Jenner & Block’s Washington office has a new managing partner. Michael DeSanctis officially assumed the role this week, in the wake of former D.C. head Thomas Perrelli’s departure for the Justice Department, where he was recently sworn in as associate attorney general.
DeSanctis has spent his entire career at Jenner. He’s a partner in the litigation department, and focuses on representing entertainment industry clients in copyright matters. He currently represents Viacom, Inc. in its copyright infringement suit against YouTube and Google, and says he plans to maintain an active law practice while also serving as D.C. managing partner. “All of our prior managing partners have been able to do it,” he says.
DeSanctis acknowledges that the responsibility of taking on a leadership role is even weightier in a struggling economy. “Obviously, it’s a challenging time in the economy, and it’s a time when this firm and all firms really have to be managed well,” he says. “It’s a time when firm management is really going to make a difference.”
Jenner has not been spared by the tough market. The firm announced last week that it laid off 34 staff in the Chicago and Washington offices. DeSanctis says the number of employees affected in D.C. was in the “low single digits.” He says that no lawyers have been let go, and the firm does not plan to do additional layoffs.
D.C. headcount has also been hit by the Obama administration. In addition to Perelli, a number of other Washington lawyers have left for the Justice Department, including former partner Donald Verrilli Jr., who is now associate deputy attorney general, and former partner Sam Hirsch, who is deputy associate attorney general.
Though DeSanctis says he misses having his old friends around the office, he says the departures are largely positive. “It’s wonderful, and very exciting to have such deep contacts at such high levels of the administration.” He adds that the office has not lost any business because of the departures. “We still have wonderful superstars like [litigation partners] Paul Smith and Steven Fabrizio, and others, who the clients have been looking to just as much as they looked to Don and Tom.”