Stephen R. Patton
Steve Patton is of counsel to the Litigation group in the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Steve has extensive experience trying cases and arguing appeals in federal and state courts throughout the country in a wide variety of commercial disputes. He has also served as an advisor to senior management in a number of “bet the company” exposures and negotiated several multibillion settlements in complex disputes.
Steve is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and previously served on the College’s Selection Committee for Northern Illinois. During his first, 33-year stint with the Firm (from 1978 to 2011), he was a senior litigation partner and served in a number of leadership positions, including chair of the Firm’s Litigation Management Committee. From 2011 to 2017, Steve served as the City of Chicago’s Corporation Counsel and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s senior legal advisor. Since his return to the Firm in 2017, Steve has served as lead counsel in several litigation matters, including two nationwide, pro bono impact cases. In the first, Ramirez v. ICE, Kirkland represents a nationwide class of immigrant teenagers illegally detained by ICE. On July 2, 2020, after a four week bench trial, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Plaintiff class on all liability issues. After further proceedings with respect to remedial relief, on September 21, 2021, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction and final judgment. In the second case, Karnoski v. Trump, Kirkland represented transgender persons challenging President Trump’s ban on transgender persons openly serving in the military. The case was voluntarily dismissed in 2020, after Defendants repealed the Trump ban and reinstituted their prior policy of allowing transgender persons to serve openly.
In addition to his pro bono work, Steve has worked with various not-for-profits to reduce crime and violence in Chicago, including violence interruption and prevention programs that work with gang members and other at-risk youth and leading efforts to enact legislation to ban “ghost” guns, require criminal background checks, and keep guns out of the hands of criminals. This includes:
- Working to scale up a violence interruption program and prevention program in the City’s North Lawndale neighborhood from 100 to 500 at-risk youth.
- Helping create and fund a team of attorneys that help gang members from neighborhoods across the City address legal issues that hinder their ability to leave the street and pursue education and employment.
- Serving as board chairman of a leading advocate for state legislation to reduce the flow of illegal guns into Chicago.
As Chicago’s chief lawyer from 2011 through 2017, Steve supervised the City’s 270-lawyer Law Department and instituted a number of initiatives to improve the City’s handling of litigation, transactional, and administrative matters and reduce its legal costs. Steve also played a lead role in a number of mayoral initiatives, including:
- Achieving “substantial compliance” with a decades-old federal consent decree barring patronage hiring.
- Renegotiating the City’s parking meters concession agreement to allow payment by cell and free parking on Sundays, and to eliminate a $1 billion past liability.
- Negotiating a landmark reparations agreement resolving 30-year-old claims of torture and coerced confessions by more than 70 African-American men.
- Quarterbacking the City’s cooperation with, and various reforms in response to, the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department.
- Successfully defending, against union legal challenges, Chicago Public School’s (CPS’s) lengthening of its school day by almost two hours of added instructional time. This resulted in increasing the instructional time CPS students receive over the course of their academic career by two full years.
- Negotiating a landmark agreement with the ACLU in which the City agreed to cease illegal stop and frisks that the ACLU alleged discriminatorily targeted young men of color. While the agreement recognized that stop and frisks are an acceptable law enforcement technique, it required new training and monitoring to ensure that stop and frisks would be conducted in accordance with settled constitutional requirements.
Prior to his appointment as Chicago’s Corporation Counsel, Steve was a senior litigation partner with Kirkland. During his earlier 33-year tenure at the firm, he was the lead lawyer in jury and bench trials in federal and state courts and arbitration proceedings throughout the country, including large-dollar and high-profile cases in Atlanta; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Chicago; Cleveland; Miami; Tampa; Texarkana, Texas; and Washington, D.C. Steve also argued appeals in federal and state appellate courts throughout the country. This included, in one particularly active two-year period, 20 appeals before the highest courts of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Vermont and West Virginia, and appellate courts in Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and Ohio. Steve also advised senior management in connection with a number of “bet the company” exposures and was the lead negotiator in several large and complex settlements.
Steve has been voted by his peers as one of Illinois’ “Top 100 Super Lawyers” and for inclusion in The Best Lawyers of America. He was named one of America’s Leading Lawyers for Business Litigation/General Commercial in Chambers USA, and one of five “highly recommended” Chicago-based litigators in Global Counsel’s Dispute Resolution Handbook. He has been named by Corporate Board Member magazine as one of America’s Best Corporate Lawyers, and featured in The Legal 500 U.S. for his work in complex litigation.
Steve has also been active throughout his career in a number of civic causes and legal aid organizations, including serving as President of the Chicago Bar Foundation and Chairman of the Board of Advisors to the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation. He was a recipient of the Illinois State Bar Association’s 2000 Pro Bono Service Award in recognition of his pro bono work, including more than 20 years as a volunteer attorney at one of Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation’s neighborhood legal clinics.
Recognized as a leading trial lawyer in complex commercial and products liability litigation:
Named in Chambers USA, America’s Leading Lawyers for Business in Litigation: General Commercial (2004–2010) and in Products Liability (2006–2010)
Selected by peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America (2006–2023)
Named by Corporate Board Member magazine as one of America’s Best Corporate Lawyers
Named a Local Litigation Star in Benchmark Litigation: The Definitive Guide to America’s Leading Litigation Firms and Attorneys (2008–2010)
Listed in Illinois Super Lawyers (2005–2010) and Super Lawyers, Corporate Counsel Edition (2008–2010); voted by peers as one of the Illinois “Top 100 Super Lawyers”
Named one of five “highly recommended” Chicago-based litigators in PLC’s Cross-Border Dispute Resolution Handbook (2003–2010); named “highly recommended” for Dispute Resolution in PLC Which Lawyer? (2005–2010)
Featured in The Legal 500 U.S. for work in Product Liability and Mass Tort Defense (2007–2010)
Listed in Who’s Who Legal: Illinois (2008–2010)
Recipient, Indiana University Political Science Alumnus of the Year Award (2008)
Recipient, Illinois State Bar Association’s 2000 Pro Bono Service Award
Memberships & Affiliations
Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers; former member of the College’s Selection Committee for Northern Illinois
Chairman, Board of Directors, Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Action Committee (GVPAC); founding member, GVPAC Founders Circle
Member, Presidential Advisory Board, UCAN; assisted in increasing UCAN’s Violence Interruption and Prevention program from 100 to 500 at risk youth
Member, Board of Directors, Chicago Metropolitan Family Services
Member, Executive Dean’s Advisory Board, Indiana University College of Arts & Sciences
Former President, Board of Directors, Chicago Bar Foundation
Former Chairman, Board of Advisors, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation
Adjunct Professor, University of Chicago Law School (2017–Present); currently teaching Law and Public Policy: Case Studies in Problem Solving, and Advanced Evidence: Key Legal Principles and Their Practical Application
Admissions & Qualifications
- Supreme Court of the United States
- United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
- United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
- United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Trial Bar
- Georgetown University Law CenterJ.D.magna cum laude1978
Editor, Georgetown Law Journal
- Indiana UniversityB.A.1975