Jenner & Block, having just recruited Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s energy regulatory co-chair Suedeen Kelly, is building out a new practice group after adding two more lawyers with experience at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The move marks Jenner & Block’s third new practice area in almost as many months, as the firm launched an aerospace and aviation practice in late March after bringing on three lawyers in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Last week, Jenner & Block picked up a public international law practice after hiring partner Patrick Pearsall in the nation’s capital, where he was most recently chief of investment arbitration at the U.S. Department of State.
On Tuesday, Jenner & Block confirmed its hire of Max Minzner, who served as FERC general counsel from Sept. 1, 2015 until February, as a partner for its new energy regulation group, as well as senior counsel Jeffrey Dennis, a former director of the division of policy development at FERC.
At Akin Gump, Dennis also served as senior counsel and worked closely with Kelly in the firm’s energy regulation, markets and enforcement group. Dennis and Minzner join Kelly, their former FERC colleague who made the jump to Jenner & Block from Akin Gump earlier this month.
“Coming out of government, I was really looking for a firm that was interested in doing really high-quality, first-class legal work in the energy space [and] the opportunity to marry-up my experience with the work of others at the firm,” Minzner said.
Kelly, who served as FERC commissioner from 2003 to 2009, will serve as co-chair of the energy regulatory practice at Jenner & Block alongside partner Randall Mehrberg, who re-joined the firm for the third time last year after serving as a pro bono senior adviser to the mayor of Chicago.
Mehrberg began his legal career at Jenner & Block in 1980 and made partner six years later. In subsequent years he went on to top in-house roles at power utility Exelon Corp., PSEG Energy Holdings LLC and ski resort operator Vail Resorts Inc.
“We have a good number of clients in the energy space for whom we do a lot of important work and what I really wanted to ascertain was where can we add value for them, where can we maximize our contributions [and] what are their greatest needs,” Mehrberg said
For Mehrberg and Jenner & Block, that meant adding lawyers and litigators with extensive regulatory and enforcement experience who could expand the firm’s offerings to clients that include Exelon (owner of the soon-to-be shuttered Three Mile Island nuclear power plant), Mitsubishi Electric Corp., National Grid USA and Pacific Gas & Electric Co., amid a turbulent time in the energy market.
“The energy space is one where there’s an enormous amount of dynamism—a lot of transitions are happening in that field—and so there are a lot of things clients need to do and think about in [a market that’s] so heavily regulated and overseen by government at all levels,” Minzner said.
Minzner, a son of a former New Mexico Supreme Court justice and Albuquerque lawyer, began his legal career as an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell in 2000. He spent nearly two years as FERC’s top lawyer and from 2009 to 2010 helped lead the regulator’s enforcement arm and investigate FERC violations related to the U.S. energy industry.
The addition of an energy practice is just the latest piece in an expansion drive by Jenner & Block, which saw its finances slip slightly in 2016. Earlier this month, Jenner & Block brought back partner Ian Gershengorn in Washington, D.C., where he served as an acting U.S. solicitor general, as well as former Federal Communications Commission general counsel Howard Symons, who came aboard as a telecommunications partner in the nation’s capital.
In March, Jenner & Block saw its new aviation and aerospace practice take flight following the addition of Crowell & Moring practice co-chair Marc Warren and partners Thomas Boiling and Abby Bried, the latter two of which were in-house lawyers at United Airlines Inc.
“It’s a strategic direction for the firm [to] move more towards regulatory work that is in regulated markets where we already represent clients,” said Craig Martin, chair of Jenner & Block’s litigation department. “[It] was our plan to expand in the energy market at the right time and the right time is now.”
Jenner & Block declined to comment on the legal recruiter used for its latest additions.