Mayer Brown Chicago’s Debra Bogo-Ernst goes to Willkie Farr

Mayer Brown Chicago’s Debra Bogo-Ernst goes to Willkie Farr
Mayer Brown Chicago’s Debra Bogo-Ernst goes to Willkie Farr

Martin said Bogo-Ernst, 47, is only the second “lateral” hire of a veteran attorney by the office, which opened three years ago and has about 75 attorneys. Laterals are valued for the clients they can bring, and Bogo-Ernst has represented major financial institutions and insurance companies in class action lawsuits under state laws and regulations such as the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

Neither Bogo-Ernst nor Martin would describe the size of her book. Legal recruiter Kay Hoppe, who said she was not involved in Bogo-Ernst’s or any other attorney’s recruitment to the office, described a conversation with Martin: “He said they were big numbers, but he didn’t tell me what they were. He’s coming not to take small numbers.”

Willkie’s Chicago office was imprinted by a group of lawyers from Jenner & Block, where Martin had been chairman. It focused on board governance advice, investigations and trial work in areas such as antitrust, commercial contracts, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, patents and trade secrets, according to Willkie. Martin said that as it grows, the office will be in the market for more side pieces, “so stay tuned.” Its first page, Melainie Mansfield, hired in 2021, had been a partner at Milbank and DLA Piper.

Another partner in Willkie’s Chicago office, Barbara Grayson, is both a Mayer Brown and Jenner alum. Bogo-Ernst said she and Grayson — crucial as head of Willkie’s Midwest wealth management group to the office’s overall relationship with the Crown family — have been “friends for a long time.” Kara Baysinger, co-chair of the insurance regulatory and “insurtech” groups from San Francisco and Chicago, also joined Willkie in 2021 from Mayer Brown, where she was co-head of US insurance regulation and enforcement.

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“He’s not just building an additional office, he’s building an actual structural business that will pay dividends,” Hoppe said of Martin. Referring to his top Jenner role, she added: “He’s been thinking about building further than that since his early days at Willkie.”

Bogo-Ernst grew up in the northwest suburbs and hustled early, working in retail starting at age 15 and tending bar at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which she attended as an undergraduate and as a law student. Last September, Crain’s featured her in a Takeaway segment, which observed that “big law firms are competing to land high-performing lawyers as they grapple with an exodus of women frustrated by slow promotions.” Martin said more than half of the equity, or full, partners in Willkie Farr’s Chicago office are women.

Mayer Brown last week promoted Joanna Horsnail to succeed Bogo-Ernst as managing partner of the Chicago office and said, in the wake of Bogo-Ernst’s departure, that Lucia Nale (in Chicago) and Archis Parasharami (in Washington, DC) remain collaboration partners. leaders of their consumer litigation and class action practice.

A Mayer Brown spokeswoman said of Bogo-Ernst: “We wish her well.”

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