Anton Valukas. (Photo: Tim Klein)
Anton “Tony” Valukas will step down at the end of the month as Jenner & Block’s chairman, a position he has served in for the past decade.
Jenner & Block will not name a successor for the honorary role, and the 73-year old Chicagoan will continue in his private practice at the Am Law 100 firm. Dropping “administrative duties” as he called it, will allow Valukas to focus more on family and mentoring—both young lawyers at the firm and students whom he serves as a volunteer.
Valukas said now was a good time to formally step away from firm leadership because he was confident in the group of leaders carrying Jenner & Block forward.
“We have a remarkable group of younger leaders in this firm in their 40s and 50s who over the last several years have done a great job contributing to the success of this firm,” Valukas said.
Jenner & Block, led since 2014 by Chicago-based managing partner Terrence Truax, grew its head count last year to 487. But the firm also had tepid financial results after a string of boom years that included some of the largest gross revenue growth rates in The Am Law 100.
Arguably the most public face at the litigation powerhouse, Valukas made headlines for the 2,200-page report he authored in 2009 as the court-appointed examiner in the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. And in 2014, Valukas led an internal investigation into faulty ignition switch problems at General Motors Co.
Valukas served as the U.S. Attorney in Chicago from 1985 to 1989, during which time he oversaw an investigation into case-fixing and bribing judges known as “Operation Greylord.” Greylord, a longrunning investigation that was also overseen by other assistant U.S. attorney’s, including current Jenner & Block partner Thomas Sullivan and Winston & Strawn co-chairman Dan Webb, resulted in 15 convictions of Chicago judges who were on the take.
The American Lawyer named Valukas one of its Lifetime Achievers in 2016. Despite that honor, Valukas said he has no intention of winding down, noting that his practice remains “robust” at the firm.
“He’s way too modest to push this himself, but our firm has benefited enormously because he has been a leader in terms of giving back through community service, pro bono and a number of ways that are very unheralded and that are done quietly,” Truax said. “And that to me is a real statement about a leader.”
Asked what sort of assignments characterized his time as chairman, Valukas referenced a program he participated in called “principal for a day” that took him to Fairfield Academy on Chicago’s poverty-stricken West Side. After Valukas left, he asked for the names of 25 kids in hopes of finding partners at Jenner & Block who would buy them Christmas gifts.
By the second year of the program, Valukas said about 800 students were receiving two-to-three gifts each from Jenner & Block lawyers and staff. In 2006, the firm raised more than $20,000 to purchase more than 45 computers for the elementary school.
“That became part of what this firm did,” Valukas said. “And that was the type of support I got as chairman, and it’s not because I was chairman. It was because that was a great idea and that’s what we do.”
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