Jenner & Block

Brian J. Fischer

Why did you join Jenner & Block?

I joined Jenner & Block in early 2007 as a mid-level associate to become part of a top-notch litigation firm’s New York office.  I was excited at the notion of continuing to handle challenging, cutting-edge litigation matters while in a smaller environment where I’d have an opportunity to help shape the office’s direction and culture.

 

What kind of work have you been doing? Pro bono matters?

In my nearly five years at Jenner & Block I’ve been involved in an incredibly broad range of matters, including significant trials, multi-billion dollar commercial disputes, investigating potential claims on behalf of those with losses suffered directly as a result of the recent financial crisis, defending companies and individuals accused of white-collar crimes, and a variety of litigation matters that, though the stakes might be smaller as a relative matter, have been critically important to the clients.  I’ve also carried a diverse pro bono practice that has included immigration matters, criminal matters, and civil disputes and appellate matters.

 

Name 1-2 things you’ve learned in the last year.

As a junior level partner, I’ve learned invaluable lessons from senior partners about client relations and case management, and thus that mentoring at Jenner & Block continues well beyond one’s years as an associate. 

 

What has been your proudest moment?

Watching the New York office grow.  I joined as the 21st attorney in this office when it was not even two years old.  Now, we have roughly doubled in size, and the office’s practice areas reach into all corners.  Moreover, our office’s attorneys are a mix of individuals with a deeply varied, but uniformly excellent, background.  

 

What are the people at Jenner like?

In a word, collegial.  This is the ultimate team environment.  Not only are our attorneys incredibly smart, talented, and accomplished, but they are generous to one another with their time and guidance.

 

What kind of training have you received?

The most important training I’ve received is at the trial level.  With so many accomplished trial attorneys at Jenner & Block, including former AUSAs, there’s a wealth of guidance and direction available when it comes to trial preparation, strategy, and execution.  That guidance has helped me immensely in my trial experiences.

 

What qualities are needed to be successful at this level at the Firm?

Dedication, self-motivation, creativity, keen attention to detail, and a desire to do what’s necessary to vindicate your clients’ needs and rights.

 

What should a prospective associate know about being at your level in the firm?

Prospective associates should know that being a partner at Jenner & Block is very much an extension of the associate experience.  Deep engagement in the guts of your work does not wane.  Constant strategizing on behalf of your clients’ interests continues.  If you are passionate about the law and litigation, that passion is met as the top focus remains client well-being.

 

What does it take to get to the next level at the Firm?

To grow at Jenner, you need to be a team-player committed to seeing your cases succeed at each and every phase.  You need to be open to new challenges, confident in your ability to surmount them, and open to continually learning and growing as an attorney and as a professional.  

 

What sets Jenner & Block apart from other firms?

I think that Jenner & Block is unique among its peers for the extraordinary balance it has struck over many decades between representing its billable and pro bono clients.  Jenner litigators move seamlessly between work for its blue chip clients and its clients in perpetually dire straits.  This extends to all levels of practice, from the most senior of partners and associates to our paralegal staff.  It is rare, if not impossible, to find another law firm that is simultaneously so passionate about serving its private client interests and the public interest in seeing the law work for the disadvantaged. 

 

Keri L. Holleb Hotaling

Why did you join Jenner & Block?

I joined Jenner & Block because I wanted to do really interesting and challenging litigation work and learn from the best. I thought the Firm was a good fit for my personality. I felt comfortable and could see myself being happy at Jenner.

   

What kind of work have you been doing? Pro bono matters?

One of the things I love about my practice is that while I primarily work on environmental litigation matters, I also recently had the opportunity to work on a piece of complex commercial litigation which had a six-week federal bench trial. I learn something new from every case I work on.

 

I maintain an active pro bono practice, focusing on women’s issues and/or prisons. We recently settled a large prison civil rights class-action in which we represented the women prisoners in a Wisconsin medium and maximum security prison in which we were seeking improvements to the medical and mental health care. After working on such a large matter, this spring I opted to supervise first year associates in the Domestic Violence legal clinic. It has been a truly rewarding experience.  I love witnessing young attorneys put on their first witness and make their first evidentiary argument in court, and the satisfaction you get from helping someone in a crisis situation is worth all of your time and effort. 

 

Name 1-2 things you’ve learned in the last year.

