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Sometimes patience pays off. For Chicago’s Jenner & Block, a firm that has long been litigation-lopsided, taking its time and sticking to its strategic plan to grow a corporate practice seems to have landed the mother lode. In September, Jenner announced that two M&A heavyweights formerly with Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis, Robert Osborne and Elmer Johnson, would be joining the firm, with Osborne heading Jenner’s new corporate group — a lateral move that Kay Hoppe, president of Chicago legal search firm Credentia Inc., describes as “the biggest news since Skadden moved here in the eighties.” That may be overheated, but Osborne and Johnson undeniably have hefty business contacts, particularly at General Motors Corp., where Johnson was once GC and Osborne has handled many recent deals. Jenner remains tight-lipped about exactly what GM work may be coming its way now — perhaps because Thomas Gottschalk, the company’s GC, says he “needs to let the dust settle” before deciding such matters. The pair obviously has other connections; the 48-year-old Osborne was GC of Lands’ End Inc., and the 70-year-old Johnson’s long resume includes stints as a managing partner at Kirkland and, most recently, president of the Aspen Institute global leadership forum. Not bad recruits for Jenner, which just last year seemed embattled when former Jenner cochairman Theodore Tetzlaff, a top litigation rainmaker whom the firm described as “one of the most significant originators of law business in the history of the firm,” left for the Chicago office of Richmond’s McGuireWoods, and when Joseph Doyle, who cochaired the firm’s M&A practice, jumped ship to Chicago’s Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. But Jenner chairman Jerold Solovy says the firm’s decision to grow corporate did not spring from these events. The groundwork was laid in the fall of 2000, he says, with the decision by a small group within Jenner & Block’s policy committee to lead the recruiting efforts that resulted in the recent hires.Linda Listrom, a litigation partner who helped oversee the initiative, says that the firm looked not only to lateral superstars like Osborne but also to organic growth and acquisitions of groups or practices. Osborne wasn’t job-hunting when first approached by Jenner, but the idea of starting his own practice quickly grew on him. “It’s not a well-established corporate practice like Kirkland’s,” Osborne says, “and my hope is to turn this into a corporate powerhouse.” And though Jenner partners receive, on average, much less compensation than their Kirkland counterparts ($460,000 average annual profits per partner to Kirkland’s $1.5 million, according to the latest Am Law 100 survey), Robert Graham, Jenner’s managing partner, promises that Osborne hasn’t taken a pay cut. While weighing his decision, Osborne mentioned the prospect of helping start this new practice to his old colleague Johnson, who had recruited him to Kirkland from Harvard Law School in 1979. Johnson, who had helped build Kirkland’s corporate practice in the late 1960s and early 1970s, jumped at the chance to help Osborne transform Jenner — and Jenner was equally gung ho, given Johnson’s stature and reputation in the specialty of the moment, corporate governance. Jenner anticipates an immediate surge in corporate work thanks to these additions — from the firm’s existing litigation clients as well as the clients this duo will bring with it and attract. Listrom also sees the pair as an obvious recruiting tool, helping to attract future talent. What more could one hope for from two lateral hires?

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