Jenner & Block’s Washington, D.C. offices. (Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL)
Jenner & Block will announce Monday its hire of Brandon Fox, chief of the public corruption and civil rights section at the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, marking the second high-profile federal government prosecutor the firm has hired in as many months.
Fox has made headlines for prosecuting the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for impeding an FBI investigation into abuses at the county jail. That investigation led to 21 successful prosecutions, culminating Friday with the sentencing of ex-L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca to three years in prison. The 74-year-old, who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, was found guilty in March of obstructing the FBI investigation.
Last month, Jenner & Block brought on David Bitkower in Washington, D.C., where the former principal deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice’s criminal division joined the firm as a partner in its white-collar defense and investigations practice.
The new hires into Jenner & Block’s lucrative group, which is known for handling investigations on behalf of Credit Suisse AG, General Motors Corp., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and United Airlines Inc., come as the firm is re-branding the group to drop the nearly ubiquitous “white-collar defense” tag.
Jenner & Block has decided to drop the “white-collar defense and investigations” moniker for the group and make it the “investigations, compliance and defense practice.” Why drop the well-known nickname of a practice that so many firms are eager to boast about?
“A lot of clients look at ‘white-collar’ and their immediate gut reaction is, ‘I must have done something wrong,’” said partner Reid Schar, who investigated New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal and is one of four co-chairs of Jenner & Block’s erstwhile white-collar group. “That’s typically not who we represent. And we’re trying to get away from describing what we do as white-collar defense or defense more generally.”
Apart from the branding tweak, Schar said his firm was eager to hire Fox and Bitkower in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., respectively, to bolster the national scope of the group. Still, Schar said that geography is not typically a factor when the firm looks to add to one of its highest-performing practices.
Schar said Jenner & Block has been selective when hiring into what is now the investigations practice. For instance, after he joined the firm in June 2012 from the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, where he led the government’s prosecution of ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Schar said Jenner & Block didn’t make another lateral partner hire into his group until November 2015, when it hired former federal prosecutor Gayle Littleton in Chicago.
“We have been looking for real quality people to expand this practice in Washington and in Los Angeles,” Schar said.
In hiring Fox, Schar adds a friend and former colleague from the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago. The duo worked in the public corruption section of the Justice Department’s Windy City outpost before Schar left for private practice and Fox headed to Los Angeles.
Fox (pictured right) said the sentencing of Baca was “the perfect end to my career.” And having started his legal career as an associate at Kirkland & Ellis more, Fox is looking forward to his return to private practice after 14 years of public service.
“Jenner & Block presents a fantastic opportunity for me to build a practice here that hopefully one day will be comparable to the practice Jenner has across the country for investigations,” Fox said. “I’ve had a phenomenal career [in government] and the next big challenge will be to go into private practice.”
As for Bitkower, the former assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York managed more than 700 federal prosecutors investigating and prosecutions cases involving cybercrime, intellectual property, money laundering, public corruption, organized crime and white-collar crime.
Despite the upheaval at the Justice Department and FBI brought about by the Trump administration, Schar said it is not necessarily a more fertile time to recruit out of the federal government.
“Any time there is a change in administration, there are questions about the direction of the [Justice] Department and what the priorities of the Department will be,” Schar said. “That being said, I haven’t seen an influx of people trying to leave the office because of the change in administration, at least in Chicago. For a lot of people, the mission is still the same and they will likely stay.”
Jenner & Block, which saw longtime chairman Anton Valukas step down last month from the honorary leadership role, has been extremely active on the lateral hiring front this year. The firm brought back former partner Ian Gershengorn this month in Washington, D.C., where he was most recently an acting U.S. solicitor general. In February, Jenner & Block hired another ex-partner in Kali Bracey, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the civil division at Main Justice.
Jenner & Block added Morrison & Foerster’s global public companies co-chair David Lynn in March as co-chair for its securities practice in the nation’s capital. Howard Symons, a former general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission, also joined Jenner & Block last month as a partner in the firm’s communications, Internet and technology practice in Washington, D.C.
The American Lawyer reported in March on Jenner & Block hiring Crowell & Moring partner Marc Warren to launch an aviation and aerospace practice inside-the-Beltway, where the firm last week recruited three more lawyers from Crowell & Moring as special counsel for its new practice group.
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