his managing partner role but kept a tight lid on his successor pick until announcing the transition Friday.

“Greg is a natural born leader who has a disarming charm while at the same time possessing an iron will to protect our clients and the firm,” Brogan said in a statement.

The transition marks a new chapter for the Ohio-founded law firm that became a major player in the nation’s capital under Brogan’s watch.

During Donald Trump’s presidency, the firm became closely associated with the administration. White House Counsel Don McGahn and Solicitor General Noel Francisco both came from Jones Day and returned to the firm after their service with Trump.

Jones Day lawyers have also represented the Trump campaign and a related political action committee, even as other large firms, including Seyfarth Shaw and Morgan Lewis, moved quickly away from Trump’s orbit following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

Shumaker, who takes the reins Jan. 1, is a Washington litigator who has been at the firm for nearly 35 years. He served as a lead trial lawyer in Detroit’s $18 billion bankruptcy proceeding, which generated tens of millions in revenue for the firm, and he has represented major auto manufacturers in restructuring cases.

Jones Day reported more than $2.4 billion in gross revenue last year, ranking among the 15 largest firms in the country, according to data compiled by The American Lawyer. Its corporate clients have included Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, R.J. Reynolds, and Purdue Pharma.

Brogan’s Shoes

Brogan is widely credited with expanding the firm’s footprint and making Jones Day a household name in D.C. legal and political circles. The firm added more than 600 lawyers and launched 18 offices during Brogan’s tenure, according to Jones Day.

“They have evolved into a really significant international firm every place they are,” said Bruce Mclean, who led D.C. law firm Akin Gump for two decades. “That’s a big task. Many firms have tried it, and few have succeeded.”

Brogan was age 50 when the firm announced in late 2002 he had been selected managing partner by his predecessor, Patrick McCartan. He became the seventh managing partner at the firm since 1913 when he took the leadership post, and his 20-year term is the third-longest in the firm’s history.

He’s known for his tight control over firm operations, dictating lawyer pay and handpicking his replacement. He also helped burnish Jone Day’s reputation for having hard-nosed litigators who fight aggressively for major corporate clients.

Along with McCartan, he shares deep ties to University of Notre Dame: Brogan serves on the university’s board of trustees, which McCartan once chaired.

The firm historically mandated the managing partner retire from the position by age 65. Brogan is now around 70 years old. McCartan stayed in the position for three years past 65, the first managing partner to do so.

The firm declined to provide ages for Brogan and Shumaker, the incoming leader.

“I don’t recall a time before he was chair of Jones Day,” Mclean said, referring to Brogan. “It’s a big law firm with a big footprint so a successorship is a big challenge for the firm.”

Shumaker’s Focus

Shumaker has focused much of his career on complicated litigation related to major bankruptcy cases, including those involving General Motors Co. and Chrysler, now part of Stellantis NV, which was formed by the merger of Fiat Chrysler and PSA Group.

He oversees the firm’s global disputes practice, a team of 200 trial lawyers in offices around the world.

He also has Notre Dame connections. Shumaker graduated from the law school in 1987 and has served on the board of directors for the Notre Dame Law School Association since 2002.

His ascension was announced just days after Trump announced his new run for the White House. Jones Day’s role this time around remains to be seen. That’s just one question facing Shumaker.

Other Contenders

A trio of other Jones Day partners were also believed to be in the running for the top job.

Traci Lovitt was identified as a potential successor in February by two former Jones Day lawyers who are suing the firm, alleging its parental leave policies are sexist. They said in a court filing that Lovitt was Brogan’s “chosen successor.”

The New York litigator runs the firm’s vaunted issues and appeals group. She has represented Wells Fargo & Co., Chevron Corp., IBM Corp. and BNP Paribas North America Inc. in her 16 years at the firm.

Washington lawyer Kevyn Orr, who Jones Day promoted to partner-in-charge of the US earlier this year, was also said by sources to be a contender. Orr joined Jones Day in 2001 and is best known for overseeing Detroit’s massive municipal bankruptcy as the emergency city manager.

Francisco, who served as US Solicitor General during the Trump administration, was also thought to be a possible successor, according to sources. The leader of Jones Day’s Washington office, Francisco recently advised former Trump Attorney General William Barr in testimony before the House committee investigating the 2021 US Capitol attack.

—Roy Strom contributed to this report.

(Updated with additional reporting throughout. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; Justin Wise at jwise@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor on this story: John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com