Terrence Truax
Terrence Truax ()

Patent litigation partner Terrence Truax, who has spent nearly his entire career at Jenner & Block, has been elected to succeed Susan Levy as the 450-lawyer firm’s new managing partner.

The Chicago-based Truax, who cochairs Jenner’s patent litigation practice and has served on the firm’s policy committee for the past five years, will take over the post as of May 1. Levy, who joined Jenner out of law school in 1982 and has served as managing partner since 2008, announced last week that she is leaving the firm to become general counsel of Northern Trust Corp.

“I’m excited,” Truax, 53, said in an interview with The American Lawyer. “We at Jenner think we have something very unique here.” Truax says his goals include continuing to expand the firm’s reach beyond its Windy City base (Jenner’s other offices are in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C.). “Our vision and strategy is to continue to build our footprint and be less Chicago-centric,” he said. “We also want to build our corporate transactions practice, which will be no small feat. We’re making progress and will stay focused.”

Truax was the only candidate to succeed Levy nominated by firm’s 11-person policy committee for a vote by Jenner’s equity partnership. He says he will continue his practice in a limited way: “I have a very interesting, engaging practice, and I was a little reluctant to walk away from it.”

Truax’s expertise spans patent and antitrust disputes. He has helped develop a significant Japanese clientele for Jenner that includes Mitsubishi Electric Corp.—which he is currently defending in litigation brought by television retailers alleging a conspiracy to fix the price of cathode ray tubes—Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited and Nissan Motor Company. He left the firm as a senior associate to work in Tokyo for the firm now known as Mori Hamada & Matsumoto. His other clients include American Power Conversion Corporation, PELCO and GE Capital.

Jenner chairman Anton Valukas praised Truax in a statement included in the firm’s press release announcing his new role. “Terry is the right person to take on the role of managing partner at Jenner & Block. He has strong leadership skills and management experience and has the confidence of our clients and partners,” Valukas said. “Terry also strongly embodies the firm’s core values, managing a significant personal practice while also maintaining an active pro bono practice and commitment to the community.”

Truax’s elevation to the managing partner position comes less than a month after The Am Law Daily reported that Jenner’s gross revenue fell 8 percent in 2013, to $357.5 million, while its profits per partner plunged 17 percent, to $1.235 million. Levy said at the time that the poor results were partly the product of federal government gridlock that hit Jenner’s government contracts and defense industry practices hard.

In contrast, in the three years from 2009 to 2011, Jenner’s profits per partner jumped by an average of 24 percent. That growth was aided by the firm’s Valukas-led investigation into the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings. At the same time, Jenner boosted its profitability by shrinking its equity partner ranks. 
Since 2008 Jenner has cut its equity partner head count—particularly in its Chicago headquarters—to boost overall partner profits, according to data compiled by The American Lawyer, which noted last year that the firm has one of the widest compensation spreads in The Am Law 100. (The spread is the ratio between a firm’s top-paid and lowest-paid partner.)

“This is a natural evolution,” says Truax about the equity partner cuts. “For us to be competitive, we have to attract strong lateral candidates.”

In its most visible—and controversial—assignment, Valukas was recently hired by longtime client General Motors Corp. to conduct an independent investigation into the Chevy Cobalt ignition switch problem that has been linked to 13 deaths. Jenner has significant ties to GM, and critics assert that the relationship could compromise the investigation’s independence. Not only has Jenner previously worked for the automaker, but Robert Osborne, a former GM general counsel, is of counsel in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office.

While referring questions about the assignment to GM, Truax said, “We’re very proud to represent GM, and the GM in-house community is looking to Valukas to give an unvarnished report.”

Over the course of his career, Truax has shown a commitment to pro bono work—a Jenner hallmark. Along with serving on the firm’s pro bono executive committee, he has handled 30 felony cases for indigent clients in Cook County, 10 of which went to trial. He is a director of the Chicago Bar Foundation, which promotes legal access to Chicago’s underserved, and of Breakthrough Urban Ministries, which helps individuals in Chicago’s low-income East Garfield Park neighborhood. He also serves on the advisory board of the Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic.