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 last year 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.
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. 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. He is 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 starting in the fall of 2014 he will again be teaching at Northwestern a course on the structuring of large-scale public-private partnerships. 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.
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. He is a board member of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Access Living and Navy Pier, Inc.