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Jenner & Block has appointed a new chairman, tapping Anton “Tony” Valukas, a prominent white-collar defense attorney in Chicago, to succeed Jerold Solovy, who will step down, but take the new title of chairman emeritus. Valukas, 64, said he doesn’t expect to change the direction in which the firm is headed, though he plans to spend more of his own time guiding the firm and mentoring younger attorneys. Solovy, 77, and Valukas both work in Chicago, where Jenner & Block was founded and still has its largest office. “What we’re focusing on right now, and what I will be focusing on, is the younger leaders in the firm that are developing new clients and helping them grow those new clients,” Valukas said in an interview. The change comes at a time when several large firms with roots in Chicago have chosen to hand top posts to a younger generation and have sought to boost profits per partner. This year Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal elevated a younger partner to the chairman post and Mayer Brown installed three in a new office of the chair. All three firms have also recently edged some attorneys toward the door as they seek higher profits. ‘Natural progression’ Jenner & Block, long known as a big litigation firm in Chicago, has expanded in recent years to build a large corporate practice as well. Earlier this month, the firm hired Richard Ziegler, the former general counsel for 3M Co., in its New York office, and General Motors Corp. is among Jenner’s corporate clients. The firm earlier this year encouraged some attorneys to leave not long after some of its top partners, including Jeff Marwill and Matthew Neumeier, exited. Solovy, who has held the chair post for 17 years, said that the change is a natural progression for the firm. He plans to continue his practice and expects to have more time to spend with clients, he said. “Transition is important and passing the mantle to someone like Mr. Valukas, who is a tremendous leader and spokesman for the firm” is part of that change, Solovy said in an interview. Valukas said the firm’s seven-member policy committee, on which he and Solovy sit, reached the conclusion that it was time for the transition. “This was a consensus sort of situation,” Valukas said. “Jerry has been talking about this for some time.” Valukas will continue as a full-time trial lawyer, he said, though he will devote about 20% to 30% of his time to the administrative duties of the chair position. Jenner & Block is not similar to other firms that require a chair to spend the bulk of his or her work time on firm matters, he said. Valukas, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois from 1985 to 1989, is also chairman of the firm’s white-collar criminal defense and counseling practice. Valukas has been a partner at Jenner & Block since 1976, except for the four-year term as U.S. attorney in Chicago. Prior to joining Jenner & Block, he held a variety of positions with the Justice Department. The firm has about 470 attorneys in four offices, including Dallas, New York and Washington.

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