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Q&A: Jones Day's Gregory Shumaker
The National Law Journal
Gregory Shumaker started his legal career as a summer associate in Jones Day's Washington office in 1986. Almost 27 years later, he's still there.
Shumaker took on the role of partner-in-charge of the Washington office in January 2011, having previously served as head of the firm's law school and lateral recruiting program from 2007 to 2011. His practice focuses on civil litigation and investigations involving criminal, regulatory and congressional matters.
When Chrysler was going through bankruptcy in 2009, Shumaker was part of the trial team that represented the car company all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Legal Times sat down with Shumaker to discuss Supreme Court clerks, the Washington legal market and the business of the firm.
Legal Times: What practice areas have been keeping the firm busy these days?
FCPA is an area that has gotten a lot of attention by the Justice Department, and there has been a lot of focus by companies. They can't do anything overseas without being concerned about FCPA issues. That was less so in the '90s. There were a handful going on; now there are dozens if not hundreds of active investigations going on. That has become a much more prominent part of the legal landscape for our clients.
There has been a lot of focus on health care and the Affordable Care Act and the significant changes that are going on in that field. We'll see where the litigation side comes in. It's a little early to see, but I think there will be a lot of activity in the coming years.
Another area that I think is growing is the government contracts area. It's an area that our clients have increasingly run into in recent years.
In the fall associate class, Jones Day hired six former Supreme Court clerks, including four in the Washington office. What do you think makes this firm attractive?
It reflects the fact that a lot of very talented people want to work in an environment that we offer. Our focus is client service done on a collaborative basis. Based on my years of recruiting, I don't think there is another firm out there that emphasizes a team approach to getting problems solved for clients. Everything at the firm is designed to get our clients the right lawyer for the job no matter where they might be throughout the world. I believe that our attractiveness to Supreme Court clerks in recent years has been because they value teamwork as well. In the last four terms, we have had the great fortune to argue 10 cases before the Supreme Court. Ten different lawyers argued those cases. That is a reflection of the opportunities here.
We do not run like a number of competitors do; having one bright, shining sun around which all planets revolve. The sun, the star of the system, is going to make the Supreme Court argument. We have a lot of stars, but our philosophy is that the lawyer who knows the client the best and knows the case the best is the one who most properly is going to appear in court. I believe that is something that has resonated with a lot of the Supreme Court clerks. We have 253 lawyers here and 18 Supreme Court clerks; one-third of our lawyers have had some clerkship experience. We've had associates and young partners argue Supreme Court cases. That is a reflection of what the place is like and the opportunities we provide.
Jones Day was one of the first firms to come to Capitol Hill. What is the history behind the move?
Jones Day has been here in Washington virtually longer than a lot of other out-of-town firms. We came [to Washington] in 1946. It's grown steadily, generally organically. In 1979, two-thirds of the office split off and formed Crowell & Moring. Some of those lawyers who remained at that time include the leaders of the firm today, including the managing partner, Steve Brogan, who makes all of the partnership and compensation decisions for the entire firm. Steve was the Washington office partner-in-charge from 1989 to 2003. And then Mary Ellen Powers took over from 2003 to 2011.
Coming [to Capitol Hill] at a time when others were not here was natural. Not only was it taking advantage of one of the most spectacularly beautiful spots in Washington, but it allowed us to do it in a cost-effective way. I think it reflects a commitment of the firm not only to the present but to the future. It's a confidence that the firm has not only to the city, but the younger lawyers as well.
What is your take on the current legal market?
It somewhat harkens back to when I was firmwide hiring partner between 2007 and 2011. Those were difficult years. Again, I think the reflection of the strength of this firm is that we were one of the very few firms during that time that was looking to hire people as opposed to looking to jettison people. A lot of our competitors did something that this firm did not believe in, and that was getting rid of loads of younger lawyers because they viewed them as a cost item.
This place is always looking at the long-term vision. It knew that those would be difficult years, but the partnership was not going to -- and this was Steve Brogan's decision -- ride out the storm by eating its young. It was going to continue down the path that it had started. And, obviously, there was a reduction in the demand for legal services across the board.
People come to Jones Day not because they're looking at some gaudy profits-per-partner number that has been jiggered by management. If that is what you're selling and that number gets threatened, you have to eliminate people. This place is not managing to numbers. This place is about the longer term and developing lawyers, and you do that by sticking by people in the tough times.
I think it was the firm's brightest moment -- when the firm stood by its people, both lawyers and staff when the vast majority of our competitors were laying people off and deferring start dates.
What keeps you busy outside the practice of law?
First and foremost it's my family. I have been married over 20 years. We have four beautiful children who are incredibly active. I have two twin daughters. They rode crew this year, which was a completely new sport. It's been wonderful to get to know what crew is like. I have two younger ones -- one in seventh grade and then my 8-year-old son.
When I'm not here, I'm either watching them or coaching them. I coached all three of my girls' CYO basketball teams for six years. Some of my fondest memories are thinking back to the practices and the games at CYO basketball, and I hope to do that with my son as well. That perhaps feeds into the love of sports.
I grew up a huge sports fan and did the unthinkable and was a Philly sports fan. Since I came here I have switched all of my allegiances, much to the chagrin of my father and one brother. But I have another brother who is a partner at Jones Day. We are big Redskins fans and my father and other brother are big Eagles fans. There are a lot of spirited discussions on the home front.
This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.