Jonathan Bunge

Co-Chair of the National Trial Practice Group

Jon Bunge is Co-Chair of the National Trial Practice Group and Managing Partner of the Chicago office at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP. Jon has had considerable trial and other litigation experience. He has tried 50 jury and bench trials as well as numerous domestic and international arbitrations. He has been the first chair litigator in the majority of these trials, many of which have lasted for weeks or months in duration. He has tried cases in many areas, including commercial disputes, non-compete and trade secret disputes, products cases, environmental matters, white collar criminal matters, and securities and financial disputes. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. The American Lawyer and other publications have repeatedly described him as “one of Chicago’s top trial lawyers.” He has tried cases in federal courts and state courts across the country for clients such as McDonald’s, IBM, private equity firms, and others. He has been listed since 2006 as an “Illinois Super Lawyer” in the field of litigation; in The Best Lawyers in America since 2008; and in other similar publications.

A former federal prosecutor, Jon also defends clients in government regulatory and criminal investigations and has experience in matters involving both private and governmental entities such as False Claims Act litigation. He has conducted many internal investigations at Fortune 100 and smaller corporations. He has taught courses at the University of Chicago Law School on Corporate Crimes & Investigations and Federal Criminal Law. Jon worked at the United States Attorneys’ Office in Chicago for almost nine years before entering private practice. He was Deputy Chief for the General Crimes Division and the lead prosecutor in a series of high-profile cases: the prosecution of the Ford Heights, Illinois Chief of Police and six other police officers on corruption and racketeering charges; various cases arising out of the Silver Shovel investigation into political corruption in City and State government; a terrorism case involving the efforts of a Puerto Rican independence group to bomb a military recruiting center; the prosecution of a large Chicago street-gang that attempted to purchase military weapons for the purpose of attacking a Chicago police station; and a series of fraud prosecutions involving securities and other types of businesses. At the Department of Justice, he received the Department of Justice’s Director’s Award for Superior Performance as an Assistant United States Attorney and four Department of Justice Special Achievement Awards. He has represented clients in matters adverse to many state Attorney Generals’ Offices. While in private practice, the State of Illinois appointed him a Special Assistant Attorney General to help the Illinois Attorney General’s office organize a Public Integrity Unit.

Jon is a former U.S. Supreme Court Law Clerk (Justice Byron White) and has handled numerous appeals. He has argued over 20 appellate cases in various federal and state appellate courts, including for example four appellate arguments on civil matters before the California appellate courts. He has been successful in the vast majority of these appeals.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Sometimes I’m travelling for work, but if not I usually try to work out first thing in the morning (wake up at 5:30 and work out at 6 am). There is a place in Wilmette where I like to go in particular. Before Covid, I would come downtown pretty much every weekday. Lately, I have been working from my house some. During the day, I’ll usually have some calls and/or court hearings or other items. I try to keep on top of my cases. I end up working on the weekends fairly often. I have three children (21, 19, and 17) and try to make them a priority. My wife drags me to social events with her on a regular basis.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I try to follow through on things and take things one step at a time. I work with a lot of very talented younger lawyers, so I rely on them a lot in connection with my cases. As for ideas regarding non-work issues, I try to follow up on these as well, although sometimes I find this difficult because my job is very demanding.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m excited about efforts to make the earth cleaner and healthier—what might be done to restore the earth, etc. I think medical breakthroughs in areas like dementia and cancer are exciting. I am interested in ways people try to remain productive as they get older and how this is changing compared with prior generations.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive?

I think I am fairly humble and am willing to listen to ideas from anyone. I think that I evaluate people based on merit and nothing else matters that much to me.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Try to relax a little bit. Try to live in the day at hand rather than worrying about the future or the past.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Certainty is overrated.

What is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I try to be careful and reliable. I try to think through cases and problems from all angles.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I tried to become good at the craft of lawyering—learning how to cross-examine witnesses, write and argue persuasively, etc.

What is one failure you had, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve had many. One thing that is difficult about being a trial lawyer is that there is a very real risk of losing—especially in the cases for which we get hired. I have had some hard losses. I’ve tried to overcome these by learning whatever lessons I could from the experience and moving on.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

We adopted a second dog recently and that cost about $100. Our older dog really likes the new dog, and she has become an important part of our family.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I have been unsuccessfully trying to get my children to read ‘Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War” by S.C. Gwynne. It is a great book and a very readable introduction to the Civil War. I want my children to read this book because I think there is no turning back once one becomes interested in this topic. It seems to me that it is hard to know much about America without knowing something about the Civil War.

What is your favorite quote?

John Wooden: “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

Key Learnings:

  • Make an effort to see things from multiple perspectives.
  • Have the discipline to pay attention to details.
  • Acknowledge and learn from mistakes.
  • Break down difficult projects or problems into smaller pieces and proceed