"John Schmidt has decades of experience working in the PPP sector with leading expertise in transportation infrastructure especially airport redevelopment matters. A commentator describes him as 'a problem solver, collaborator and consensus builder. He does all that and maintains strong representation of his clients. He is the dean of the space.'"
Chambers USA 2017 Nationwide, Projects: PPP Senior Statesmen


John Schmidt’s practice in recent years has focused on public private partnerships for US infrastructure and he was selected by the Financial Times in 2010 as one of America's 10 leading "innovative lawyers" for his work on pioneering US infrastructure transactions. 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. He later represented the State of Indiana in the $3.8 billion privatization of the Indiana Toll Road, the largest infrastructure transaction in US history; and he represented the Puerto Rican government in its 40-year lease agreement to privatize Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, the first privatization of a major American airport. He has represented a wide variety of other public and private entities in large-scale transactions involving the operation and development of US infrastructure. 

A nationally recognized attorney, John served as the Associate Attorney General in the United States Department of Justice (1994-1997) before re-joining Mayer Brown, 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 the new "COPS" and Violence Against Women programs and other aspects of implementation of the 1994 Crime Bill. 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 and created the World Trade Organization in April 1994.

For many years, John 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), where he led the redevelopment of Navy Pier in downtown Chicago and where he is a Life Trustee of Navy Pier, Inc., the not-for-profit entity to which the Pier was later transferred. He served as President of the Chicago Council of Lawyers (1974-1976) and was co-founder and chair (1978-1988) of the Chicago Lawyer newspaper. He was also the first chair of the Illinois Guardianship & Advocacy Commission (1980-1982) created under the 1979 comprehensive reform of the Illinois mental health laws in which he played a major role, and he is Chair of Access Living, Inc., Chicago’s leading organization providing support, services and advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities of all kinds. He served as an Emeritus Trustee of the Illinois Institute of Technology and served from 1999 to 2009 as Chair of the Board of Overseers of the IIT Chicago-Kent Law School. In 1997-1998 he taught constitutional law as a Visiting Scholar at the Northwestern University Law School and from 2014 to 2018 he taught a course on structuring large-scale public-private partnerships, the first course in the area at an American law school. He has been a Trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1978 and served on the search committee (2005-2008) that selected Ricardo Muti as the new Music Director of the orchestra. He is Chair of Cedille Records, which records Chicago artists and the works of Chicago composers; and he co-edited “A Portrait in Four Movements: The Chicago Symphony Under Barenboim, Boulez, Haitink and Muti” (published by the University of Chicago Press in 2019). He also is an Executive Board member of the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention PAC (G-PAC), Illinois’ leading gun control advocacy organization.

John has received a number of awards including the Edmund J. Randolph Award for Outstanding Service to the US Justice Department; the Judge Learned Hand Human Relations Award from the American Jewish Committee; the National Association of Police Organization's "Top Cops" Award; the International Association of Chiefs of Police Distinguished Service Award; the US Conference of Mayors Leadership Award; the Award for Exceptional Service from the Office of the United States Trade Representative; two Peter Lisagor Awards from the Chicago Society of Professional Journalists for editorials in the Chicago Lawyer; the "Champion of the Public Interest" Award from BPI; and in 2014 he was named a "Legal Legend" by the American Constitution Society.

Spoken Languages

  • English


Harvard College, BA, magna cum laude

Harvard Law School, JD, cum laude
Editor, Harvard Law Review


  • Illinois


  • Member, boards of Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, the Northwestern Center for Human Rights and the National Forum on Crime and Justice
  • National Steering Committee, Campaign for Harvard Law School
  • Chairman, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, 1989-1994
  • Transition Chair and Chief of Staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley, 1989
  • Chairman, Citizens for Court Reform, 1988-1992
  • Chairman, Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission, 1980-1982
  • Chairman, Editorial Board, Chicago Lawyer, 1978-1988
  • President, Chicago Council of Lawyers, 1974-1976
  • Member, Governor's Commission to Revise the Mental Health Laws, 1972-1976
  • Chairman, Board of Overseers, IIT Chicago-Kent Law School, 1998 to date
  • Life Trustee, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Trustee, Illinois Institute of Technology, 1989-1993, 1998 to date