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For nearly a century, Jenner & Block has been one of the most respected and successful law firms in the United States. Since our founding in 1914, a dynamic team of extraordinary lawyers has established a legacy of achievement, public service and reverence for the law that continues to define our firm today. This section highlights our prominent leaders and accomplishments over the years, and provides examples of our landmark litigation successes and record-setting transactions that continue to inspire the practice of law here today. We take great pride in this rich history and remain committed to honoring it now and in the future.
The firm that would become Jenner & Block was formed in 1914 as Newman, Poppenhusen & Stern, a traditional corporate business firm founded by a group of lawyers who had been practicing law at other well-established Chicago firms. Jacob Newman, Conrad Poppenhusen and Henry Stern each had served prominent Chicago business clients and substantial individual clients, whose legal work they brought with them to their new firm. They primarily represented banks, investment bankers and mortgage houses, as well as industrial corporations. Each of these lawyers brought special talents and abilities to the new firm. None of them, however, could have envisioned the prominence the firm would come to achieve in the years that followed.
The firm’s principal litigator in the early years was Edward R. Johnston. The “Chief” emerged as a nationally known trial attorney as early as the 1920s, achieving success in many important cases for the firm's clients. He was the country’s most prominent antitrust lawyer of the time, forming and first chairing the Antitrust Section of the American Bar Association. The Chief lived to age 97, inspiring many lawyers as late as the mid 1970s.
The Chief’s most notable early victory before the United States Supreme Court came in the landmark 1925 case of Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association v. U.S. He successfully defended against the Department of Justice’s vigorous attack that the exchange of information by trade association members was an antitrust violation. As a result of this victory, the firm attracted many other association clients and began its long history of service to clients in this field.
With the deaths of founding partners Jacob Newman and Henry Stern in late 1928, the firm needed new lawyers of their stature to help serve its growing client base. They were to find one such leader in Judge Floyd Thompson.
With no formal education after high school, Floyd E. Thompson was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1911. In 1919, at age 32, he was elected to the Supreme Court of Illinois and later served as Chief Justice of that court. After resigning in 1928 to become the Democratic candidate for governor of Illinois and being defeated in the Hoover landslide, he became a partner with the firm.
Judge Thompson was an extremely talented trial lawyer who attracted many prominent clients. Chicago utility czar Samuel Insull retained the firm to represent him in 1934 when the federal government charged him with fraud and violations of the Bankruptcy Act. Judge Thompson successfully defended Mr. Insull in three federal and state court trials.
The practice of the firm changed as a result of the Great Depression. Many of the firm’s clients suffered financial reversals, causing the business and litigation practice to concentrate on the financial crisis of the time. Our attorneys handled many reorganizations and recapitalizations and represented creditors, bondholder committees and the like.
At the end of the Depression and World War II, a thriving business practice re-emerged at the firm through the efforts of such extremely talented and dedicated lawyers as name partners Frederick Mayer and Max Bloomstein. Mr. Bloomstein, who represented real estate syndicates and corporations involved in creating shopping centers, led the creation of the firm’s corporate, tax and real estate practices.
At the same time, the firm’s legendary prowess in litigation continued with a now-famous case.
In 1949, Preston Tucker, developer of the revolutionary Tucker car, was charged in Chicago with fraud and violations of Federal Securities Laws. Judge Thompson stepped in as the defense attorney for Floyd Cerf, the broker who handled the stock issue for the Tucker Corporation. While the car company of the “Tin Goose” would not recover in the end, Mr. Tucker and the others were vindicated on all charges.
At the time that Judge Thompson and Edward R. Johnston achieved national prominence, Albert E. Jenner, Jr. was graduating from law school. He, too, would achieve national recognition.
John C. Tucker, Joan M. Hall, Michael Rovell, Thomas P. Sullivan and Jerold S. Solovy
Floyd E. Thompson
Jerold S. Solovy with oil painting of dancer Ruth Page, a pioneering ballerina and choreographer