A state of independence
Lex Mundi member firms are all different. From Chicago to Shanghai, each and every one of Lex Mundi’s 125 member firms have their own distinctive character, culture and unique approach to providing best in market legal services to their clients. However, there is one common thread that binds all Lex Mundi firms together and that is their unwavering commitment to independence.
Chicago’s night sky may light up as fireworks whizz and bang to celebrate Independence Day, but independence and its unique culture are celebrated every day of the year as defining values at Chicago member firm, Jenner & Block.
“Absolutely, independence is a key value here at Jenner,” says Partner, David Greenwald, who has worked at Jenner since graduating from law school. Remaining independent has enabled Jenner to maintain its values-driven culture. Jenner has not merged with other firms. Instead, Jenner has brought in individuals and teams of lawyers who want to practice at the highest levels of the profession among colleagues who share “a commitment to integrity and professionalism, an eye towards shaping a brighter future, and a tireless pursuit of justice.”
“Our commitment to independence aligns with Lex Mundi’s philosophy of bringing together the best independent law firms around the world.
“When I served as a Director and an Officer of Lex Mundi, I was fortunate to get to know individual Lex Mundi colleagues from firms across the worldwide platform. I know they all feel very strongly about who they are, the cultures they have created and, ultimately, who they want to be as legal providers in the years ahead. Lex Mundi law firms don’t want their cultures to be diluted by becoming part of a large global corporate enterprise. A big part of Lex Mundi for us is respecting and assisting other member firms to maintain their independence, their culture, their commitment to the rule of law, and excellence and integrity in all the places that they operate.”
Our long-term commitment to pro bono comes down to the fact that if you are going to live in a country where the rule of law is so important, then every person in every community should have the ability to access the legal system.
David Greenwald Partner
Jenner and Block began practising in Chicago in 1914 and the firm has grown to become a network of offices across the USA – now reaching into the UK with a London office - employing more than 500 lawyers in Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington DC. Highly respected for handling complex commercial litigation, investigations, government strategies, and sophisticated corporate transactional work, Jenner is famed for its extraordinary approach and dedication to delivering pro bono work. In fact, Jenner is widely known as a pioneer in this important area of law and has been recognised as Law360’s Pro Bono Firm of the Year on numerous occasions.
To put that commitment to pro bono into context, in any given year Jenner & Block’s lawyers will provide more than 70,000 hours of pro bono services to advocate for vulnerable individuals and community-based organisations. In 2021, Jenner announced a five-year commitment to provide $250 million in free legal assistance. Greenwald believes this commitment has long made Jenner the type of firm that lawyers want to be part of.
“Our long-term commitment to pro bono comes down to the fact that if you are going to live in a country where the rule of law is important, then every person in every community should have the ability to access the legal system. Whether that’s a criminal defendant or a not-for-profit organisation that needs legal assistance, our role in society is to assist them to access the rule of law.” Jenner has been an early champion for some-times controversial issues like prisoners’ rights, criminal defence, women’s rights, voting rights, and LGBTQ equality. “We encourage anybody working at the firm who has a relationship with a not-for-profit or similar organization to bring that work into the firm. It’s the ability to bring your personal life and community commitments into the firm that makes Jenner the firm it is today. It’s certainly a key reason why I have spent my whole career here at Jenner.”
Like every law firm, Jenner faced unexpected challenges during the global pandemic. In fact, two new managing partners - Randy Mehrberg and Katya Jestin – took the reins at Jenner just two months before the global lockdown. Despite the challenges and pressure the lockdown presented, Greenwald says that they steered Jenner through that tough period with aplomb. In hindsight, Greenwald believes the challenges of Covid also opened up some unique opportunities for Jenner to expand its own legal capabilities in interesting and complimentary ways.
Excellent lawyers always have a choice of firms. People who join Jenner genuinely want to share our values, practice law with integrity and be involved with their communities.
“It has been steady and intentional growth for the firm over many years,” he says. “We used the Covid period as a time to think strategically about how we want to build the firm out for current and future clients. We took the opportunity to open a San Francisco office as we expanded our service for several Silicon Valley businesses. Particularly exciting was bringing in some genuinely exceptional people whose practices are adjacent to already strong practices. That has really enabled us to build our capability with the right people.”
Those ‘exceptional people’ joining Jenner’s ranks include Ann O’Leary, former Chief of Staff to the governor of California; Shreve Ariail, former Deputy General Counsel at the CIA; Rachel Alpert, former State Department Attorney-Advisor; and Michelle Kallen, former Solicitor General of Virginia; among other impressive hires.
Greenwald says: “Excellent lawyers always have a choice of firms. People who join Jenner genuinely want to share our values, practice law with integrity and be involved with their communities. We set out to bring in good lawyers, and lawyers who are good people.”
As a long-standing Lex Mundi member, a former Lex Mundi board member and a current committee member of Lex Mundi’s Pro Bono Foundation, Greenwald’s professional network has naturally grown enormously and it is something he draws on regularly to support his clients in global jurisdictions. Today, he says, he feels globally connected to other lawyers in a unique and special way.
He concludes: “As a senior in high school in Detroit I never would have imagined that one day I would be one phone call away from colleagues I know personally in more than 100 countries. My Lex Mundi colleagues are not only among the best lawyers in their jurisdictions; they are people of the highest integrity. When our clients need help in other jurisdictions, I know I can refer them to lawyers who will provide the same level of service they receive from Jenner.”
And if you need a deeper insight into what makes Greenwald, and his colleagues at Jenner & Block, tick simply check out the quote featured on his online profile: “My advice to opposing counsel is not to mistake courtesy for weakness. Zealous advocacy at its best is civil and professional without imposing unnecessary disruption and cost to the parties. But if opposing counsel insists on doing it the hard way, we will achieve our clients’ goals regardless.”
If that’s not a strong independent spirit in action, we don’t know what is.