I have learned a tremendous amount about bankruptcy law and specifically bankruptcy jurisdictional issues. Because I had a case pending in bankruptcy court I was able to learn a lot more about an area of the law that I never had much exposure to previously.

 

What has been your proudest moment?

My proudest moment in the last year was being recognized as one of Law360’s “Rising Legal Stars,” which named me “one of 10 environmental lawyers nationwide under the age of 40 to watch.” 

 

What are the people at Jenner like?

Intelligent, hard working, and genuine. I have made some of my dearest and closest friends at Jenner.

 

What kind of training have you received?

I received fantastic on-the-job training from senior attorneys who took time to mentor me as an associate.  I gained early litigation experiences, like taking my first depositions, in pro bono matters. I also have taken advantage of our in-house legal training, which I still continue to attend, to keep up-to-date and abreast of current environmental and litigation issues.

 

What qualities are needed to be successful at this level at the Firm?

You need to be smart, dedicated, exercise good judgment, be a team player – but know when you need to step up and lead. It is also important to understand that you are embarking on a legal career, not just starting a job. It is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

What should a prospective associate know about being at your level in the firm?

You need to continue to strive to better yourself, to become a more valuable attorney at each stage of your career. This can take on many different forms, including service to your clients, to the Firm, to the bar, and to the community.

 

What does it take to get to the next level at the Firm?

Hard work, commitment, and the support of those whom you have worked for and with.

 

What sets Jenner & Block apart from other firms?

Its people and the quality and complexity of our work. We strive to live up and be true to our Firm values on a daily basis.

Michelle M. McAtee

Why did you join Jenner & Block? 

I wanted to be able to practice in diverse areas within real estate without being pigeon-holed into a specific area of real estate law.  Before coming to Jenner, I worked primarily in two or three areas.  Since joining Jenner, I have enlarged the scope of my practice tremendously, which I think makes for a better attorney.  

 

What kind of work have you been doing? 

All components of real estate law…acquisitions, dispositions, leasing, finance, development, workouts, corporate transactions.  Pro bono matters?  This has also run the gamut, too, from leasing to construction and development.  I’ve also been fortunate to be able to bring in a few pro bono clients for whom I serve in a general counsel capacity – whatever they need, I or another attorney at the firm with the expertise try to help.  

 

Name 1-2 things you’ve learned in the last year.

More than something specific in my practice area, over the past year I’ve had to deal with some very challenging opposing counsels, some of the more difficult that I have ever encountered.  Keeping your cool in these situations – which is definitely something that the senior partners with whom I work have driven home – is key.  You come out not just serving your client well, but also looking better in front of the opposing party.  

 

What has been your proudest moment?

I can’t think of just one but more generally those times when clients e-mail the more senior partners with whom you work about how pleased they are with your work – those are pretty special moments.  

 

What are the people at Jenner like?

They’re great attorneys, but that goes without saying.  It’s unique to our firm that those same great attorneys are also great people – people who care about their families and their causes and who, at the end of the day, realize that the most important component to our practice is that you care about those around you and assist those in need.   

 

What kind of training have you received?

Wonderful, hands-on training, as well as ample formal training programs.  

 

What qualities are needed to be successful at this level at the Firm?

Dedication, being a real team player who contributes even when it may not personally benefit you, but it’s good for your practice group, department or the firm (which in the long-run is good for you personally).  

 

What should a prospective associate know about being at your level in the firm?

That with the extra work and time that comes from being the main point of contact for clients also brings with it a tremendous amount of additional satisfaction.  

 

What does it take to get to the next level at the Firm?

The same qualities as noted above – dedication, putting the needs of others first and really caring about your clients and their concerns.  

 

What sets Jenner & Block apart from other firms?

Its people.  

Scott B. Wilkens

Why did you join Jenner & Block?

I joined Jenner & Block because of the outstanding people and the exciting mix of work.  As a summer associate in the Washington, D.C. office, I had the opportunity to work with partners and associates on a wide range of matters – everything from a contract dispute, to property law easements, to Lawrence v. Texas.  After my clerkship, I considered joining a number of other firms.  I joined Jenner because of the relationships I had formed as a summer associate and because I knew that I would find the work engaging and enriching.  

 

What kind of work have you been doing? Pro bono matters?

