Patrick Fitgzerald, Former U.S. Attorney, Joins Skadden Arps Law Firm

Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois listens during a news conference at the federal build
Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois listens during a news conference at the federal building in Chicago, Thursday, May 24, 2012, a day after he announced in a written statement he was resigning from the post he held for more than a decade. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

(Adds quotes from Fitzgerald)

By Casey Sullivan and Nate Raymond

Oct 22 (Reuters) - Patrick Fitzgerald, the former U.S. Attorney in Chicago whose high-profile prosecutions have included corruption cases against two Illinois governors and an aide to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, is joining the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

When he starts on Oct. 29, Fitzgerald will focus primarily on internal investigations for corporations.

"What struck me was the type of work I'd find most interesting was ... figuring out what went wrong and what needed to be fixed," said Fitzgerald, 51.

As a Skadden partner, Fitzgerald will likely receive a significant salary increase from what he earned at the U.S. Attorneys' Office. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorneys earn $155,500 annually.

The compensation for partners at Skadden ranges from slightly more than $1 million to just over $5 million, according to one current and one former partner at the firm. Skadden's per partner profits averaged $2.48 million in 2011, according to the American Lawyer. A spokeswoman for Skadden declined to discuss any kind of compensation figures.

When Fitzgerald stepped down from the U.S. Attorney's office in June after an 11-year tenure, he was the longest-serving U.S. Attorney in Chicago history.

By federal law, Fitzgerald will not be allowed to practice before the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago for two years. He is also barred for life from working on any matters pending there in his last year at the office or where he had substantial involvement.

While Fitzgerald said he felt "comfortable" he could stay at Skadden long term, he did not rule out future roles in the public sector.

"When I stepped down I said if someone called with a public service job down the road, I'm always open to listen," he said.

In 2007, Fitzgerald was the government appointed special counsel in the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff and national security adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in a case involving the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.

He also won the convictions of former Illinois governors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. Both men are now in prison.

Blagojevich, convicted in June 2011, was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by then president-elect Barack Obama, and for using the governorship to extort campaign contributions and jobs for himself and his wife.

After Blagojevich was charged, Fitzgerald said authorities had halted a potential crime spree that would have made Abraham Lincoln "roll over in his grave." Fitzgerald later said he regretted the comments because the words presumed Blagojevich was guilty before he was convicted.

Before moving to Chicago, Fitzgerald was an assistant U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, where he participated in prosecutions involving the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

With his move to Skadden, Fitzgerald follows in the footsteps of other U.S. Attorneys who have transitioned into private practice. In Chicago, Fitzgerald's predecessor, Scott Lassar, is now with Sidley Austin's Chicago office; Dan Webb now practices at Winston & Strawn; and Anton Valukas is with Jenner & Block.

Skadden has more than 1,800 lawyers in 23 offices worldwide and its practices include litigation and mergers and acquisitions. It has 170 lawyers in Chicago. (Reporting by Casey Sullivan and Nate Raymond; editing by Eileen Daspin and Leslie Gevirtz)