(Reuters) – US law firm Willkie, Farr & Gallagher on Monday said it has tapped the head of Mayer Brown’s Chicago office and a leader of its class action practice as it builds up its own class action team.

As managing partner of Chicago-founded Mayer Brown’s hometown office, Debra Bogo-Ernst said she oversaw about 1,000 lawyers and professional staff. She was also a co-head of the firm’s consumer and class action practice, defending financial institutions and insurance companies from class action claims.

Bogo-Ernst said all of her clients were following her to Willkie, but she declined to identify them. Federal court records show that Bogo-Ernst has represented BMO Harris Bank, CitiMortgage and Ocwen Financial Corp.

New York-founded Willkie first entered the Chicago market three years ago at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The firm opened with six partners from Jenner & Block, including the Chicago firm’s former chairman Craig Martin.

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Willkie now has 75 lawyers in Chicago, Martin said.

The firm’s class action work has expanded since opening in Chicago, Houston and San Francisco in the last four years, Martin said. But Bogo-Ernst is the firm’s first formally designated class action leader, he added.

The practice is being “consolidated to take advantage of Deb’s leadership skills,” Martin said. The firm’s website said Willkie lawyers have defended financial institutions in multiple consumer class actions.

Mayer Brown last week said Joanna Horsnail, a construction and government transactions lawyer, would be the new managing partner of its Chicago office. The global law firm can trace its Chicago roots back to 1881.

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David Thomas

Thomson Reuters

David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.

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