Most recently, I have been working on contract law and False Claims Act matters for a large defense contractor, as well as a copyright law matter for a group of television and motion picture copyright owners.  Over the past several years, I have represented Viacom in the Viacom v. YouTube litigation, which is currently on appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  On the pro bono front, I recently briefed and argued a free speech case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on behalf of a Wisconsin state inmate and the publisher of a prison news letter.  I also worked with Paul Smith and Lambda Legal on the petition for certiorari we filed in Adar v. Smith, a case from the Fifth Circuit involving full faith and credit and equal protection challenges to a Louisiana state official’s refusal to issue an amended birth certificate to a child adopted by out-of-state unmarried parents.  

 

 

Name 1-2 things you’ve learned in the last year.

I learned how to stand my ground in a 20 minute appellate argument before a very hostile panel.  I also learned how difficult it is when a close friend and mentor retires.      

 

What has been your proudest moment?

Several years ago, I was asked to help a leftist Greek economist whose 10-year U.S. visa had been cancelled by the U.S. government because of his political views.  The economist had visited the United States many times to attend academic conferences, but on one such trip he was stopped at JFK and summarily sent back to Greece.  The U.S. academic institutions and professors who had invited the economist to speak wanted to challenge the government’s cancellation of his visa as a violation of their First Amendment rights.  For more than a year, I advocated on their behalf with representatives of the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.  The government eventually relented and granted the economist a new 10-year visa.  On his first visit to the U.S. using his new visa, he came to Washington and we had the chance to celebrate together.  

 

What are the people at Jenner like?

My colleagues are incredibly intelligent and dedicated to their work.  They are tenacious advocates for our clients and have a strong sense of public service through pro bono work.  Many of my colleagues also have a great sense of humor, which I appreciate all the more when work gets particularly busy or stressful.  Most importantly, I have counted many of my colleagues as my friends over the years.    

 

What kind of training have you received?

The firm offers a variety of training sessions and I have attended many of them over the years.  The best training has always been on the job training through working with my colleagues, who have demonstrated incredible skills in all areas of trial and appellate litigation, and who have spent a great deal of time helping me to develop as a lawyer.  Early on I second chaired a number of depositions, and then quickly began to take and defend them myself, utilizing the skills I had learned from my more senior colleagues.  I also observed a senior partner examine and cross-examine several witnesses during an arbitration hearing, and then examined and cross-examined several witnesses myself.  Working with outstanding appellate advocates like Paul Smith and Don Verrilli has also given me invaluable insights into appellate brief writing and presenting oral arguments.  

 

What qualities are needed to be successful at this level at the Firm?

Of course, there are many litigation skills you need to master, such as taking and defending depositions, writing briefs, arguing motions, etc.  Beyond those skills, there are many other important qualities that can help you succeed as a partner at the firm.  Perhaps most important among these is the ability to communicate clearly and persuasively in writing and orally with associates, partners, clients, and others.  Effective communication includes not just conveying your own perspective, but also listening to the views of others.  

 

What should a prospective associate know about being at your level in the firm?

We are committed to developing our associates into great partners.  There is a broad range of skills that we expect associates to develop over the years as they approach partnership.  We regularly discuss these skills with our associates, and we are committed to finding the opportunities our associates need in order to develop these skills.   

 

 

What sets Jenner & Block apart from other firms?

The work we do is interesting and rewarding, but what sets us apart from other firms is our culture and the people we have the good fortune to call our colleagues.  I am incredibly fortunate to work in a firm that values mentorship, collaboration, collegiality, and public service.  These values are not merely written down in a firm presentation.  They are palpable in the halls of our offices on a daily basis.

Reena R. Bajowala

Why did you join Jenner & Block?

When interviewing for a summer associate position, I knew I wanted to be at a firm with top-notch litigation work.  Jenner fit the bill for that perfectly.  But ultimately the decision came down to the people.  Jenner is filled with down-to-earth, interesting, passionate people who practice law.  When I visited the firm for my callback, doors were open, people were chatting in the halls and the elevators.  These were people I wanted to work with.

What kind of work have you been doing? Pro bono matters?

Earlier this year, I just completed first-chairing a federal civil jury trial in a 1983 prisoner rights action.  It was a great experience.  I have had the opportunity to do a variety of work.  My two areas of focus for billable work are ERISA litigation and class actions.  I have recently been involved in implementing a class action ERISA settlement for over 85,000 class members.  

Name 1-2 things you’ve learned in the last year.

