John Schmidt concentrates his practice on mergers and acquisitions and other large-scale transactions, governmental matters, and litigation.
In recent years his practice has focused heavily on public private partnerships involving the acquisition, maintenance, and development of transportation infrastructure in the US. He was counsel to the City of Chicago in the privatization of the Chicago Skyway Toll Bridge for $1.83 billion, the first privatization of an American toll road or toll bridge, and was named “Dealmaker of the Year” by the American Lawyer
for his work on that transaction. More recently, he has represented the State of Indiana in the $3.8 billion privatization of the Indiana Toll Road. He is now representing states and local government entities in a variety of other privatization initiatives, including the City of Chicago's proposed privatization of Midway Airport, the first major airport privatization, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the proposed lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
A nationally recognized attorney, John was named by the American Lawyer
as one of the 27 “All-Stars of the ‘90s” of the American bar and by the National Law Journal
as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America.
Prior to joining Mayer Brown, John served as Associate Attorney General in the United States Department of Justice (1994-1997) overseeing all aspects of the civil representation of the federal government and the work of the Civil Rights, Antitrust, Tax, and Environmental Divisions, as well as implementation of the 1994 Crime Bill, including the new COPS (community policing) program. He was a recipient of the Edmund J. Randolph Award for Outstanding Service to the United States Department of Justice (1997). Prior to becoming Associate Attorney General, he served as Ambassador and Chief US Negotiator for the Uruguay Round of world trade talks under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) (1993-1994), which concluded the largest and most comprehensive trade agreement in world history in April 1994.
For many years, he has been a leader in a wide range of civic and professional activities in Chicago. He served as Transition Co-Chair following Richard M. Daley’s 1989 election as Mayor of Chicago and then served, without pay, as Chief of Staff for the first months of the new city administration. He served by appointment of Mayor Daley and Illinois Governors James Thompson and Jim Edgar, as Chairman of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (1989-1994), a joint state-city authority responsible for the $200 million redevelopment of Navy Pier in downtown Chicago and the $1 billion expansion of Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center.
A long-time leader in Illinois legal and court reform efforts, he was a founding member of the Chicago Council of Lawyers, a reform bar association, and served as its President from 1974 to 1976. He also served as Co-Chair of Citizens for Court Reform, a coalition of law school deans, bar leaders, and other lawyers advocating the adoption in Illinois of a merit appointive system for the selection of Illinois judges.
He was also a principal architect of the 1979 revision of the Illinois mental health laws described by the Washington Post
as “the most important mental health reform in the history of the United States.” He subsequently served as the first Chairman of the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission (1980-1982), a new agency providing advocacy services for disabled citizens, created pursuant to the reform legislation.
He has written articles on corporate and securities law, criminal law, mental health, election laws and constitutional issues in the Harvard Law Review, Northwestern Law Review, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology and other publications.