Former Judge Gary Feinerman said he was looking for a new chapter after serving 12 years on the bench, and he found it starting this week at Latham & Watkins.
Feinerman, 57, and eight years away from senior status, will be a litigation partner in Latham’s Chicago office—just across the city’s Loop business district from his old federal courthouse.
“This won’t be a situation where I’m coming in to serve as a strategic advisory role,” Feinerman said in an interview. “I’ll be a working litigator, taking depositions, arguing motions, conducting trials.”
The hire is part of a fast start for Latham this year, following the addition of two former Cahill Gordon & Reindel corporate partners in New York.
Federal judges serve lifetime appointments and decisions to step down early are rare among them. The former judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois said he had no complaints about the federal judiciary. He said he enjoyed the courthouse community and mentoring clerks and strove to treat every case as equally important—from claims worth $8,000 to $800 million.
But he said he missed advocating for clients.
“The prospect of being an advocate again and working with teams in a law firm on different matters was incredibly attractive to me,” he said.
He said he’s looking forward to “rolling up my sleeves” and working on complex commercial cases.
The former Illinois Solicitor General previously worked at Sidley Austin and Mayer Brown. He said part of the “new chapter” he wanted to write meant going to a firm where he hadn’t worked. Latham was the first and only firm he considered.
He said he was drawn to the firm after meeting with partners across the country and internationally. He also plans to work on pro bono cases.
Gregg Costa is another judge who made the rare decision to leave the bench early, departing the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last year to join Gibson Dunn. When Costa departed the bench, he said he feared judges were increasingly seen by the public as political actors.
For his part, Feinerman defended his former colleagues in robes.
“Judges certainly have different views, but everybody to a person is just trying to get it right,” Feinerman said. “Nobody I saw in my 12-plus years on the bench brought any kind of a political axe to grind to any matter in which I was involved or which I was familiar.”