How to put together a large trial and how to build a business plan.

What has been your proudest moment?

Being part of a team on a pro bono matter to make federal law acknowledging a 13th Amendment private right of action and a federal and state RICO cause of action, for the first time, in a human trafficking matter.  Also, winning full dismissal of a consumer fraud class action in a plaintiff-oriented federal district court.

What kind of training have you received?

The training opportunities are plentiful at Jenner.  There are a host of practical, skills-oriented seminars that take place weekly or biweekly offering learning opportunities in all aspects of the practice of law.  In addition, the Firm has excellent career seminars that teach business development and effective communication.  

What qualities are needed to be successful at this level at the firm?

Excellent work and reliability are critical to working at Jenner in the first place.  In order to progress at the Firm, you need to add value to cases by taking initiative, raising issues others may have bypassed, and treating each case as if you own it.  

What should a prospective associate know about being at your level in the firm?

Jenner does an excellent job of training its associates – through the formal training and through work experience – so anyone has the ability to succeed provided they have the drive and are willing to work hard.

What does it take to get to the next level at the firm?

The practice of law is a business.  It is a noble business, but it is a business nonetheless.  The Firm looks to you to establish yourself in the legal community as an attorney clients want to work with.  Whether that means fostering relationships with institutional clients, or soliciting new clients, an associate looking towards partnership should be actively laying the foundation for future business opportunities for Jenner.

What sets Jenner & Block apart from other firms?

The people.  As I noted above, there are passionate, wonderful people at this firm who are unlike any other.  The one thing they share is a drive to deliver excellent services to our clients, while always maintaining their ethical and civil responsibilities to opposing counsel and parties.  Apart from this, however, each person has a unique set of interests.  It is wonderful coming to work with people committed to bettering the world.

Jessica Ring Amunson

Why did you join Jenner & Block?

I was a summer associate at Jenner & Block in 2003 and right away knew it was the place for me.  I joined Jenner & Block officially in 2004 and then came back again in 2006 after leaving to clerk for a year.  I wanted to do appellate work and was very interested in election law.  A law school professor who was a former Jenner & Block associate told me she thought Jenner & Block would be a good fit for me and she was right.    

What kind of work have you been doing?  Pro bono matters?

My practice has focused mainly on appellate and Supreme Court matters and on election law and redistricting.  I have litigated redistricting matters in a number of states, as well as cases involving voter ID, voter registration, and even an election contest case.  I have also worked on appeals and Supreme Court matters involving a range of topics -- First Amendment cases, statutory interpretation cases, administrative law cases, contract disputes, and of course voting rights cases.  My pro bono practice has also been varied, ranging from direct representation in landlord-tenant court to filing amicus briefs in the Supreme Court.

Name 1-2 things you’ve learned in the last year.

In the past year, I’ve had a number of appeals in state, rather than federal courts, so I have learned (sometimes the hard way!) the variation in practice between the state and federal systems and how important it is to become intimately familiar with the local appellate rules. 

What has been your proudest moment?

My proudest moment was when our former partner Don Verrilli, who is now the solicitor general, called me into his office just before leaving to work at the Department of Justice and told me that it was now time for me and others of my generation at the firm to step up and make this place our own, just as Don and Paul Smith had done when they were young associates in the Washington office under the tutelage of Bruce Ennis.  I was an associate at the time and really took to heart Don’s message, that this is a special place, that it is the people here who make it special, and that it takes work to keep the special culture we have here alive.

What are the people at Jenner & Block like?

The people here take their work seriously, but don’t take themselves seriously.  Incredibly smart people who are also incredibly nice.  I consider the people at Jenner not just colleagues, but friends.

What kind of training have you received?

There is lots of formal training as you progress through the associate ranks – deposition training, ethics training, e-discovery training, etc.  But the best training is just on-the-job training, which happens every day.

What qualities are needed to be successful at this level at the firm?

Always think about how you can make life easier for the people you are working for – your clients as well as those you are working with at Jenner.  Usually that means going above and beyond what was asked of you.  Show initiative and don’t be afraid to take on new challenges. 

What should a prospective associate know about being at your level in the firm?

Jenner & Block considers it very important that everyone who becomes a partner master basic litigation skills – taking depositions, putting on witnesses at trial, writing dispositive motions, briefing and arguing appeals, etc.  The firm is committed to making sure that all of its associates have opportunities to do each of these things.  Although associates will eventually specialize and become a part of a practice group, associates are not pigeon-holed into practice groups when they start.  Jenner & Block expects that anyone who becomes a partner in any practice group will first be a well-rounded lawyer.

What sets Jenner & Block apart from other firms?

In speaking with my friends at other firms, I am continually struck by the fact that Jenner & Block really is a unique place.  People here seem to genuinely enjoy their jobs and truly like their colleagues.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that is true everywhere, but it is true for me.  

Kenneth K. Lee

Why did you join Jenner & Block?
I joined Jenner & Block because of its reputation and its people.  The litigators here are seasoned, aggressive trial lawyers, but they are also down-to-earth folks.  
 
What kind of work have you been doing?  Pro bono matters?
Recently, I’ve focused the bulk of my time defending Fortune 500 as well as smaller companies in consumer class action lawsuits.  But I’ve also handled other complex commercial disputes (including first-chairing a trial), and have conducted various internal investigations.  I’ve also been fortunate to work on a variety of challenging pro bono matters, ranging from a First Amendment challenge to a major city’s zoning ordinance to a Section 1983 lawsuit on behalf of a client on death row.
 
Name 1-2 things you’ve learned in the last year.
Because I’ve been handling many matters on behalf of food companies, I’ve had to learn arcane FDA regulations as well as scientific issues relating to food.
 
What has been your proudest moment?
I’ve been proud to be involved in the growth of the Los Angeles office.  In 2009, I joined the firm’s Los Angeles office shortly after it opened as a young lateral partner and as the fourth lawyer in that fledgling office.  Since then, our office has grown to over 30 attorneys.  I’ve helped recruit accomplished law students and laterals, worked on pitches to obtain new clients, and even helped select some of our office’s artwork (but my initial suggestion of a Yoda poster for the lobby area — perhaps wisely — was nixed).
 
What are the people at the Jenner & Block like?
The people take their work very seriously and are excellent lawyers, but they don’t take themselves too seriously and enjoy each other’s company.  In fact, many of the attorneys socialize together outside the office, and family members are routinely invited to office-related functions.  In short, our office feels like family (minus the crazy uncle).  

What kind of training have you received?
There have been ample formal training sessions, but I’ve learned the most from observing my more senior colleagues and taking advantage of the opportunities given to me.  
 
What qualities are needed to be successful at this level at the firm?
You must have self-initiative and a strong work ethic.  But the firm also emphasizes that you need to be a team player, work well with fellow lawyers, and treat the staff with respect.  You can’t be a primadonna, even if you have impressive credentials.
 
What should a prospective associate know about being at your level in the firm?
You not only have to be a good nuts-and-bolts lawyer, but you also must think more strategically on behalf of your client.  
 
What does it take to get to the next level at the firm?
You need to be open to learning new things, whether it’s a new subject area or how to handle a delicate client situation.  It may be true that you can’t teach new tricks to an old dog (or even a puppy in my family’s case), but lawyers, even senior ones, can always learn something new and strive to become a better lawyer.
 
What sets Jenner & Block apart from other firms?
Its people.  Jenner & Block lawyers come from diverse backgrounds — ethnically, socioeconomically, politically — but they are all committed to being excellent lawyers and collegial colleagues.  When you practice at a large law firm, the hours can be long.  But even hectic days can be enjoyable if you like your colleagues.   

BRIAN J. FISCHER
Office(s):
New York
Law Schools(s):
Harvard Law School
Started with firm:
2007
KERI L. HOLLEB HOTALING
Office(s):
Chicago
Law Schools(s):
University of Virginia School of Law
Started with firm:
2005
MICHELLE M. MCATEE
Office(s):
Chicago
Law Schools(s):
University of Iowa College of Law
Practice Area(s):
Real Estate and Real Estate Securities
Started with firm:
2004
SCOTT B. WILKENS
Office(s):
Washington, DC
Law Schools(s):
Harvard Law School
Started with firm:
2003
REENA R. BAJOWALA
Office(s):
Chicago
Law Schools(s):
University of Michigan Law School
Started with firm:
2005
JESSICA RING AMUNSON
Office(s):
Washington, DC
Law Schools(s):
Harvard Law School
KENNETH K. LEE
Office(s):
Los Angeles
Law Schools(s):
Harvard Law School
Started with firm:
2004